Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, sits in the background covered in snow. Explorers long wanted to climb in the pursuit of human achievement.
Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, sits in the background covered in snow. Explorers long wanted to climb in the pursuit of human achievement.
“Why did you want to climb Mount Everest,” George Mallory was asked. “Because it’s there.” Photo by Andreas Gäbler on Unsplash

This was an email I sent to my team to get us to focus less on trying to make every decision perfect and to instead get us to focus more on trying to do great work:

Perfection is never the goal.

You’ll never change the world trying to be perfect at everything you do. Perfection is the aspiration to avoid making mistakes.

Perfection is not the aspiration to be great.

We need to push this company forward every second of the day. The only way we are going to do that is to aim for greatness in our work.


There is no such thing as human error — only design error.

A phone booth room in an office that has a door design that leads people to get trapped into the room.
A phone booth room in an office that has a door design that leads people to get trapped into the room.

This door is a masterclass in design error. It is so poorly designed that people felt the need to make a sign that explains not only how to use it but also how to get help if you get trapped. Instructions on how to save your life are typically not associated with good product design.

If I get stuck in this phone booth conference room — as many have before me — it won’t be my fault. This sign is what I call a band-aid signifier. …

Chrome’s hold to quit is one of the best little pieces of interaction design I’ve seen in years. And it’s so simple.

It’s also a massive usability win.

It prevents you from accidentally hitting command-q when you mean to hit command-w, which are right next to each other. The keyboard shortcuts for close window (command-w) and close application (command-q) should not be next to each other, because it is rather dangerous and leads to user error, but the Chrome team came up with a way to prevent people from accidentally closing out Chrome.

A user must hold down the shortcut…

(but may be forgetting)

The HBO Now home screen is mostly promos at the top for that stuff that I haven’t shown an interest in.
The HBO Now home screen is mostly promos at the top for that stuff that I haven’t shown an interest in.
When I log into HBO Now I am presented with a bunch of promos for stuff I can’t even watch yet that HBO has no idea if I would even like. An occasional promo for upcoming shows may be okay, but why so is much of it at the top of the home screen?

It would be hard to build a product as lacking in basic features and user experience as HBO Now if you understood the real job that users hire streaming video services to do.

Understanding why users would use your product is the key to making sure you build a product that is a good user experience. The job that you are building for is often not as obvious as you think.

In the case of streaming video, prestige TV is far down the list. First up is something to pass the time when people are bored and a way for…

The Sonos Move is an impressive portable speaker from its spec sheet, to its size, to its price, to its many capabilities. But is it well designed?

Let’s find out together.

All of my reviews use the Design Critique Rubric and the Guidelines for Thoughtful Product Design. Any review without a rubric is just kind of a random person’s opinion.

I’m also a professor at the University of Maryland in user-centered design and human-computer interaction. I am constantly critiquing the design of products for lessons for my students, and I want to bring those lessons here.

Affordances and signifiers

Sonos really harnesses affordances…

Let People Know If You Are For Hire.

Here is a big career secret: If you want to work some place or with someone, just ask.

Don’t wait for an official job opening.

Heck, by the time an official job opening is posted, a hiring manager may already have a preferred candidate in mind. That person could be you!

There is no harm in reaching out to someone to express interest in working for a company. I may not have an opening today, for instance, but I very well might have one next week. I am always planning for future needs.

If you reach out to me, and…

This is the area where we do our daily demos. It’s starting to get a bit cramped with upwards of 15 people attending each day, but the couch and comfy chairs help. We have a TV, a laptop, an Apple TV for AirPlay, a Google Jamboard for fancy white boarding, and some other tools to allow us to show off our work, sketch up other ideas, and to make it easy for remote employees to join in.

If you are trying to build something great you may be missing one of the most important rituals — the daily demo.

My team meets every day at 4 pm for a daily demo and critique, where people show off what they have been working on. We give people a full day to work on stuff and then we get together at the end of the day to give each other feedback and help. It’s really that simple.

The reason I call it magic is that this isn’t some boring meeting where people are checked out. Or some work function…

Every company that reaches a certain size will need to start hiring employees without much or any experience. But how do you do this without hurting the quality of your team?

Enter the associate product designer program. Create your own pipeline of talented people.

The general idea of this program is to take people who are either junior in terms of professional experience or junior in relevant experience and give them the tools, support, and scaffolding to become an empowered and talented product designer.

There is a lot of overlap between a UX designer and a product designer. The roles…

Spoiler alert: Mark Gurman is not the only person with a broken Samsung Galaxy Fold.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold isn’t even out yet and it is already breaking in droves.

The idea for folding computing devices has merit that should be explored. But — BUT — ideas are cheap. Execution is expensive.

Samsung is learning this the hard way.

Samsung is rushing out early tech with a bad implementation. This is a great way to sour the market on something that could have a lot of use when the technology matures.

When I first saw Samsung roll out the Galaxy Fold, I instantly thought of the Homer Simpson Car. There are some twinklings of good…

What does “unblank projector” mean?”

This is an excellent lesson in why we need to use humanistic, usable language. Design is not just about visuals.

This is a photo I took off the projector in my class last week. Our classrooms have a Crestron automation system in them that controls lights, projectors, and audio. It’s a touchscreen system, so there shouldn’t be any issues creating signifiers that are both very discoverable and understandable.

I eventually figured out what “blank projector” and “unblank projector” meant, but good design should be obvious, and one of the core concepts of good product design is memorability. The concept of…

Patrick Thornton

Vice President, UX & Design at FiscalNote. Director of FN Labs. Professor of user-centered design at University of Maryland. Building a better designed world.

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