138: with Jared Spool

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This week we're joined by Jared Spool. Jared is the founder of User Interface Engineering, the largest usability research organization of its kind in the world. He also co-founded Center Centre, a new school creating the next generation of industry-ready UX designers.



Jared Spool

Web · Social

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

Time Jump Links

  • 32:38 How do you feel about questionnaires being sent to clients? Do you think it decreases the level of personality / closeness with your client?
  • 46:39 Have you ever used any prototyping tool like "Fireworks" or "Sketch"? And if so, what is the best tool you've came across?


CHRIS: Hey, everybody! Thanks for listening to Shop Talk Show! We have two sponsors at the top of the show: Environments for Humans is our long-time sponsor, and have a couple of online summits coming up. One is the SAS Summit, so go there, all about the preprocessor and UX futures. We'll tell you more about those later in the show. We also have Typekit. Welcome back, Typekit, to sponsoring the show. Web fonts, you know, and there's actually some cool stuff that I bet you don't know about Typekit that I'm going to tell you later in the show, but that's

Anyway, for now, let's kick things off.

[Banjo music - Intro]

DAVE: Well, hey there, Shop-a-maniacs. I do declare; you are welcome here to another episode of the Shop Talk Show. I'll leave Colonel Standards out of this episode. But I'm Dave Rupert, and with me is Chris Coyier.

CHRIS: Hey, everybody! Thanks for listening, and we have with us Jared Spool. Thanks for joining us, Jared.

JARED: Hey! Thanks for having me.

CHRIS: Yeah!

[Trumpet music]

CHRIS: I think I met Jared just because of conferences. Jared is a conference speaking mo-fo. We've been speaking at some Event Aparts together, so I feel like I see Jared regularly these days.

JARED: Yeah.

CHRIS: Has that always been the case for you? Has it been, like, forever that you’ve been at conference? I feel like when I talk about Jared with other people, they talk about his, like, how many airline miles he has and status at hotels and stuff.

JARED: Yes, yes, I spend -- people as me where I'm from, and I usually just say that I do my laundry in Boston, Massachusetts, and just leave it at that. That's the --

CHRIS: Yeah.

JARED: I am always in an airport, on an airplane, in a conference, at a conference. You know, last week I spoke at three different conferences.


JARED: Yeah.

CHRIS: And do you have, like, a grab bag of talks that you can do, or do you have the one that you're doing right now and then swap it out, or it kind of depends on the conference you're at that a different one you'll pick and stuff? I feel like I need to learn from the master a little bit.

JARED: I have six or seven that I could do on a moment's notice that are all sort of done, and I've done -- some of them I've done so often, I've done them hundreds of times. Then I've got a couple more. At any given time, I'm working on two or three, so I have a couple I'm sort of--I refer to it as--workshopping. It means that I go places where there are smaller audiences, and I try the topic out, and I work on it a bit. Then there are ones that I've retired. Yeah, no, I have stuff that I can do.

CHRIS: Absolutely! And when you do it, it's about user experience, right? That's kind of what you're known for.

JARED: Yes, yes.

CHRIS: And care about and your passion.

JARED: It's all about design and user experience from the perspective of how do teams create the best designs they can create.

CHRIS: And sometimes in surprising ways, like the one that I just saw you at. You have a whole section on how user experience can be part of your business model even.

JARED: Right, yes. Yeah, I'm always trying to help designers broaden their thinking about the work that they do and be able to talk to others about the work that they do, be able to work on things broader, you know, affect bigger parts of the organization, be able to keep the design at the center of how the team and the organization thinks about what makes a good product or service, whatever it is they think they're doing.

CHRIS: Yeah, which from you comes in the form of you standing on stage doing it, but you also have UIE, right, a nice three-letter domain name, but that references User Interface Engineering, which is your company in which that you do training and consulting and offer these seminars that you can watch online. That's all part of that business, right?

JARED: Yeah. It was -- you know, that business is now in its 26th year. We started as a bunch of folks. You know, this was before the Web. We just did usability testing and usability work because that's how we thought about user experiences and design back in the '70s and '80s. But, over the years, the business has morphed, and we're now very much about doing what it means to do great user experiences, so we've got conferences that we do, a webinar series, and a library of stuff out there, which we call All You Can Learn, and just all of this, all these resources that are available.

CHRIS: Right, all through that, all through that domain.

JARED: Yeah, yeah.

CHRIS: For getting better, so do you try to -- if somebody is -- you know, if you talk to a business and, like, "Oh, yeah, UX is totally part of our process. We even have a UX. We even have a UX person we hired." Is that like a red flag kind of thing? Do you think of UX more holistically than that, or is having, like, a UX person good enough?

JARED: No, it's definitely -- it's better than not -- than them turning around and saying, "What is this ux thing?"


JARED: But at the same thing, it's an indicator that they haven't quite -- they're not as far along on the maturity as others could be. So, yeah, so we look for this on a level of maturity is how we think about it.

DAVE: Mm-hmm.

CHRIS: Fantastic. Now, more recently, there's this big, new thing you're working on with Leslie and with presumably a team of people now because it's a big step: Center Centre.

JARED: Center Centre.

CHRIS: Yeah.

JARED: Center Centre, yes.

CHRIS: Center Centre. I have the Center Centre T-shirt, and I love it because it's like, in Illustrator or Photoshop, there's the little buttons in which, if you have multiple objects selected, you can align them all towards the top, or you can align them all towards the bottom, and they're these, like, iconic little buttons. And it's the icon for when you center it both horizontally and vertically, so it's, like, center/center. Get it?

JARED: Yes! Dan Cederholm created that.

CHRIS: Did he really?

JARED: Yes, yes.

CHRIS: Nice.

JARED: And he sent us the design and, in that typical Dan Cederholm way of, "I don't know what you guys would want. I'm not a very good designer. I don't know." Then he sent us this, and we're like, "Dude! That's like the most brilliant thing ever! And we're going to use that." Yeah, that was one of our kick-starter rewards, and it's like: I love that shirt. It is so great.

CHRIS: Oh, it's so good.

JARED: It is so, so great.

CHRIS: Yeah, Dan is a very, very humble man. I just got to see him two days ago. We both brought our banjos down to New Orleans to a conference and got to play together of the first time, and it was really fun. Awesome! Do you want to give us the Center Centre background so people know all about it because it's kind of a cool thing?

JARED: The Center Centre background is that we are basically a two-year vocational design school to create industry ready UX designers. We're looking at creating the best UX designers coming out of school for companies to hire, and the idea is that there are just not enough designers out there for all the companies that want to hire them. And we thought we could make that work. Yeah, that's what we're about.

CHRIS: Yeah. So it's two years. I think that's -- there is, in my opinion, a proliferation of new, I guess, coding schools is the name, is the moniker that we're giving them, but they're often 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 weeks, and that's it. You go, you move there, and you go all in and stuff. But this is even more all in than that. It's not online at first, right? It's a brick and mortar place that you go, and it's two years.

JARED: Yeah, it is an immersive program. You know, there are a lot of these programs that have popped up that are eight weeks, ten weeks in person, and then there's a whole bunch of stuff happening online. But the thing about design is design is something you practice, right? You know, it's one thing to sit through a class and say, okay, I now know how to do a grid layout, or I now know how to run a usability test, or I now know how to organize content in a navigation system. But it's another thing to actually go and do it, and then to do it again, and then to do it again. The work that we do, and the way the school is set up, is that the students are going to be in project, project work, 75% of the time.


JARED: Two weeks out of every three weeks, they're working on a production level project that goes from initial concept to final deployment. That changes the way you think about what you're learning because the classes that they take, they're going to apply directly to these projects while they're doing them.

I remember years and years ago when I first started programming back in the '70s, one of the first jobs I had was programming financial systems for businesses.  There was a company, for instance, out here in Massachusetts that sold office supplies.  And I did --

CHRIS: (Indiscernible)

JARED: You know, this is the days before QuickBooks and things. I basically wrote a general ledger and accounts receivable, accounts payable tracking, credit lines, and all of these things. I wrote the software for this, and I knew nothing about accounting. I was just following the instructions that my boss told me to, to create these little functions and subroutines, which we wrote all in PL1 at the time.

I was the guy writing all this code, and so I decided to take classes on accounting. Accounting, to me, is like the most boring subject ever. But I thought, okay, I'll just suffer through this and maybe I'll pick something up. I loved it because every time I would go to class, the next day I'd actually understand why I was doing what I was doing and what was wrong with my code and what worked about my code because everything was directly applicable to the work I was doing every day.

I got straight A's in this class that, had I taken it two years before, I probably would have just dropped out, out of boredom.  And it was just so cool because it was what I was learning.  And when you are learning concepts, and then you're applying them right away, it just sticks much better.  

The way the school is set up is each class is three weeks long.  The first two days are taught by an industry expert coming in and teaching a two-day workshop on CSS, user research, information architecture, or content strategy.  Then the next three days, the students do what we call individual mastery projects, which are to make sure that they have mastered the thing that --

CHRIS: That that course was about.

JARED: Yeah, we just taught them. Then the next two weeks, they return into groups of six, and there are group projects. Their group projects are real world projects. Under the guidance of our full-time faculty, they will then apply what they've just learned and all the other classes they've learned to that work.

The faculty will keep pressing the pause button on their project work and saying, "Okay, remember what Jason Santa Maria said about typography when he was here? You're about to go to choose type for this project. Let's talk about how you go about choosing that type, what would be our options." There'll be like this mini class right then and there in the middle of this project.

Then, you know, we talk about it for a bit. Then they press the play button and say, "Okay. Keep going. Keep designing." That's how it works.

CHRIS: Yeah. The more of those there are, they build on each other until you're pretty darn good at what you're doing.

JARED: Exactly.

CHRIS: It is Web. It is largely Web?

JARED: We're focusing on Web apps and, like, software that's used in enterprise, so yeah.

CHRIS: Yeah.

JARED: Those types of things.

CHRIS: Another difference is that it's an accredited school, right? Where a lot of the code schools, regardless of quality, when you leave there, you just get some kind of like, okay, now you're smarter than you were before, but there's no official nature to it. Whereas, if you go to the Center Centre, there is a true education, you know, you get a real kind of degree, right?

JARED: You get a degree in -- you get a diploma in UX Design and Technology that's been authorized by the State of Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

CHRIS: Right.

JARED: The curriculum has been handcrafted by us. One of the things we're doing is we're actually not accredited through any curriculum accreditation program because accreditation programs have a three-year cycle, and that means that any new thing you want to add to the program, you have to -- it goes through -- it takes three years to get it through the process. If we were accredited, if we were running an accredited at this time, we would just now be starting to teach our first responsive stuff because it takes three years to get that through. We certainly wouldn't have anything about responsive type of images. We wouldn't have any of the latest stuff that's going on about SVG. We wouldn't have anything to do with wearables.

CHRIS: Interesting. It's almost like a strike if you're accredited in Web stuff because it means that you have old content.

JARED: Exactly! Exactly. What we can do and what we're doing is we're actually leaving the last. We're working very closely with the companies that are hiring these people. They're going to be involved in the program. They're going to have mentors assigned to the program to help the students and to sort of scout out the students that might want to come work for them and to sort of coach them and help them along.

We're leaving the last six months of the curriculum basically open.  It's called Special Topics.  What we can do is we can then, with the help of the companies that we're partnering with, have them guide us as to what skills they need that nobody else is providing right now.  For example, Apple talked about a watch a few months ago.  Yesterday, just released his watch.  Everybody is getting into -- so if it turns out that the companies are really interested in designing apps for wearables, then we'll have a class on apps for wearables, and we don't need to go through the accreditation system to actually make that work.  We can just have it just work.  That's the idea behind it.

CHRIS: Okay, cool. The reason this is so applicable to Shop Talk Show is we get lots of questions, lots and lots of questions, and some of them are repeated over and over. In fact, we recently published an FAQ page, so I think it's -- what is it, Dave,, I think.

DAVE: /faq.

CHRIS: One of them is, there are lots of variations on it, but it's kind of like: "What do I do? I’m in a career that I don't like, and I want to get into Web stuff," or, "I'm in high school or middle school or early college, and I'm trying to figure out is this worth it? Is this the smart thing? I know I--"

These are always from people who know that they like the Web.  They know they want to work in the Web.  They know they want to level up in the Web or get into it or something, and they're always, forever wanting advice on how to do that.  I remember one we had where a guy painted houses, and he's like, "This is fine, but I really want to shift careers, but I'm nervous about it.  I'm nervous that it's a risk.  I'm nervous about my family."

JARED: I remember that question coming in, the house painting.

CHRIS: Yeah.

JARED: You know, I meant to say at the top of the show that I'm a long time listener, first time caller.

CHRIS: [Laughter] Cool, cool!

DAVE: That's great. That deserves an excellent, I think, if I can find it. Here we go.

["Excellent!" Bill & Ted's music jam]

DAVE: Is there--?

CHRIS: You go, Dave.

DAVE: We have Jared Spool here. Jared, you've seen, you know, tons of trends. You talked about making accounting software, and I don't know what you were writing. Cobol? No, 4Tran? I don't know what you wrote it in.

JARED: PL1 on prime computers, prime mini computers. Yes.

DAVE: Wow!

JARED: Yes, yes.

DAVE: Okay, so you've seen huge trends, and you mentioned wearables. I guess, what's your thought there? Do you think there's just going to be more shifts towards these new devices? Mobile has kind of proved that, right? We now have mobile Web design, which isn't really a thing, but we make our websites work on mobile. Do you think it's going to trend that way, or what's your future thinking there?

JARED: I'm more of a historian than a futurist.

DAVE: Okay.

JARED: I wouldn't -- I'm not very good at predicting things. In fact, there's a proven way to make a ton of money, which is to look at my stock portfolio and to do the opposite of what I did. Whatever I buy, just short it because this is --


DAVE: Do you make that public for us?

JARED: Yeah, yeah, I'd be very happy to help you make millions by just shorting everything that I'm doing.

The question about wearables to me is, is this the iPod of the future, or is this the 8-track tape player of the future, right?  I think, for the next two years, we're going to see any number of wearable things, and I think that all of our clothing is going to become digital.  Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken so long.  

I've never understood why there isn't a piece of jewelry that tells you that your phone is ringing because, if you've ever seen anyone who carries their phone in a bag or a purse, you can't tell when it's ringing unless it's on.  And it's always been strange to me that we haven't had -- I mean, it's so easy to create something with Bluetooth that just is like a pendant that would just subtly vibrate.

CHRIS: Sure, because if it's on vibrate in your bag, then you can't really tell.

JARED: Right.

CHRIS: Nobody likes to have their phone on because you're just setting yourself up for a bad situation.

JARED: Right. Anybody who has ever been in a show, a concert or something or a movie where somebody's phone went off because it was in their bag. Then you have that moment where at first they realize it's their phone, and then they start digging through their bag, and then they can't figure out how to turn it off while it's in the bag, so they take it out of the bag, so now it's even louder.

CHRIS: Yeah. I just had one that was great, and they just panicked and ran out of the room, which was even more distracting.

JARED: Right, and this is a complete design failure, right? This is not a bad user. This is a failure of the design technology. The thing is that the technology to fix this has been around for a really long time, so I've never understood why. You know, ever since those little headsets that people wear that make them look like they're part of the Borg that you can't tell whether a person is a high powered CEO or a crazy homeless person because they're just walking down the street talking to themselves.

Ever since we had those, and we've had those for at least ten years now, you should have been able to have something that would tell you that you have a call coming in.  And so it feels to me like we should have solved this a long time ago.  So I think that the jewelry thing is going to be big.  And I think that that's key.  But the question is, is it longstanding.  Is it something that, ten years from now, we will still have, or is it something that's just going to appear as a blip like the 8-track did and then disappear very quickly?

CHRIS: It's fun to speculate on, isn't it?


CHRIS: Like when you see Google Glass, is it one of those things, because it's kind of required that we go through this little stage where we joke about it and say how stupid it is, and 50% of people hate it, and 50% of people love it. It's this awkward phase that all technology goes through. But a lot of the times those feel like it's like, well, whatever you feel about it, too bad because it's coming.

JARED: Yeah.

CHRIS: Is this in that category in that it's just inevitable?

JARED: I think that it's very much -- you know, Google Glass is very much a prototype. I would equate Google Glass to being sort of like the Apple Newton, right, which was this thing that the people who were sort of at the leading edge could see what the potential was, but the hardware wasn't there yet, and the software wasn't there yet. But, you know, the iPhone that came out in 2007 is an obvious lineage to the Newton, but it is so much more refined, and it's so much more mainstream.

I think that Google Glass is a predictor of what will come, but what will come will be something that's much more refined, much more mainstream, solves real world problems, doesn't create real world problems.  I think it'll be really just a forward-looking thing.  I think we're seeing a glimpse of the future with Google Glass.  

You know, it's not the first one of these things to come up with.  In the '90s, I hung out with these dudes over at MIT who were walking around with laptops in their backpack that basically did what Google Glass does for, you know, way more money and way worse battery life and all sorts of other things.  There were folks who always had it on, and they were walking around, and they definitively looked like the Borg because they had all this hardware strapped to their body to make this work.  In fact, all those guys work on Google Glass now.  They're all part of that team.

CHRIS: When you have a passion, you'll just find it wherever.

JARED: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

CHRIS: Interesting. We have a few more things to talk about here, but we have a bunch of Q&A we want to get to. But let me just do a sponsor really quick.

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But it's one of these Environments for Humans conferences that's one day. You can attend it from anywhere in the world. It's coming up November 5th, and it's just about what does UX look like kind of in the future, things that we have been just talking about just now on this show. That's November 5th.

Then the next day is the SAS summit, so you don't have to bundle them together. They're not even really related, but you can definitely go to both if you want to. SAS meaning SAS like the CSS preprocessor SAS. That's November 6th. Save 25% with SHOPTALKSHOW. Remember that when you go to this, even if you have to step away for lunch or because you had a meeting or something, just by buying your ticket to this conference, you get all the recordings from all the talks, so that's how Environments for Humans summits work, so check those out. They're coming up. Thanks very much, Environments for Humans, for sponsoring. That's

Just maybe to wrap up the Center Centre thing and the painter guy, is going to Center Centre like a: this is the answer for people, for our painter friend, for anybody that's contemplating a career shift, or is it better for kids right out of high school, or is it meant more of a--I don't know--you should have some life experience before you go to Center Centre?  It takes all kinds?  

JARED: Life experience, for sure. Yeah, we think that it's more likely that people will be in their 20s and 30s. They'll have been in the real world for a while. We've started the admissions process. We have folks who haven't worked in design before that is looking to switch into the design space, but they've been doing design stuff all their lives.

For instance, we have someone who is a cosmetologist, and she's been doing hair salon work and stuff like that.  But she's actually been a pretty good designer.  She just didn't know she was doing that, and so, as we talked to her, it turned out that she actually has a lot of proclivity for doing great designs.  She just needs to learn how to do that in software, on the Web, and in apps, and learn how businesses work and things like that.  That's stuff we can teach.

What's hard to teach are sort of soft skills of being a good communicator and knowing how to actually focus and stay working and things of that sort.  We're looking for people who already have a lot of the sort of basic skills that you need to be a functional person in an organization, and we're going to teach them the design skills and the user research stuff, and all the pieces that go into that.  And so I think your painter friend would be perfect for this school.

DAVE: Yeah.

CHRIS: Yeah, absolutely. Probably has some aesthetic abilities and intuition already from all the paint you've applied to surfaces.

JARED: Well, not only that, but the problem solving that goes into painting, right?

DAVE: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

JARED: Particularly when you have done a combination of outdoor painting and indoor painting, you have to think about planning it out so that you do it on days where it's not going to rain. You do it on days when the temperature is not too low. When you're doing indoor planning, you have to decide how do you schedule it for the least amount of disruption in the family or the household, so there's a lot of planning and process. Design is not just putting pixels on a screen. Design is thinking through an entire process and understanding and figuring out how you organize things. There are a lot of skills that are transferable between that.

DAVE: Yeah.

CHRIS: Yeah. It says here you're taking students for January 2015. Go to That's center, e-r, the first time, and r-e the second time.

JARED: Yeah.

CHRIS: Go sign up, Shop Talk people. You are the perfect people, especially those that write in trying to change their career. Take a bite. Go to Chattanooga. Learn some stuff.

JARED: Yeah. Chattanooga is awesome. It is so --

CHRIS: Yeah, the world's fastest Internet, people.

JARED: The fastest Internet. You can get a three-bedroom house for under $150,000. It's crazy.

CHRIS: Not to mention beautiful.

JARED: Not to mention beautiful. Lots of outdoor stuff: river rafting and mountain climbing. It's got these beautiful rivers and these fabulous hills, and there's just so much to do there. It's such a beautiful part of the world.

CHRIS: Let's see if we can get to some questions. What do you say, Dave? Do you want to pick some?

DAVE: Sure.

JARED: Okay, but you know that whole thing about the sheep? It's not true.


CHRIS: I have no idea. We were talking before the show, like, should we address any sheep related material?

JARED: No. No, no, it's not true. It didn't happen. I mean, it happened, but --

CHRIS: [Laughter]

JARED: But I wasn't there. I mean, I was there, but, you know, I wasn't participating really that much.

CHRIS: [Laughter] I have no idea. Let's drop it.

DAVE: We did get a question from Travis Swicegood. "I want to know Jared's thoughts on Ebola carrying sheep. Should they be deported back to Lamb Sylvania or are you pro sheet?" was his question.

JARED: I am so pro sheep.

DAVE: Okay.

JARED: Yeah, some of my best sheep are friends.

DAVE: Okay.


DAVE: Perfect. Thank you. All right, let's get into some questions. Before we get going, I thought it might be fun. I've been collecting a few special questions that have come in through the Shop Talk forum, and these all are kind of a -- they supplied the answers, so I thought I'd just do one or two. These are from people, not me, so don't blame me.

JARED: Are these, like, riddles?

DAVE: Okay, here we go. Well, here's one is, "Why doesn't Rodney Dangerfield use test driven development for his Ruby on Rails application? Because he doesn't get any RSpec."

[Badum-tsh sound effect]

DAVE: Anyone?

JARED: Oh, yeah. Don't --

[Badum-tsh sound effect]

DAVE: Okay.

JARED: Don't quit your day job on that one.

CHRIS: [Laughter]

DAVE: Hey, here we go. So while I gotcha, "How do witches design their websites? With hex values."

[Badum-tsh sound effect]

DAVE: That was Steve Barman, ladies and gentlemen.

JARED: Yeah, you need to give out email addresses and maybe social security numbers with these.

CHRIS: [Cough]

DAVE: [Laughter] Yeah. Every time you send in a joke to Shop Talk, you get doxed. It's just (indiscernible).

CHRIS: [Laughter]

DAVE: Thanks, Steve, for writing in. That was very great. You should go on the road. Here we go, a real question from Robert Kya writes in, "How do you feel about questionnaires being sent to clients? Do you think it decreases the level of personality/closeness with your client? Example: I use a questionnaire to weed out the client's gather requirements in a project."

CHRIS: Somebody reaches out to Robert, and he reaches out back and says, "Here, fill this out," as a way to kind of, I guess, weed out clients is what he says. Do you do that kind of thing? Do you just talk to anybody who reaches out to you, Jared, about their stuff, or do you have a weeding out process?

JARED: No, I definitely talk to anybody. No. Yeah, I love talking to people, so I definitely talk to people who call in, but I have a set of questions that I sort of march my way through to understand their problem. There are people that we can't help. If we run into that, then I sort of take a different path with that person and try and find them somebody who will help them versus trying to help them ourselves.

I wouldn't do a questionnaire, and the reason I wouldn't do a questionnaire, there are two reasons.  One is there's a good chance that whatever questions you have in there, when the client reads them, they don't actually understand them the way you mean them.  They may read that question and come up with an answer that actually has nothing to do with the question you're asking because, frankly, it's not their thing.  If they knew how to answer the question, they probably wouldn't be calling you.  


JARED: That's the first thing. Then the second thing is that when they do put something in that's ambiguous or you would need more to make a decision, in a questionnaire, you don't have that back and forth. But when I'm talking to somebody, and I'm asking questions, I can say, "Say a little bit more about that. Tell me. What do you mean by this?" And the end result is that you get this -- first, you're being really curious, which makes them really interested because any time people can talk about themselves and then, more importantly, any time you can, in essence, show that you're interested in what they're saying and ask them to say even more about themselves, you get this -- you get more energy out of them. And, when you're getting more energy out of them, they work with you more. And so being able to, even just on a phone call, have a conversation with somebody and just explain.

This is really funny.  A bunch of us who do user experience consulting were in a meeting a few months ago.  We were talking about sales process.  I asked, you know, in the first 30 minutes of meeting with a new client, someone who is, you know, this is your first conversation that you have with them, how much of that 30 minutes would you say you do the talking versus what percentage would you say they do?  

DAVE: Hmm.

JARED: One person said, "Oh, you know, I have a 15-minute pitch, and then I have a couple questions, so I'd say probably 20 minutes of the first 30 I'm talking." Then another person said, "Oh, it's about half and half." Somebody else said, "Yeah, I try to only talk for about ten minutes. I let them do more talking."

When it was my turn, I said I limit myself to 3 minutes in the first 30.  I don't try to talk for more than 3 or 4 minutes.  When they say, "So tell me about your company," I say, "Yeah, you know, we help people build better products, and I would love to help you, so tell me about your product.  Tell me about your team."  And almost all of my conversation is questions.  For the first 30 minutes, all I do is ask questions getting them to talk.  That turns out to be fabulous because I learned so much in that 30 minutes, and they love talking about them.  

As they're talking to me, I can then turn around and then say, "Based on what I've heard, this is what I think I can do for you," and then I start my side of the pitch, and it works really well, but that's basically it.

CHRIS: I think the concern from their end -- I mean we know you're a busy man. You've got conferences all the time and running this business and the Center and stuff. I mean, if you had three of these a day, you couldn't handle it, right? It would be too many, right? Does somebody else answer those first round of emails and then you spend the time on the phone with the people that make it through kind of a first round, or is it just not a problem with you? I think that's what people are worried about is spending three hours on the phone every day when they should be doing something more productive.

JARED: You know, we don't get a volume of new leads that is three hours every day.

DAVE: Right, right.

JARED: That would be 15 new leads a week, and we're not that big an outfit. If we get five new leads in a month, that's -- so, at worst, that's an hour in a week. Even then, most of them don't even go an hour because most of them are things that, you know, can you come to Saudi Arabia and teach us for four weeks about form design? I'm like, yeah, no, I'm not going to Saudi Arabia for four weeks to teach.

DAVE: This is a good point.

JARED: Oh, and our budget is $3,000, right?

DAVE: Yeah.

JARED: That one is an easy disqualify. At such time that it becomes a problem, we'll figure it out.

CHRIS: People are probably addressing this problem a little too early is the thing.

JARED: In 26 years, it has not been a problem. Yeah, I'm a big fan of not solving problems until I actually have them.

CHRIS: Me too! That's one of my little favorite things because it comes up all the time in Web app development. You know, we end up going down a rabbit hole of talking about something. We're like, you know what? We should probably just wait until it's an actual problem before. Some of programming is anticipating problems, but not all of it.

Yeah.  I don't know.  I'm thinking of -- if there's an obvious disqualifier, maybe you should put it there.  Like you said, you weren't willing to travel to the Middle East for some long-term project, just for practical reasons.

JARED: Yes, so one of the first questions I ask is, you know, tell me about the team and where it's located and all of this stuff.

CHRIS: Sure.

JARED: If they came, you know, and if they're talking about training, the first thing I'm interested in is where is this training going to happen. If you're good at this, and you get good at it by practice, just like everything else, you can sort of pick out what leads are likely to get you excited and which ones are things you're going to say, "You know what? I know somebody in the Middle East who actually does a fabulous job of this, and so we should make this happen."

CHRIS: Yeah, that's nice too. That'll go around, or come around, I'm sure. I was thinking of I've definitely seen agency websites, though they're like, "Listen. We have a big team. We're a big agency. We don't work on websites unless the budget is $100,000 or more, just because that's what we're set up to do." And other agencies might have the opposite thing: "I can't take your $100,000 project. It's too big for me." Being upfront about that thing, whether you do that on your contact form or not as a thing, but having a huge RFP in the way of clients maybe is not -- is solving a problem that you don't have yet.

Anyway, we should do another sponsor before we do a few more questions.  Hopefully we can get to them.  We have Typekit, Adobe Typekit, which I think a lot of you are familiar with because they bring Web fonts to the Web.  The Web is totally ready for having custom fonts on it now, and we're actually in this weird age now where it's almost weird to see a site that doesn't have custom fonts on it these days.  They look a little old school almost, although I wonder if that trend is going to change at some point.  It's just because they're so nice, and it's so easy to implement thanks to things like Typekit.  

You go, and you sign up for an account. You pick a font that you want, and it gives you some copy and paste code. You put it on there, and you tell the CSS, hey, be this font, and it just works. All the kind of hard parts are abstracted to a company like Typekit who, you know, that's what they're paid to do, and it's pretty great. You probably know all that. I was just looking at the most popular fonts.

You can go to, and it shows you all kinds of cool collections of fonts, including one that is the most popular fonts, there, which is totally interesting. You should go to That's a really cool thing about learning more about fonts.

I was just digging into, you know, when they give you copy and paste code on Typekit, they have just the normal kind, which is two script tags. One of them is linked to your kit.js, and then a thing to kick it off. Then they have an alternative, more advanced async way, which I would probably recommend using in general. The reason they don't put it there is because it takes -- you have to add a little CSS to your project in order to make it work as good as it can work, and it's just, you know, the people can screw that up, so it's no surprise that they make the default one the one that just works no matter what.

But I feel like it would be an interesting topic to talk about just for a little bit is that, if you use the async one, you should try it. Use the async one and then grab the little bits of CSS that they provide for that and put it in your project because you kind of get the best of both worlds. You get that, like, if anything were to ever happen to Typekit servers, it's not going to block the rendering on your Web page for a time like the three to five seconds or whatever and then not show any Web fonts. That's a sucky thing to happen.

If you use the async method, it's not going to do that. It kind of protects you against that and might even speed up your website a little bit, actually, because it's still, like, as soon as the fonts do load, it will switch over and stuff. It's just worth clicking over to that advanced tab and grabbing that. I feel like that was just a thing to mention on a show like Shop Talk Show.

DAVE: I want to -- can I give a shout out?

JARED: Before you do that, can I get all fan boy here?

CHRIS: Uh-huh.

DAVE: Sure.

JARED: I love CodePen. Just want to put that out there.

CHRIS: Yeah. Cha-ching.

JARED: Yeah, yeah. And I was just reading an article the other day, which I didn't know you could do this until, like, two days ago that you can actually test out Adobe Typekit in CodePen.

CHRIS: Yeah, you totally can.

JARED: That is so cool. You are like a god to me, Chris.

CHRIS: Oh! I don't know about that. You're a god to me, Jared.

JARED: Ah! We could have, like, mutual godness.

DAVE: [Laughter/cough]

CHRIS: The reason why it works on --

DAVE: Look at me hanging out with a bunch of gods.

CHRIS: Oh, Dave!

JARED: Dave! Dave! You're like a super god.

CHRIS: You're like Zeus, and we're just regular gods.

JARED: Yeah, seriously. You could strike us down with your Zeus lightening.

DAVE: I'd like the role of Sisyphus, please, if I could.

JARED: I don't think Sisyphus was a god.

DAVE: Was he just a god?

JARED: I think -- yeah, or he was one of those guys in between.

CHRIS: Like Hercules.

JARED: But I have the role of Sisyphus. I don't think you really want that.


JARED: Now playing the role of Sisyphus --

DAVE: It's called owning a business.

JARED: -- Jared Spool.

DAVE: I was just going to say, I saw or was at a conference and Typekit was sponsoring, and they had a big demo. But you know how they have -- they rolled -- Adobe put in their kind of type foundry, who does a lot of great fonts, but you've probably heard of Source Code Pro or whatever.

CHRIS: Yeah.

DAVE: Is that right? Source Code --

CHRIS: I use that.

DAVE: Source Sands, Source Serif, and these are all super beautiful fonds, but if you're kind of nerdy and you like Chinese, Korean, and Japanese fonts for your designs, there's this font called Source Han Sans, which is basically Han, Kanji, or Japanese character, Chinese characters. It's a 65,000-glyph font in multiple weights. It's just phenomenal the amount of work that they put into this thing. It's incredible. It's this just kind of beautiful structured Chinese, Japanese, Korean font. I'd definitely check it out. There's a little write-up on their blog. This is totally -- I just saw it the other day, and I was like, oh, those are beautiful, beautiful letters.

CHRIS: Nice. Pretty cool.

DAVE: Yeah, and finding good, quality, Japanese fonts is super tough because they're just like you end up on these really weird sites, and they only have actually five characters instead of the requisite 6,000 or 65,000. Anyway, this is pretty darn cool.

JARED: Do they have emoji? I want emoji.

DAVE: I don't know if they have. They should. They very much should. I'll dig in.

CHRIS: Cool. Thanks, Typekit, for sponsoring. We have --

JARED: Yea, Typekit!

CHRIS: There are just all kinds of stuff. Hopefully, I think they're back again next month, and we'll tell you about some more esoteric, nerdy, front-end things that Typekit can do.

Let's do -- gosh, I want to pick out a really good one here because the time went so fast.  We had so much to talk about.  Oh, that's the wearables one.  We already kind of did that on our own.  I think people just do that.  

This here is a simple one about prototyping.  Nojen asks, "Have you ever used any prototyping tools like Fireworks or Sketch?" which those are kind of funny because I feel like those are more like a little higher fidelity tools than just something that's just for wire framing, like Balsamiq or something.  Nojen asks, "If you have, what's the best tool you've come across?"

I'm curious if you, do you have, like, a wire framing stage or prototyping stage, Jared, or do you encourage that kind of thing, or do you not care about that nitty-gritty process stuff as much as the end result? Prototyping tools.

JARED: Yeah, so prototyping, this is -- you know, how much time do you have because we can talk about prototyping for a long time?

CHRIS: We have 10 to 12 minutes. Alice, clear my schedule.

JARED: Exactly. Prototyping is about taking an idea that's in your head and putting it out there so other people can see what's in your head. Well, that's half of it. The other half of it is so you can see what's in your head.

DAVE: [Laughter]

CHRIS: (Indiscernible)

JARED: Because sometimes when you imagine something, you imagine it differently than when you finally render it. You look at it. You go, oh, that's sort of different than I imagined it would be, right? So the prototyping act is this idea of getting things out. The actual tool you need to prototype is going to vary based on where you are in the project.

There's this really cool dude out of Toronto named Bill Buxton.  He now works for Microsoft, and he's been thinking about this for a really long time.  He actually wrote an incredible book about this subject.  One of the things that he wrote about it was -- it's called Sketching the User Experience.  One of the things he talked about is that the fidelity of the prototype should represent the fidelity of where you're thinking is at.  

You should use hand drawn sketches if you're just at the beginning, and you should use very sort of high fidelity prototypes at the very end.  If you try and make something look too pixel beautiful at the beginning, people will comment on colors and fonts and the gridlines and all sorts of things when you're just trying to figure out: Do I have the right stuff on the screen?  Is this the right flow?  Am I even solving the right problem?  

The tool that you use has to change as you're getting closer and closer to an end result because higher fidelity stuff communicates that you've thought through a lot more details.  That's why there are tools like Balsamiq, which, on the flip of a switch, can make something either look hand sketched or pixel perfect.  The idea is that you use the fidelity to communicate with your client, with your peers, even with yourself as to where you are in your thinking.  There is no perfect tool as much as there is having a raft of tools that you can use at the right time and for the right folks.  

It's funny that you bring this because we were just talking about this at the school because we're going to have to teach the students all of these different prototyping techniques from being able to stand at a whiteboard and draw an idea out quickly, to being in a place where they can show something that looks just like what the final result will be, but maybe with smokes and mirrors all behind it. We're going to have to give them the skills to do all of that and, more importantly, the skills to decide when do I use one versus the other. That's, yeah.

CHRIS: Because there are mistakes to be made there, right? If you're just barely forming ideas, Photoshop may not be the right place to go because there might be a tool that suits that early stage better.

JARED: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. You know, you don't want feedback on things you haven't given any thought to yet, right? If you go, and you choose any type of type, and you put it in your design, and you haven't really thought about it, you just grabbed the first piece of type that was out there and you plunked it in, you're going to get comments about type. Maybe you don't use type. You use handwriting for something that is --

DAVE: And that's not their fault. It's your fault, right?

JARED: Yeah, to some extent, right? The behavior they have is because of the thing you put in front of them. If you don't want them to give you feedback on something, then you need to leave it out of the design. And the way to leave it out is to go to lower fidelity, to make it look more crude, more rough. That will get you the feedback about the right stuff. There's a place for having just paper sketches where it's clear that you've left a lot of the detail out, and it's clear that this is handwritten. No one is going to look at a bunch of sketches on a piece of paper and say, "Is that the color we're using? Is that the font we're using?" because obviously no, this is just done with a marker. It's just done with my hand, so it's not going to be what we're using. But I can still simulate the process of going through it.

Carolyn Snyder, who used to work here at UIE, wrote a fabulous book called Paper Prototyping.  If you've never read this book, this is like the book to get.  It's a beautiful book.  That one and Buxton's book on this subject are probably the two best ones.  

CHRIS: Nice.

JARED: In both cases they really help you understand the role of fidelity and how you use that as a tool to get the kind of feedback you need to move the project forward at that point in time.

CHRIS: It's so funny. I've seen this so many times. It's kind of the -- you'd sent too high fidelity of a thing, and then there's some sentence that you buried in the email or you put at the top of the PDF or something that's just like, you know, don't worry about the layout, this is just for color choices or something like that, and then they give feedback on the wrong thing, and the designer gets flustered. They're like, oh, we're not talking about that yet. You're like, well --

JARED: Exactly. Exactly.

CHRIS: It sounds like this is a problem that's been solved ten years ago.

JARED: You put a placeholder image in, and then they're talking about the image, right? It's like, that's just a placeholder. But they can't not talk about the image. It's like telling someone to not think about elephants.

CHRIS: Yeah. Yeah, it's the same exact thing. It's probably been solved for a long time. It is frustrating? I wonder if, ten years from now, if I'm listening to a podcast and they're talking about this, and I'd be like; Ugh! We talked about this! Is it okay that we solve these problems over and over and over again? Does it have to? Does it require that each generation struggles through it again and writes a new set of books about it and talks about it on podcasts again, or is it just frustrating? Should there be a better way?

JARED: Well, you know it's funny because I think other professions have figured this out a little. We have a very poor sense of provenance. What I mean by that is that there are things that were done 15, 20 years ago that people are now sort of reinventing as if no one has ever done it before because they're young and it just doesn't occur to them that anyone did. We don't have any easy way for people to go back and say, well, gee, how did they solve this problem 15 years ago? And so, you know, people keep showing me things.

The other day someone sent me an article about something, and they said, "I'd love to know what you think."  I said, "Well," my first reaction was, "It's nice that you've reinvented this thing that we were doing 20 years ago."  The thing was, it was a really good description of the thing that we were doing 20 years ago, and I haven't seen any description of it recently.  So he'd done a really nice job, but he needed to know that he didn't invent something.  This was something that other people had thought of already, and he's just done a nice job of describing this thing that he didn't know existed before.  

I think that happens a lot in our work, and I think we need to come up with a way of helping people understand what's come before them. What's the history of design? What's the history of technology? You know, the what --

CHRIS: The Web is a pretty good medium for that, you know. Hopefully this will just solve itself.

JARED: Yeah, if only there was a magic box that you could have all of the world's information in, and you could carry it in your pocket.

DAVE: Hmm. Sounds difficult.

CHRIS: Yeah. Good thing there's an Apple event starting right now that's going to --

DAVE: Yeah. Yeah, maybe Apple will --

JARED: Oh, is today an Apple event? I was wondering why my twitterers were like crazy. It's, oh, wow, okay. I thought, you know --

DAVE: It's new product Thursday.


JARED: Are they announcing new rumors? It's like the end of the rumor cycle, right? All the old rumors get flushed out and they start a whole new sequence of new rumors.

DAVE: No, it's the U.S. Open of rumor season. [Laughter]


DAVE: It's the final match.

JARED: That's right. That's right. Hey, can we all just for a moment have a moment of silence and hope that, in this new Apple event, they finally get around to just releasing the new version of HyperCard?


CHRIS: It has been a while.

DAVE: Yeah.

JARED: Exactly.

DAVE: They're neglecting the market, basically, of HyperCardians.

JARED: That's right. That's right. I like that you can tell now that it's been an Apple event because you now get music you don't want on your phone automatically.

CHRIS: Oh, man. We better --

DAVE: Yeah, it's --

CHRIS: We better cut this off before we get too deep.

DAVE: Before we become an Apple podcast.

CHRIS: Oh, no, yeah.

DAVE: And I have to buy new computers. Hey, Jared, thank you so much for taking time out of your day. For those who aren't following you, giving you money, how can they do that? Then what's one big thing you want to plug, your last soliloquy.

JARED: Well, I guess the easiest way to give me money is just to walk up to me and hand me cash. That's always accepted.

If you go to, you will see the User Interface Conference, which is our next event, which is happening in a couple weeks in Boston, Massachusetts.  And Tim Brown from Typekit is doing a full day on designing with type.

CHRIS: All right.


CHRIS: When I mentioned, that's Tim.

DAVE: I love that guy.

JARED: Yes, that's Tim. That's the guy, and he's doing a full-day workshop on designing with type, and I'm so excited about that.


JARED: But there are, like, seven other fabulous presenters on service design, user experience, and micro interactions and stuff. Definitely check that out.

We also have a virtual library.  Our virtual seminar library is called All You Can Learn, AYCL, for All You Can Learn,  You can sign up for a free month of that and get amazing - it's like 180 different UX topics in there, and you can watch them and do that.  

Then, for Center Centre,, you can learn about the school.  We have a scholarship fund if you want to help us get students into this process.  You can learn about that there, and you can get on our mailing list.  The original project name for it was the Unicorn Institute, so if you go to, you can get on the mailing list there.  It will help fund students and maybe, you know, we'll get the students to build the next version of HyperCard.

CHRIS: Yeah. Oh! It all comes together.

JARED: It does.

CHRIS: Lovely.

DAVE: Wonderful. All right, well, thank you very much. And thanks, everyone, for coming out and listening. We really appreciate you, and thanks to our sponsors. And, of course, follow us on Twitter @ShopTalkShow. Chris, do you have anything else you'd like to add?

CHRIS: Just, you know, really just that!

DAVE: [Laughter]

CHRIS: I love that.