Category Archives: News

Moving to Austin


After spending the last eleven years in San Francisco and Seattle, we decided it was time to get some more sunshine and get closer to our families to the east. Tomorrow we move to Austin.

Almost My bad play on words aside, really is almost famous. I say “almost” because it’s a closed beta and there are several things that might hold it back. It appears that it doesn’t work on any version of IE yet and it’s not clear if that’s in the plans or not. It also gets its performance from making an end-run around a lot of CSS, using matrix3D transforms to GPU-accelerate various operations. The end result is some code that is pretty obtuse looking and not very semantic. You can’t argue with the results though. I’m speaking in broad terms here but you can google for a preso they did late last year that delivers a good overview of what they’re up to. The other big question in my mind is how the more standards-focused folk will feel about this.

But what is It’s a javascript library that brings optimized performance to the types of apps that we were building in Flash, WPF, and Silverlight years ago. I was surprised by how excited I was to see this today. More than ten years ago, I was building some pretty advanced UIs in web pages using Flash that even now are impossible with pure HTML and CSS. looks to be a way to bring UI innovation back into web browsers without plugins. If so, I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only one excited about the possibilities.

I’m curious how this will all play out with Responsive Design and Progressive Enhancement though. It’s still a beta so we’ll have to wait and see.

The Rise of the UX Expert

User Experience

Hot on the heels of the New York Times article last week, we have this computerworld article about the rise in demand and salaries for UX experts. The article talks about all the usual suspects: Apple, mobile, designer/developer hybrids, the difficulty finding and hiring such folks, and—oddly enough—all the perks that are supposedly being lavished on UX designers. Sounds great, where do I sign up?

Seriously though, it warms my heart to hear such talk. Designers of all type have long been under-appreciated by corporate America. Here’s to hoping that all of this leads not only to more and better employment for designers but also to better products for businesses and consumers.

Design Trends: Nouveau Vintage

Scary Noises vintage logoI can’t resist the trend in design right now. You know the one I’m talking about—everything looks like it’s 1911 all over again. Technically, there are more geometric and grotesque typefaces, more of an emphasis on lettering (and type that looks like lettering), and lots of monochromatic design. I’ve temporarily ditched my site logo mark (the exclamation point with sound waves emanating) and just gone with the flow for now. Trends come and go but when one swells up that you happen to personally dig, you have to jump in before the wave is over.

What’s the significance of 1981? That’s not when I started this blog (that was 2004); it’s when I designed my first apps.

Error 37 is a UX fail and a PR Win

#Error37 is trending as a top term on twitter right now. What is that? It’s the error code for the recently released Diablo III game from Blizzard. And it’s a total UX fail. Twelve years in the making, they say, and yet they didn’t implement a waiting queue? It’s 2012 and the best they could do on their launch night was a popup dialog box with an error code? Really? Literally, millions of people stared at that dialog box over and over before just turning in to bed. I actually got past the dreaded Error 37 only to find out that there’s just another line of errors behind it. Error 3007, Error 3005, and Error 300008, for instance. In their defense, I will say that I’ve never been able to type in and be rejected by an authentication system as fast as in Diablo III. Because just like better failure experiences, performance is a key component of the user experience of software. In this case, it gives all new meaning to the phrase “fail faster”.

Error 37 Diablo

That said, you just can’t buy the kind of free publicity that Blizzard will get out of this. Well, you could but it’d be expensive. And before long, people will just remember that the game was really popular and there were long lines.

But maybe Blizzard is feeling enough heat at the present moment that they’ll implement a better ux than just an error popup dialog next time. And hopefully it’s a good lesson to all of us in the industry that predicting common failures/errors and handling them gracefully is part of what makes great experiences for customers.

PR goes to the dogs

So in moving from Microsoft to tech startup buuteeq there was a press release and some coverage in various trade journals and websites. I knew one of the Microsoft-focused journalists might pick up on it related to the fate of Silverlight which would be understandable with the Build conference happening. What I didn’t expect was this:

Leaving Microsoft

admiraltwin_redrocks.jpgToday, six years to the day that I started at Microsoft, I’m leaving. I wanted to take a moment to thank all of my friends from my time at Microsoft for the things that they’ve taught me and the assistance that they granted. I sent an internal email already but many key people are no longer at Microsoft so I’m putting this out there for those of you that left ahead of me. In fact, those who know me and know the strategic shifts Microsoft announced earlier this year shouldn’t be surprised to see me leave now. But it was actually over a year ago that I decided I was ready for the next thing. It just took me this long to figure out what that should be.
Most at Microsoft have only ever known me as a business/marketing guy but the rest of my last 20+ years have been as a developer, a product designer, and even a long run as a professional musician. (Attached is a picture of my band playing at red rocks–I’m on the left). I’ve never stopped writing and recording and I actually even considered cashing out from the corporate world and going back to my roots as a songwriter; moving to LA or Nashville. I may yet, but right now there are some opportunities in the tech startup space that were too good for me to pass up.
Starting next week, I’m going to join buuteeq as chief experience officer. This gets me back to my product design/user experience roots and throws me into the middle of the rapid innovation that is the modern startup experience. There’s a lot to do, but I’™ll be able to simply and directly impact the customers and the business. Being a startup focused on the global travel industry, it also encourages me to take my family to see the world a bit. I’ll be managing a design team in Santiago so we’ll be moving there for a few months in January. Luckily that’s summer in Chile (we’ll be thinking of you seattlites then). buuteeq also has a policy called Trotamundo where you get a personal budget for travel to exotic locations to check out the hotels there. I plan to hit my numbers on that. And of course, it will be my third time working with Forest Key, now the CEO at buuteeq. They’ve assembled a good team there and I’m looking forward to the work at hand.
Reflecting now, it feels a little as if everything I accomplished at Microsoft is sand in the desert and has been wiped clean already. It’s almost as if I was never there. It’s a great lesson on permanence. Ultimately, the lasting results are the things I learned and the relationships I made while at Microsoft. With that in mind, I want to thank all the folks I worked with over the years there again, and wish you all the best of luck in your endeavors. Special thanks to Brian Goldfarb, the Silverlight/.NET/Expression product teams, and the folks on my team (John, Pete, Chris, Chris, David, David, Mik, Tara)–if it wasn’t for the pleasure of working with you all, I wouldn’t have stayed two years too long at Microsoft. :)
My page has links to my social media and you can find my email address on my site here.