A response to Jesse James Garrett's Elements of User Experience

‘User experience is about how it works on the outside, where a person comes into contact with it.’ This thought instantly resonated with me. I have become obsessed with simple complexity. The most powerful experiences are those in which something monumental happens and it seemed effortless to the user. I don’t think this is absolutely necessary for effective UX but it makes effective UX that much more impressive.


“A well designed product is one that does what it promises to do. And a badly designed product is one that somehow doesn't”. What I really appreciate about this is that the best UX is one that you never think about. For a product to be successful, it just has to work! The biggest step in UX is often times not making the experience great, but rather making it not suck so bad.


"The most important sign of quality, is not how many steps the process took, but whether each step made sense to the user and whether it followed naturally from the previous step.” I just last night had a conversation with my roommate about how PayPal’s biggest UX win was reducing the on boarding process from 17 screens to 3. I would argue this is not the biggest UX win, but rather just a win for the company as a whole. Sure 17 steps is a UX nightmare, but even 3 steps could be a UX nightmare if they are the wrong 3 steps. 

[T]hings [I] [L]ike [L]ots

1) Companies I admire

     Strava- They have developed a fanaticism within an incredibly cynical community. Their product has managed to capture both serious athletes as well as people going for their first run in 10 years and do so because their experience is SO DAMN GOOD! Its easier, its compelling, and its adopted a social aspect that makes it almost a requirement.


     Jawbone- Jawbone has attempted to design themselves out of a job. They have done such a good job at designing their product that it almost renders all other competitors (and itself) useless. They have eliminated all UI, software interface, etc. and made it all back-end. I think thats an incredibly powerful design experience.


     fuseproject- Related to Jawbone is fuse project. They have made a business of coming up with ideas. They are able to give insights to a company’s business and products that even they can’t see. They wrap this all into immaculately designed packages that introduces sometimes radically different strategies into palatable visuals.


     Levi’s- Random fashion company, Levi’s has one of the best brands I have ever seen. They have been cool (to some extent) for over 100 years. How many brands have done one thing well for 100 years? On top of that their customer experience makes you feel like you are inside that sexy Americana commercial. Levi’s oozes American-RocknRoll-cool and does it both in a modern and classic way.


     Spotify- I used to be a vocal hater of Spotify. From its overhyped release, to it’s shitty web experience, it was not for me. They have slowly made it so that I really have no choice. Unlike all the other streaming music services (Pandora, Last.FM, etc.) Spotify simply works. I can do almost everything I want without having to be at the mercy of the company’s vision. I can stream albums, playlists, radio, etc. without having to switch platforms. I still deep down dislike Spotify, but it seems like every week it gets markedly better and has dug its roots so deep I can’t imagine it being displaced anytime soon.


     Evernote- Similar to Spotify, I have had periods of hate towards Evernote. They are sundry technical problems and their customer service is laughable. Still, no matter how much I want to be spiteful and ignore their product I end up back on it. They have made their experience and penetration so strong that its almost impossible to not use Evernote.


2) Digital products I use a lot

     Strava- Similar to the above, Strava’s product has become so ubiquitous in cycling that I almost can’t not use it. Their market penetration has gone so far that all their competitors have resorted to integrating their products into Strava just so they can stay afloat. Their product goes seamlessly across my Droid, Mac, and my gf’s iPhone.


     Mint- Mint’s ability to help me understand my finances goes as deep as I want it to. I can track it down to the dollar, or I can see large chunks of info. All their apps, (mobile or desktop) present me with a ton of data in such a fast, simple way that I have no reason to not use it. Their are a thousand single-user fintech apps, but none of them can replace the hugely simple and productive experience of Mint.


     Twitter- I have become addicted to Twitter. I don’t particularly like their product- but they have effectively eliminated all their API competitors. I have tried other news aggregators, but Twitter is unique in its social response time and ability to provide me with such a varied input stream with minimal clutter.


     Google Maps- Although I take pride in my ability to get around the city using only my knowledge, my girlfriend insists that sometimes we take the “faster” route to get there. Google Maps not only does its basic function (providing me accurate maps) but seamlessly works across platforms but more importantly transportation modes. 


     Facebook- Whether I like it or not, I get on Facebook at least once a day. Despite other social platform’s attempts, Facebook remains all the platform where I can connect (passively) to the most amount of my social circle. Their resistance to user customization, specifically their lack of feature ’stickiness’ makes me want to quit it everyday, but I keep coming back.


     Instagram- Instagram’s lack of utility to me is mostly due to their social structure. I could spend hours looking at beautiful pictures of people I don’t know, but I absolutely don’t need to, and therefore I usually don’t. 


3) Digital products I admire or like

     Strava- Same story as above. I admire their ability to influence so many people’s lifestyle for the better with a relatively complex experience that feels effortless.


     AirBnB- I use AirBnB irregularly which is not a reflection of their product. I relish the time I get to spend on AirBnB’s product’s. Their website has an incredible experience and I think their product genuinely has transformed an entire market.


     Asana- Asana puts a massive amount of data that was previously untouchable to a huge population into their hands. That power is effectively due to solid technical robustness and also elegant user experience.


     Acorns- Acorns is a simple idea, simple app, that does something quite complex. It’s effectively Superman 2 except for good. I never have to look at Acorns as it rounds up all my purchases and invests that delta amount. When I do have to look at Acorns, its always a good time. Their interface is simple and elegant, gives me all the information I need easily, and all the information I want relatively easily.


     Mint- I think as much as I geek out about my personal finances, its not a trait that is consistent among people in my generation. Mint is such a good app that it allows people to be inspired to get involved in their finances, but also gives those who never will be inspired a fighting chance at keeping their shit under control. That’s a very powerful ability.


4) Topics or ideas I'm really interested in.



          Fitness Apps


          Quantified self



          Personal Fin


          Energy Efficiency



          Product Design

          Consumer Goods









     Active users