Eliminating Bad Design

February 17, 2016 by UX-RADIO

In this episode, you’ll hear about how Jared wrote some of the first personal computer software for office space systems, the backstory of creating his businesses, and some advice for designers just getting started.


Welcome to UX-radio, the podcast that generates collaborative discussion about information architecture, user experience, and design.

Jared M. Spool is the founder of User Interface Engineering, UIE, and a co-founder of Center Centre. He’s been working in the field of usability in experience design since 1978 before the term usability was ever associated with computers. In this episode, you’ll hear about how Jared wrote some of the first personal computer software for office space systems, the back story of creating his businesses, and some advice for designers just getting started. We’ll pick up the conversation with host, Lara Fedoroff, talking to Jared about how he began his career.

Jared Spool:                I was just fascinated by libraries and how libraries were put together. In fact, one of my first jobs was working for the school library. The school library also had the school computers. So, I became a software developer when I was at high school and learned how to program by the time I graduated high school or left high school.

Lara Fedoroff:            How’d you do that?

Jared Spool:                How’d I learn how to program?

Lara Fedoroff:            Yeah. What resources did you have?

Jared Spool:                Books, lots of books, it was all books. I worked at a library.

Lara Fedoroff:            So, you just taught yourself.

Jared Spool:                Yeah, pretty much. There was no web. You couldn’t look things up. I just had the books. There were a couple of magazines. Byte magazine was one of them. Computer Language Magazine was one of them. I really love those magazines. But, yeah, I taught myself how to program.

Lara Fedoroff:            That’s impressive. Did you have friends also that were interested in or were kind of just shut your bedroom door and you’re hunkered down.

Jared Spool:                No. There was a small group of us who were interested in it. But I think I was the most fanatical about it. And so, yeah, when I was in high school I wrote the school scheduling system for scheduling classes and I wrote the school report card system. I never gave myself a false grade in the report card system though I did manage to end up with three years of medical excuses instead of having to take Phys Ed.

Lara Fedoroff:            Very nice. That was my next question.

Jared Spool:                So, I left high school as a software developer. I got a job writing software.

Lara Fedoroff:            Tell me about that first job you got.

Jared Spool:                It was working for a couple of folks in Worcester, Massachusetts that had this little software company that made business systems, general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable, financial systems for medium sized businesses, companies that had 200 employees, something like that. It all ran on Data General MicroNova’s and Prime minicomputers. So, I wrote software for these things.

The business was also connected to an Apple dealership. The same owners owned an Apple store. They sold Apple IIs. I was fascinated by the Apple II. I went and got myself one and started programming on that. I had previously used a TRS-80 which was also a personal computer and had written some software that I sold for that. This was all when I was 18 years old.

Lara Fedoroff:            That’s crazy. That’s amazing.

Jared Spool:                Yeah. It’s nuts. I was actually productive back then.

Lara Fedoroff:            How did you sell the software? What did you do?

Jared Spool:                My parents had a friend of the family who was a shrink. I don’t know if it was some desperate attempt to keep me off the streets or some plea from my mother, which it probably was. But he said, Jared, why don’t you come and build me a piece of software to run my practice with? So, I wrote an accounting system, what would today be QuickBooks that didn’t exist back then, this being 1977. I wrote this thing. I wrote it by just looking at how he kept his books and mimicked it. If he did it here, I did it there. I knew nothing about accounting.

When I worked in Worcester, I went to classes at Worcester State in accounting. I aced them. I loved them because I was learning at night this stuff about accounting practices, all this double entry bookkeeping. What’s a debit? What’s a credit? What’s an account receivable? What’s a payable? I was learning all this stuff and my day job was programming it. And I’m like, oh my gosh. There’s actually a reason why I do it this way. So, I was just fascinated by that. I just loved it.

So, the computer store that we were working at decided that they wanted to build a word processor on a DG MicroNova, which was this small end minicomputer system. The only word processors at the time were the Wang word processors and the digital equipment word processor, the DEC web system. We had a DEC web system. So, I just, again, by mimicking figured out how to build a word processor. I built a word processor for the MicroNova. They sold that a bunch.

I ended up getting a job for Digital Equipment Corporation to work on a brand new personal computer project that they had. It was going to be based on little PDP-11 chips. They hired me to write the word processor for that. So, I ended up writing another word processor and then writing an e-mail client and then writing the world’s first voice mail client and then doing a bunch of things, working with the spreadsheet developers. So, I worked on some of the first personal computer software, office basis.

Lara Fedoroff:            What was that like?

Jared Spool:                It was crazy back then. I mean, we were all making stuff up. We had to figure it out. If I wanted to take a character from the keyboard and display it on the screen at the end of a word, I had to write the code that scanned the keyboard, figured out which character it was, figured out where in the word processor buffer it belonged, figured out where the word processor buffer needed to be updated on the screen, figured out how to get the character on the screen, and what pixels to light up in the display, you know, fonts and everything. None of that was built into the operating system. We had to do all of that.
And we had to make sure that it would work with fast typists. So, we would go out and we would go to these typing pools where there were people who could type 135 words a minute. We would put our stuff in front of them. We would watch the software just dismally crash as the letters just could not keep up. Then we’d go back and we’d optimize. We’d close the loop. We’d come back. We eventually got it so that people who typed at 135 words per minute could actually, the software could keep up with them. But we had to write every piece of code that did everything.

While I was at DEC, there was a group of people who had just been hired to do this stuff that they called software human factors. The software human factor stuff was basically the beginning of what we would today refer to as user research or usability testing. Their job was to figure this out. There were people there in that team; Sandy Jones, who inevitably invented contextual inquiry; Dennis Wixon, who created a lot of the thinking today. He’s been a keynote speaker at UPA and CHI. He was at Microsoft for a long time. He’s now at the University of Santa Cruz. John Whiteside, who really defined what user research and usability and user experience was about. This was back in 1979, 1980, 1981.

We were doing a first usability test that had ever been done on software. We had to figure out how you create a usability test lab. We built one from scratch.

Lara Fedoroff:            What did it look like?

Jared Spool:                It looked like a janitor’s closet because it was – basically, we kidnapped a janitor’s closet. We put a one way mirror in. We lit one half. We darkened the other half. We had all this TV studio equipment that we were using to do the video and cameras mounted on the wall with remote controls and all of this stuff. We were making up protocols. We were making up how do you conduct a usability test? We did some of the first Wizard of Oz studies. We did all this stuff. It was crazy stuff. It was back in the day. We were just inventing everything.

The consent forms that people use today we had to invent. We had to figure out, what do you say to people when you start a session? How do you recruit? How do you do any of that? Nobody had ever done this before.

Lara Fedoroff:            Well, thank you.

Jared Spool:                You’re welcome.

Lara Fedoroff:            Do you have a picture of that first lab? That would be so funny.

Jared Spool:                No, because at the time we didn’t it was – well, for one thing, I wasn’t into photography then and cameras weren’t easy. It’s not like you’d carry one in your pocket all the time. We never thought of it as a special place. I know I had a camera back then because to have a camera inside the building I had to have a special camera pass. As an employee, you were not allowed to bring cameras into the building unless you had a pass. But because we were operating all this video equipment we had to have a camera pass.

Lara Fedoroff:            That must be so fulfilling to know that you were on the forefront of all of that.

Jared Spool:                It makes me feel really old. I hear the kids today whining about stuff. I’m like get off my yard, my lawn. You weren’t there. You don’t know how hard it was. We had to carry the equipment up the stairs each way.

Lara Fedoroff:            What was the next step in your career?

Jared Spool:                I went on to do more software with this real interest in systems and people and user research. I got involved in the ACM SIGCHI community. I went to the early conferences, the first ones, and really fell in love with this whole group of people, this whole tribe that was forming at the time of people who were studying how to build software that was easy to use. This was just new and novel.

Up until that point, software was built to meet requirements that were defined by business people. The idea of building something for users was just a really novel idea. So, I went on to do that. I worked at a couple of companies who had some amazing technologies and things like that. Then, in 1988, I started User Interface Engineering.

Lara Fedoroff:            What made you start that?

Jared Spool:                I got fired from my last job.

Lara Fedoroff:            Why?

Jared Spool:                The official reason was a dress code violation. I, apparently, had been caught walking around my own office in my socks. And so, they decided that was a dress code violation. The unofficial reason, I was told later, was that you’re really not supposed to go around telling everybody that your boss is a complete asshole. The way it was put to me was you’re not supposed to do that even when he is a complete asshole.

Lara Fedoroff:            What a blessing that was. I mean, obviously, you started this amazing company.

Jared Spool:                Yes, not on purpose.

Lara Fedoroff:            What were the early days like?

Jared Spool:                Actually, the very next day after getting fired someone who I had worked with at that company, he was an independent consultant who had done work there. He had said, you know if you ever want to leave here, if you ever find yourself looking someplace else, give me a call. So, the night I got fired I gave him a call. He was like yes. Show up tomorrow. So, I ended up doing a project right away for him. It was a backup system for Banyan Networks. I did the design work on this automatic backup and restore. Basically, something that was very similar to Apple’s time machine but back in the ‘80s. I ended up just consulting and contracting and doing that for a couple years. Then, in 1992, I hired my first employee, which was Carolyn Snider. It was four years that I was on my own.

Lara Fedoroff:            In that four year time, did you create a vision of what you wanted the company to become?

Jared Spool:                I was always interested in work that evolved around usability testing. I’d had, at this point, more usability testing experience than most other people on the planet. So, I was interested in seeing if there was a way to bring usability testing to companies that couldn’t afford it, that perceived that you had to have this big lab and this big stuff. I had been doing a lot with portable usability testing stuff. At the time, it was being bandied about as discount usability. The idea was to bring the cost – basically, the key is the cost per participant so to bring the cost per participant down.

Lara Fedoroff:            How low was it? Do you remember?

Jared Spool:                I think we got it down to $75 a participant, not including remuneration. It didn’t have to be very expensive.

Lara Fedoroff:            What was your portable usability testing equipment? What was your setup?

Jared Spool:                It was this jerry-rigged system. It wasn’t like I had this super briefcase that had everything packed up. It was basically off the shelf video cameras and stuff I might rent. We would keep it very simple. I wrote my own software loggings tool because there was nothing like Moray out there or Silverback at the time. So, I wrote one in visual basic and we used that to log usability test events and track them and map them against the video. But, yeah, everything was very crude.

Lara Fedoroff:            Then you would, obviously, take all the data and put it together in a presentation and bring it back to them. Is that how –

Jared Spool:                Yeah. I’d collect up all the comments and categorize them. A lot of what we were doing at the time was figuring out how do software teams need this? We were putting it all together and showing them to people and then saying, does this help you? Yeah, it’s really helpful or no, that’s not useful at all. So, I’d go off and do it again.

Lara Fedoroff:            Did you make recommendations based on your knowledge and experience and what you learned from the testing?

Jared Spool:                Yeah. I’ve never been a big fan of making recommendations. I always felt I was the least equipped person in the room to make the recommendations. It was always better to me that the team themselves come up with the recommendations. So, I just wanted to present stuff. The clients would ask for recommendations and they’d sometimes get frustrated if I didn’t give them.

I never found it very satisfying because I always felt like the recommendations I was making were not taking into account, having been on the software development side and knowing what that was like, I don’t know how hard or easy this is to do. I don’t know what your code base is like or what’s there. So, I’m not going to make any assumptions about what you can do. For me to say these are the top five things you need to change and here’s how you should change them felt to me to be presumptuous.

I was more about saying these are the things users are stumbling over. If your goal is to get users to do x, they’re not doing that. It occurred to me very early that I would have better results if I could get the team to participate in the usability tests than if I did them off on my own.

Lara Fedoroff:            How did you get them to participate?

Jared Spool:                That’s how I pitched the project. This is how we’re going to do this. For most of them, they were fascinated by the idea. Remember, this was all new and novel to these folks. They had never heard of this before. The idea of doing it was just radical and intriguing. So, there was no preconception that you hire this team who will do this stuff and produce this result. That came later when people who were used to big companies having teams or having consultants who did this would then call us and say this is how we’ve done it before. We want to do it this way again. We’d say no. We’re not interested in doing it that way. They’d say then we’re not going to hire you. I’d go okay.

Lara Fedoroff:            You stuck to your guns.

Jared Spool:                Yeah. I never really liked that business. For one thing, it raises the cost per participant. The other thing is, again, I felt like I was the least qualified person to be making these assumptions. You’re wasting your money by having me do this. Everything that we’ve ever done at User Interface Engineering has been 100 percent guaranteed. We tell every client, every contract, every time someone gives us money, it’s basically, you’re completely guaranteed. If you’re not happy, we’ll give you your money back.

Producing recommendations that people don’t follow, that’s a recipe for people not being happy. You know, what did they pay for it if they’re not going to follow the recommendations? So, I wasn’t interested in doing that. I can’t guarantee giving you recommendations that you will follow and I’m not interested in giving you recommendations you’re not going to follow. That seems like a waste of your money. So, I’m not going to do it.

Lara Fedoroff:            How did you evolve the company? How did you grow it?

Jared Spool:                Carolyn came on. We started doing more projects. We were doing a lot. Right around ’92, ’93, ’94, we were now neck deep in Windows 3, which came out in ’91. We started doing a lot of usability testing around Windows 3 applications. We would do them for a variety of companies. All these companies were diving in. Nobody knew what to do. They were running into these complexity walls.

Usability testing became easier to sell to them. We started to see all these patterns with how people used Windows apps. If you did the toolkits or if you actually did things the way Microsoft did them, there are all these usability problems that would crop up that were present all the time. I did a presentation at a software developers’ conference on these design patterns that we kept seeing and the problems they were causing. Suddenly, that became a really popular topic. We started to unmask this stuff. It grew from a short presentation, to a longer presentation, to a half day workshop, to a full day workshop.

Suddenly, we were finding ourselves actually making more money teaching about these design problems that were propping up in Windows than we were actually doing the research work to find the design problems. So, the business evolved into this company where we go out and we do a bunch of work for clients to uncover these things. Then we publish what we learned to everybody else. That will help us get more clients. It was this nice system that fed itself. It worked really well.

Lara Fedoroff:            When did you develop your vision for the company? When did that happen? Has that stayed intact throughout the years or have you shifted and pivoted along the way?

Jared Spool:                We have what we call the 100 year mission. That came out in the late ‘90s. We were about 15 years old when we pushed that. There were two catalysts for that. One is that there was a popular book that had been pushed into my face that I had read called Built to Last. Built to Last talked about all these companies that survived more than 75 years comparing them against direct competitors that had started about the same time in the same markets but didn’t survive all that time.

That book was very much a seminal book for stuff and it helped me with a problem which was that we were really unfocused in terms of where we were going. The book basically said, look, all the most successful companies have a very clear focus. They have this plan that actually will take a century for them to accomplish. That was a common thing.

I started thinking what would our plan be if it took more than a century? Right at the same time what had happened was that my then wife passed away. She had died primarily because the computer systems at the insurance company had decided that her condition was not ever going to be cured. They cancelled all her therapies. Her quality of life diminished very fast.

Before we could get a human involved to review her case, she had degraded to a point where she then had caught a bacterial infection. It was the same thing that killed Jim Henson. It’s a nasty little thing that takes 24 hours to kill you but 48 hours to diagnose. So, we didn’t know what had happened. She went in the hospital for what we thought was a routine kidney infection and she never came out.

In processing what that was like, I had come to realize that part of what killed her was computer systems, computer systems that were just poorly designed. They were new systems. I had been spending the last decade watching people be really frustrated by new computer systems. So, those two things coming together, we formulated this plan. The plan originally was that we would figure out a way to eliminate all of the frustration that comes from the introduction of new technology. We called that the 100 year mission.

Subsequently, we’ve updated it to be something simpler which is to just eliminate all the bad design from the world. But we still think it takes about 100 years. We’re, at this point, about 15 years into the mission. So, that was really where the thinking was coming from at that point was this idea. Eliminating bad design, what does that mean? The first thing we need to do is understand what bad design is and where does bad design come from? What causes bad design? How do you start fixing that?

Over the last 15 years I think we’ve made some good progress. We now know that bad design is really a people problem. As a people problem, you can eliminate it through education and culture and structure. The sources of bad design now are really educational issues. There are cultural issues. There are structural issues. They’re not because there is something engrained in the human condition that creates bad design. Bad design actually comes from a lack of understanding of good design. That’s very clear today. It wasn’t clear in 1996. We didn’t understand that. That’s where we were at.

All of a sudden we were now focused on education is going to be a big part of what we do. Design literacy is going to be a big part of what we do. We had just started looking at the web at that point. So, we wanted to understand what is the difference between good web designs and bad web designs? We started to measure this in ways that were more than just site of the day aesthetics. Back when the web first came out, there were all these website of the day sites that would, hey, look at this cool thing. But they were just assessed on how could you use HTML in a way that no one had seen it before? They weren’t about good usability.

We started to look at things from a usability standpoint. We ended up publishing our first report on that topic in 1997 and then just kept going from there. We focused primarily on the web because it was a nice constrained laboratory to start looking at bad design.

Lara Fedoroff:            Were most or all of the measures that you used back then similar to what we use today?

Jared Spool:                Yeah. They were cruder. We have a much more nuanced notion of this. We focused on information retrieval initially. Then we moved to transactions. In transactions, we focused on e-commerce. The main reason for the move to e-commerce for us was it was easy to measure success. We could determine success. In e-commerce, you have the user’s goal and you have the business’s goal.

The business’s goal is to sell you something. The user’s goal is to buy something. Those were the conditions we were interested in. We weren’t as interested, when we were doing e-commerce stuff, in people who were browsing with no intention to buy. So, we were interested in just people who were ready to buy and wanted to and people who were ready to sell and wanted to.

The beauty of that is I know exactly when both of those conditions occur. I can tell you the exact moment that those happen. For other types of success, that’s really hard. One of our clients over the years has been the National Cancer Institute. They have all this amazing information on what is cancer? How does it affect your life? What are your options? What clinical trials are there? How do you measure success for them?

I know that when Best Buy sells us a camera that they feel they’ve been successful. Getting out of the National Cancer Institute, how do you know you’re successful? It’s actually really hard. And then, when you’re talking about someone whose loved one has just been diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, what is success of using the cancer.gov website for that person at that moment? I don’t know what that is. I can’t tell you that point where we go from not successful to successful like I can in e-commerce.

It was just a convenience that we honed in on e-commerce because we needed something to be able to measure success so that we could then say things that aren’t successful are worse designs than things that are successful. We couldn’t do that with a lot of the client work we were working on because we didn’t know how to measure success.

I think now we are much better at measuring success. If we talked to the people at the National Cancer Institute, we can get a lot of different nuance success factors that they believe are measurable. We can get from someone who is in the context of dealing with understanding cancer and what it means to them a whole bunch of success criteria that we could then use to measure the site. But we couldn’t do that in 1997 or 2001. It has taken us a long time.

Lara Fedoroff:            What’s this new, crazy, wrangling unicorns thing?

Jared Spool:                You must be talking about the job position I posted. To continue on this education thing, to start at the beginning, for the last 26 years we’ve been working with lots of companies, thousands of clients. I get people talking to me all the time. I’m finally getting design sold to my organization. People understand it. People know what it is. But I can’t find designers. Designers have been getting harder and harder and harder to hire over the last decade.

Lara Fedoroff:            By designers you mean?

Jared Spool:                I mean people who can design websites or apps or kiosks or services or whatever. Design is the rendering of intent. To some extent, everybody designs. But there are a bunch of skills about how to bring to the table, particularly in the area of digital things, you bring to the table all these different things we do, so that we can structure the information, so you can find it, so that we can visually present it in a way that communicates effectively, so that we can actually measure the success of that. Looking at all the different pieces of that and getting people who know how to do all that stuff is getting harder and harder and harder.

A few years back, I was having dinner with a woman named Molly Holzschlag. She’s been a force in the web design world for decades, since the beginning. She’s written 40 books on web design and HTML and stuff. She fought all the browser wars. She actually went to work for Microsoft to help get them on to the standards track. She’s done just amazing stuff over here. She was visiting us. We were having dinner in this little Chinese restaurant in Boston.

I was saying it’s getting harder and harder. All these companies are trying to hire designers. There are no designers to be hired. All the designers that are any good are entrenched in jobs that they like because, if not, they just quickly get sucked up by somebody else. So, it’s almost impossible. There are no schools that are producing designers in the quantities that we need them. I had estimated that we were going to need 10,000 or 20,000 designers within five years. There’s no place where there were 20,000 designers.

Someone needs to start a school is what I said. Molly said that should be you. I said that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. She said, yeah, you’re perfect for it. So, that was what it was. The original name was Project Insanity. Project Insanity was basically a project to figure out what it would take to build a school. Part of the charter of Project Insanity was that I was going to go talk to all my good friends who were really smart and explain to them that Molly said I should start a school. Have them do what good friends do, which is look me in the eyes and say that’s a stupid idea. If this was a good idea, someone would have done it already. There are good reasons why no one has done it already. So, you should not do this.

I would go out. I would meet my friends. I would tell this to them. That’s not what they would say. The biggest thing I learned from this was that I have no good friends. Nobody would take me aside and say, Jared, this is a stupid idea. Don’t do this. Every single one of them said this sounds brilliant. You need to go do this. I thought damn it. How did I end up with this crappy group of friends?

One of them, a guy named Dan Ruben, who had also been around from the beginning and had done some amazing stuff, visual designer, said to me, have you talked to Leslie? I’ve known Leslie for a while. He was talking about Leslie Jensen-Inman who was a friend of both of ours. I said not lately. He said you need to talk to Leslie. Okay, why? He said you just need to go talk to her.

Leslie, at the time, was getting her EDD, which is an educational equivalent of a PhD. She was getting that at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Her thesis was on creating a web designs curriculum but I didn’t know that. She had been teaching at the university. A few days later I see a tweet from her that says I’ve just given notice at the University of Tennessee. I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life, wherever that might take me.

I sent her a DM and said, hey, we’ve got to talk. Within 15 minutes we were having a phone conversation. That changed history for both of us. She’s now my partner on this thing that’s called Center Centre, though its nickname for a long time while we were in stealth mode was, we changed it from Project Insanity to the Unicorn Institute. Now that we’re out of stealth mode, it’s Center Centre. That’s what it is.

So, the thing you were talking about, the unicorn wranglers, is our first faculty. We have two types of faculty. We have guest industry instructors who come in and teach. There are 30 courses over the two year curriculum. They’ll come in and they’ll teach. They’ll kick off with a two day workshop. But most of the education comes from this team of what we officially call facilitators who facilitate the students’ education. The unofficial name is unicorn wranglers. That name just stuck. So, that’s what the job ads all say. They say come and be a unicorn wrangler.

Lara Fedoroff:            Are the classes in person? Are they online?

Jared Spool:                They’re in person. It’s a two year, full time curriculum. It’ll be in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We have classroom space down there. The whole city is opening their doors for us. It’s really exciting. It’s going to be really awesome.

Lara Fedoroff:            Are you moving there?

Jared Spool:                I will probably get an apartment there. I still have User Interface Engineering in Boston. So, I’ll probably be shifting back and forth though I’m learning the new and novel ways to get Skype to crash. We use Skype a lot. Actually, between crashes it works really well.

Lara Fedoroff:            Yeah. I’ve noticed that too. What advice would you give designers? I’m sure there is a lot. What’s one of the golden nuggets that you have?

Jared Spool:                What advice would I give designers?

Lara Fedoroff:            Who are just getting started.

Jared Spool:                Who are just getting started. I would probably give them advice to spend a lot of time watching your users. Spend a lot of time. If you had to divide your time up between creating designs and watching users, watching users should be a minimum of 50 percent, if not more. Your designs will be wholly better the more users you watch. So, the more time you spend watching users the better. If you’re not spending any time watching users, then you need to start doing some and start spending time doing that.

That’s really how you learn what the difference is between good design and bad design. You put something out there with an intention that it’s going to work but then you see that it doesn’t quite work the way you intended. You have to make changes. So, you do it again. You make changes. You do it again. In that process, you learn the basic principles of what works and what doesn’t. So, that’s really the best way to do that.

Lara Fedoroff:            What would you like your legacy to be?

Jared Spool:                I don’t know. I don’t think in terms of legacy. I imagine going on forever. There’s an old saying which is God put me on this Earth to accomplish something and at the rate I’m going I’ll live forever. My to do list certainly feels that way. I think that it’s too early to be thinking about – you know what my legacy is? It’s making this podcast with you.

Lara Fedoroff:            Very nice. Well, thank you.

Jared Spool:                It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

Lara Fedoroff:            Really?

Jared Spool:                Yes.

Lara Fedoroff:            Well, thank you so much for being on UX-radio.

Jared Spool:                Thank you for having me.

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Jared M. Spool is the founder of User Interface Engineering and a co-founder of Center Centre.

If you’ve ever seen Jared speak about user experience design, you know that he’s probably the most effective and knowledgeable communicator on the subject today. He’s been working in the field of usability and experience design since 1978, before the term “usability” was ever associated with computers.

Jared spends his time working with the research teams at the User Interface Engineering, helps clients understand how to solve their design problems, explains to reporters and industry analysts what the current state of design is all about, and is a top-rated speaker at more than 20 conferences every year.

With Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, he is starting a new school in Chattanooga, TN, to create the next generation of industry-ready UX Designers. In 2014, the school, under the nickname of the Unicorn Institute, launched a Kickstarter project that successfully raised more that 600% of its initial goal.

He is also the conference chair and keynote speaker at the annual UI Conference and UX Immersion Conference, and manages to squeeze in a fair amount of writing time. He is author of the book Web Usability: A Designer’s Guide and co-author of Web Anatomy: Interaction Design Frameworks that Work. You can find his writing at uie.com and follow his adventures on the twitters at @jmspool.


What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the author? What inspired you from this episode? What did you learn? What resources were most helpful? Please add a comment and share your thoughts with us!