Design Critique: Products for People

Design Critique: Products for People

United States

Encouraging usable products for a better customer experience.


DC114 Critique: When People Are the UI in Service Designs  

In service design and delivery, people are the user interface between an organization and its customers. This anecdotal episode recounts two excellent customer experiences with two seemingly well-run companies. Both employ people whose friendly personalities and professional skills, backed by efficient business processes, won them Tim's business.
Story 1: WOW Internet makes switching from internet service provider AT&T Uverse painless and affordable.
Story 2: A Plus Auto Repair & Transmission shows how to win expensive repair jobs over Hodges Subaru, an official dealership.

A bonus critique of the ConnectSense CS-TH Wireless Temperature Sensor shows how crucial first time setup is and the consequences of it failing. Product setup is your brand's ambassador! Don't screw it up!

Merry Christmas, Yuletide Greetings, and Happy New Year. Please submit a review on the iTunes Store if you want to thank us for another year of episodes.

DC113 Interview: Wayne Neale on Customer Experience, Design Thinking, and Service Design  

Wayne Neale, CEO of Kaydak, joins Tim Keirnan for an interview that ranges across several topics:
* Experience Design: From UI to User Experience to Customer Experience and beyond
* Design Thinking
* Service Design

You can find Wayne at

The service design episodes of Design Critique Tim mentioned can be heard here:

The Tim Cook interview that gives Tim a glimmer of hope that Apple isn’t completely a lost cause:

Listener Garrick Dee emailed to say he liked our Sustainable Shaving Tools episode and he’s written his own article on traditional wet shaving. Check it out!

DC112 Critique: The UX of Android Lollipop  

Time for a mobile episode! Aravindh Baskaran, UX researcher and designer, joins Tim Keirnan to look at the user experience of Android Lollipop. What did we like about it and what do we think could be better? With Android Marshmallow on the way, it's time to reflect on Lollipop's effectiveness.

Android is used, in one form or another, by more customers around the world than any other mobile OS (stats we found on this were so inconsistent that we gave up looking, but Android was clearly in the lead in all mobile OS usage stats). We used Aravindh's Nexus 5 phone for this episode because Tim's Nexus 4 now has Ubuntu Touch on it. The blog post image is Lollipop's list design that you'll hear us discuss when we refer to Google's "Material Design".

Note when critiquing Android UIs: Aravindh and Tim are critiquing pure Android as designed by Google and used on their Nexus devices and (for the most part) on Motorola's smart phones. Other manufacturers can and do take advantage of Android's open source nature to create their own Android UI that can be grossly inferior to pure Android or innovative, depending on one's point of view. So the UX of Android is not one thing as with iOS and Windows Phone, but a fragmented mix of competing interpretations of Google's Android reference design.

Email from Jan Jursa and Costan Boiangiu concludes this episode. Head over to Jan's wonderful Information Architecture Television and take advantage of all the great material there:

10th Anniverary Episode with Tom Brinck on Starbucks customer experience  

The Design Critique podcast celebrates its tenth anniversary! While others have podfaded, we have persevered.
In this anniversary episode, show co-founder Tom Brinck returns to discuss the customer experience of Starbucks coffee shops with Tim Keirnan. Tom is the power user and Tim is the newbie. Two very different perspectives.
This anniversary episode's album art features a cake with a Star Wars action figure on it, as befits any ten-year-old's birthday cake. And you must admit it's cool to have Palpatine himself with us, ready to slice, dice, and fry hypocritically corrupt Jedi. As they well deserved.
Thank-you for listening to us for ten years. And thanks to everyone who appeared on the show with us. Customer Experience research and design is more popular than ever, and if this show has helped you improve your products and services, or helped you acquire  really good products that truly improved your life, we have accomplished our goal.
Best regards,
Tim and Tom

DC110 Editorial: When the UX of Less is More  

In this first audio editorial episode, Tim relates how he rediscovered the advantages  of small electronics devices over their larger-screened brothers. Thanks to Dad for inspiring this one.
Besides mobile phones, cars are another example of a product range that used to punish customers who wanted a small size by not allowing superior materials or features in them. Thankfully for small car fans, it's getting better.
Smart companies recognize that small size product buyers actually have two categories: those who can only afford the smaller size with no extras, and those who want a premium customer experience and will gladly pay for the extras if made available in a smaller form factor. Small doesn't have to mean cheap!

Nice article on small but premium Android phones:

I forgot to say that as amazingly good as the Lumia 820 is, its camera is not why. This article details current Windows phones and sadly, their trend of providing terrific premium small phones is going in the wrong direction (still great phones if you like 5 inch screens):

More good reads on premium small cars:

IUE2015 Is In June, and Listener Email  

Hi everyone, this is a reminder that Internet User Experience is coming back to Ann Arbor, Michigan this June. Also, we have email falling out of the previous episode about the Beluga Razor design.

Visit the IUE2015 website at

DC109 Interview/Critique: The Beluga Razor and  Website with Inventor Zac Wertz  

Zac Wertz, inventor of the Beluga Razor, joins Tim Keirnan for an interview about the design of both the Beluga Razor prototype and the website. Across 80 minutes of uninterrupted, commercial-free conversation, Zac and Tim discuss hardware and digital designs, including
* Their mutual dissatisfaction with modern cartridge razor shave quality, its high cost, and environmental problems
* Their appreciation for traditional safety razor shaving
* Zac's origin story for inventing the Beluga razor
* How Zac designs mechanical prototypes
* The design of the website to reinforce the Beluga brand
* Tim's experience shaving with the prototype

The Beluga razor combines the advantage of the modern cartridge razor--a pivoting head--with the advantage of the traditional safety razor--its single, double-edged razor blade. Users thus have the low cost, superior effectiveness, and environmental advantages of traditional safety razor shaves without having to learn the fine motor skills needed for using a traditional safety razor.

P.S. You can listen to older shaving-themed episodes:

DC108 Interview: Using List Building to Start Your UX Freelancing Career with Jonathan Tilley  

Jonathan Tilley, voiceover professional, joins Tim Keirnan for a discussion on how user experience professionals can find freelancing opportunities, either full or part time.

This episode is about designing one's career instead of designing a digital or hardware experience, and closes with a discussion of how college students could use list building to find an internship or first job.

Jonathan's websites are:

Audiophiles take note: As a professional voiceover artist, Jonathan already sounds good. His choice of the Neumann TLM 103 microphone is why his good voice sounds so amazing in this Skype recording with Tim. There is no additional processing on Jonathan's voice. What you hear is his voice through the proximity effect of a magnificent and expensive-but-worth-it cardiod mic.

DC107 Interview: HFES 2014 Conference Report  

Melissa Smith returns for a special Human Factors News Desk episode that reports on the HFES 2014 annual meeting. If you missed the conference, or if you want to hear about sessions other than the ones you attended and the overal trends and themes she noticed, listen to this half hour with Melissa!

Link to HFES2014 twitter hashtag:

We also read email from listeners Costan (about GPS unit designs) and Reed (about interactive voice response systems).

DC106 Critique: Magellan RoadMate 2230T-LM  

Brad Jensen returns to help Tim critique the Magellan RoadMate 2230T-LM portable GPS. This completes our series on portable GPS for the car and provides a fascinating look at how three manufacturers have designed similar solutions. The strenghts of the Magellan include
* Text entry is spoken by the unit to confirm input
* Dynamic rerouting around traffic problems works well
* Effective use of corners for touch points
* 4.3 inch size is not ungainly as the 5 inch Garmin was

Usability problems with the RoadMate could be summed up as bad color choices in the UI. The garish display and the difficult to read road names, plus general clutter that is unnecessary to help the user, are unfortunate negatives.The update software is also poorly designed and confusing to use.

Melissa Smith joins us for another Human Factors News Desk segment. Citations to follow as soon as I find them...

DC105 Critique: Nokia Lumia 520 and 521 Windows Phone 8  

Mike Velasco returns to discuss the Windows Phone 8 duo from Nokia, the Lumia 520 and 521. These smart phones may be the best value in a phone ever sold to this point. The guys explain why the design, including the price point, is so attractive.
Paul Thurott inspired this episode with his article here:

Melissa Smith returns with the Human Factors News Desk to discuss the following:

Gaspar, J. G., Neider, M. B., Crowell, J. A., Lutz, A., Kaczmarski, H., & Kramer, A. F. (2013). Are Gamers Better Crossers An Examination of Action Video Game Experience and Dual Task Effects in a Simulated Street Crossing Task. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

Yanko, M. R., & Spalek, T. M. (2013). Driving With the Wandering Mind The Effect That Mind-Wandering Has on Driving Performance. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 0018720813495280.

Finally, contributor Costan Boiangiu told us about this article on step stool design, which echoes our 100th Anniversary Episode topic!

DC104 Human Factors Research Summary with Melissa Smith  

Human Factors PhD student Melissa Smith joins Tim for an experiment in bringing human factors-related research to you in three short summaries. Melissa is at George Mason University and donated her time to discuss recent human factors research with Tim.
Learn more about Melissa on her website at

The articles Melissa discusses are:
--Beller, J., Heesen, M., & Vollrath, M. (2013). Improving the Driver–Automation Interaction An Approach Using Automation Uncertainty. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. doi: 10.1177/0018720813482327. []

-- Finomore, V. S., Shaw, T. H., Warm, J. S., Matthews, G., & Boles, D. B. (2013). Viewing the Workload of Vigilance Through the Lenses of the NASA-TLX and the MRQ. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. doi: 10.1177/0018720813484498. []

--Goldsmith, K., & Dhar, R. (2013). Negativity bias and task motivation: Testing the effectiveness of positively versus negatively framed incentives. Journal of experimental psychology: applied, 19(4), 358. doi: 10.1037/a0034415. []

DC103 WordCast: Verbal Protocols (Thinking Aloud)  

Dr. Robert Youmans from George Mason University joins Tim Keirnan for a wordcast episode on verbal protocols. Why and how do we ask usability research participants to think aloud about their task performance, and what does using this method do to our data? Dr. Youmans covers four different methods of thinking aloud:
1. Concurrent Verbal Protocol
2. Retrospective Verbal Protocol
3. Interruptive Verbal Protocol
4. Prospective Verbal Protocol

The remainder of the episode covers research on how using concurrent verbal protocol can affect your data. People do not normally think aloud while doing tasks with products, and having them vocalize during user research can change their behavior, but the degree of change may not be a problem for the goals of our studies. Sometimes thinking aloud can improve their performance--which also affects your data. The result is not obvious and the literature is conflicted.

DC102: Android Phones Longitudinal Reviews of LG Motion and Google Nexus 4  

Mike Velasco joins Tim Keirnan for an episode to discuss the customer experience of two Android smart phones: the LG Motion and the Google Nexus 4 (also manufactured by LG). These two very different Android phones each have their own advantages, as do the carriers Tim used them on (MetroPCS and Solavei, respectively).

LG Motion:
* Small size easy to hold and put in pocket
* Fast data speeds
* Replaceable battery
* Custom Android user interface by LG that isn't bad
* Outright purchase from MetroPCS on a monthly, non-contract plan

Nexus 4:
* Large screen easy to read for older eyes and for gamers
* Pentaband GSM radio frequencies ensures it works anywhere in the world
* Pure Android operating system with the UX that Google intended, gets updates instantly from Google as they appear
* Outright purchase from Google at very fair price, can be used on any GSM carrier including monthly, non-contract plans

Listen to the episode for other facets of the customer experience of owning these phones.

DC101 WordCast: User Experience 101  

Dave Mitropoulos-Rundus returns for a wordcast episode on the user experience profession that probes the origins of our field. Where did it come from, and how did we come to have jobs in it? And is "customer experience" a better phrase for what we do?
For us, UX is about managing risk on projects by doing our trio of research, design, and testing to ensure products and services will meet business goals. And it's about taking pride in one's craft.
Learn more about a foundational book on our user experience research/design/testing careers, Set Phasers on Stun, at

You can learn about ISO standards for usabilty at the wonderful Usability.Net:

DC100: 8th Anniversary Show with Tom Brinck!  

On the 8th anniversary and 100th episode of Design Critique, Timothy Keirnan is joined by a celebratory guest who is no stranger to long-time listeners of the show. Our topic is the design of an everyday object that helps everyone reach a little higher in life: the step stool. We like how such a simple object has so many facets, features, and personas for design consideration.

We'd like to thank everyone for listening the past eight years and helping us reach the milestone of episode 100. If you appreciate Design Critique, please write a review of the show on the iTunes music store. We need more reviews and it only takes a couple minutes.

The first step stool we discuss is designed towards children and a product description is at

The second step stool we discuss is suitable for adults who need one that folds up when not in use and can be seen at

This episode closes with some old outtakes from the early recordings we did at Country Squire Studio 1 from 2005-6. Ahh, memories. Thanks for listening!

DC99 Editorial: In Praise of Bricks & Mortar Stores  

In an audio editorial, Tim asks if the supposed death of bricks 'n mortar stores at the hands of online sales is greatly exaggerated. What do you think?
The article mentioned in this episode can be read in full at

Design Critique does not accept advertising, but the following merchants deserve honorable mention due to their bricks and mortar customer service:
Averill Racing Stuff, Inc. (customer education & advice)
Best Buy (in-store warranty service on Logitech & Phillips products)
Staples (website easily & accurately displays product stock at particular locations)

DC98: Garmin Nuvi 50 GPS Longitudinal Review  

Brad Jensen and Tim Keirnan present a longitudinal review of the Garmin Nuvi 50 portable GPS. What does it do well, and how could its interaction design and interface design be improved?

An earlier episode of Design Critique reviewed a TomTom portable GPS and you might want to go back and hear that along with this episode.

Both TomTom and Garmin solve the navigation problem for their customers in ways that are both familiar and different. Neither unit provides a perfect solution, but it's fun to talk about.

DC97: Bad UI Labels Part 1: The Chaos Button  

The first in a series of Bad Button Labels We Have Known. Brad Jensen joins Tim Keirnan to discuss the Chaos button on his father's new microwave oven. Why do companies allow such dreadful UI labels? Mr. Jensen's microwave is the first of many terrible examples we plan to cover on occasion in future episodes.

Desiree Scales has a website called Online Website Degree where students, teachers, and potential returning students can learn about the interrelated fields of web design. Lots of free information here:

Plus email from Ben in an episode that had to be trimmed because there was just too much good stuff going on.

DC96: Site Maps As Design Tools  

Caitlin Potts discusses using using site maps as website design tools. You can have her Omnigraffle template for free at the following link:

Note: Caitlin based this episode off a presentation she gave the Michigan chapter of ACM-SIGCHI in December 2012, called "Helping Site Maps Get Their Groove Back". Thanks to MichiCHI for a great holiday event and speaker. You can find Michigan Chi at

Caitlin Potts is a User Experience Practitioner (Designer + Researcher) at Covenant Eyes, Inc. in Owosso, MI. Working as part of an Agile team, she spends her time collaborating with the Developers to design web, mobile, and client application interfaces. She is also leading the development of a brand standards guide for Covenant Eyes.

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