Recent Posts

WordCast: Plain Language

Chalk board image of Plain Language written down.

Whitney Quesenbery of Whitney Interactive Design joins Tim and Tom for a wordcast episode on the plain language movement. Language is a crucial part of most user interface designs, from hardware, to software, to websites, to that oldest of interfaces, the printed page. What is plain language and how can it help us design more usable communication for products and services? Professions, companies, and governments should embrace plain language to communicate effectively with their customers, employees, and citizens. Websites we mention include:

After our half-hour discussion, Tim promotes Gerry Gaffney’s excellent User Experience Podcast. Congratulations, Gerry! Everyone go listen!
Next, Tim reads listener feedback from John at the Smorgasbord Design blog regarding Sennheiser’s admirable commitment to superior customer experience. Sennheiser, Design Critique salutes you!
Last but never least, house band Peter Grey sings “Without My Girl”.

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Welcome, Bigfoot! The MacBook’s Industrial Design Analyzed

Photo of MacBook feet compared with iBook feet.

Join us for a solo perspective on Tom’s new MacBook, a.k.a. “Bigfoot”! Losing tiny rubber feet at the bottom corners may be a thing of the past, thanks to wider, flush-mounted feet. But wait, there’s more…

We don’t talk about the MacBook’s new Intel processor, perceived speed, or included software in this episode–just its industrial design, which is so impressive that it deserves its own episode. Lest you think we’re Apple apologists, let it be known this episode was delayed several weeks due to the MacBook’s hard drive failing two days after Tom received it, and a very sluggish repair period on Apple’s part.

FYI, solo perspective episodes occur when one of us cannot lend a product to the other for “mission critical” reasons. This is Tom’s new primary computer, and he reflects on the continuous improvement of Apple’s laptop designs. (Tim still prefers his 12″ PowerBook G4 for portability.)

Finally, Peter Grey, our house band, sings “Sweet Unknown”.

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1st Anniversary Episode

Photo of Tim and Tom in the back yard of the original Country Squire Studio

Design Critique celebrates its first anniversary! Yep, pretty much. Last summer we were recording the first episodes of the show, talking about user-centered design and relating it to our critiques of product designs. In this episode, Tim and Tom provide a retrospective on the show’s first year, and present updates on several of the first 18 episodes. You were wondering how those products we critiqued have been serving us many months later, right? We put the “long” in longitudinal reviews! Thanks to all of you for listening and sending us feedback.

And, for your musical edification, house band Peter Grey sings “Watercolors”.

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Interviews from the 2006 UPA Conference

Logo of the UPA

Fresh from the terrific 2006 UPA conference, Tim shares two interviews we know you’ll enjoy. First, Tim talks with Giles Colborne, President of the UK UPA chapter. What does the UK UPA chapter do and how does it operate?
Next, Tim engages Daniel Szuc from Apogee Usability Asia Ltd. in a freewheeling discussion about usability and Hong Kong.
Between interviews, Tim and Tom solicit invitations to the UK, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand, all the while wondering about lines of longitude and the International Date Line. Finally, house band Peter Grey sings Bright Black (Whiskey Song) for us.
To find a Usability Professionals Association chapter near you, head on over to

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Critique: iTunes 6 (Part 2 of 2)

Logo for iTunes 6

Tim, Tom, and guest Jack complete their critique of iTunes 6.0.4. In part 2, Jack shares more  great insights, Tim damns iTunes with faint praise, and Tom shares his iTunes fantasies–almost had us concerned there for a moment, but not to worry.

After the chatter, house band Peter Grey sings the mesmerizing “My Strange Friend”.

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Critique: iTunes 6 (Part 1 of 2)

Logo for iTunes 6

Tim and Tom are joined by guest colleague Jack for a critique of iTunes 6, the current version of Apple’s popular music jukebox software. What does iTunes do well and how could it be improved in its next version? Jack provides a refreshing Windows perspective on music software apps that aren’t available for OSX, listener Jennifer recommends book recommender system Library Thing at, Tom tells all about the recent ACM SIGCHI conference, and an impressively loud helicopter has the nerve to interrupt Tim’s promotion of the upcoming UPA conference (makes Design Critique sound like a Pink Floyd album for a minute).
All this plus a break for our regular house band so that the guys from can sing their HCI rap song We Got It. Check out their website, too!

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Interview: Stephanie Rosenbaum on Usability ROI

Logo for Tec-Ed

Tim and Tom interview Stephanie Rosenbaum, founder and president of Tec-Ed, Inc., in her Michigan office. Since the late 1960s, Stephanie and her company have helped clients make products easier for customers to use.
The interview topic is categories of return on investment for user-centered design. Be sure to read the full chapter on it that Stephanie co-wrote with Chauncey Wilson in the second edition of Cost-Justifying Usability, ISBN 0-12-095811-2.
Also, the international conference for the Usability Professionals Association is coming up in June. You can learn more about it at
Finally, our house band, Peter Grey, sings “To Edgar”.

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Critique: Recommender Systems Part 2 of 2

Screenshot of a popularity graph from  a recommender system

Tim and Tom, along with guest colleague Dan, continue their critique of recommender systems that began in Design Critique episode 13. Tom starts things rolling by asking Tim why he prefers not to use recommender systems, then Dan and Tom discuss their use of Last.FM and its recommender system. A summary of our customer experience with recommender systems ties things off, mockery of Lionel Richie music ensues, and house band Peter Grey sings “PsychoActive”.

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Critique: Recommender Systems Part 1

Screenshot of the Netflix rating for the classic Bergman film "Wild Strawberries" (that has an avg rating of 5 stars.

Tim and Tom are joined by guest colleague Dan Cooney for a critique of recommender systems on, Netflix, and Last.FM. How well do these “if you like x, you’ll also like Y” systems work after short and long-term usage? How can they be improved?
Plus, Tom talks about attending the upcoming ACM SIGCHI conference and house band Peter Grey sings “Frozen Girl”.

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WordCast: User-Centered Design

Image of the phrase User-Centered Design on a chalkboard

Tim and Tom are joined by guest colleague Serena for a wordcast episode on User-Centered Design (UCD). What is UCD, where did it originate, and how can it help you improve customer experience with a product? We discuss some theory, numerous UCD methods, Robert Johnson’s book User-Centered Technology, and Wired magazine’s recent story on participatory design at Lego. House band Peter Grey sings “Girl From Outer Space”.

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