The human element in 2018

Con­tributed the fol­low­ing to UX Booth:

Look­ing out for each other and ourselves

As we emerge from the Year of the Reck­on­ing, the year when #metoo came to promi­nence, it’s impor­tant that we look out for each other and our­selves by demand­ing the con­fer­ences we attend have strong and enforced Codes of Con­duct, and that our work­places actively enforce their anti-harassment poli­cies — and not just when a report occurs.

Inclu­siv­ity mat­ters. Mak­ing any one per­son feel any­thing less than entirely wel­come and accepted means your cul­ture excludes. Microag­gres­sions alone drive peo­ple away from work­ing in tech­nol­ogy. Poli­cies and Codes of Con­duct must be not only cod­i­fied but part of the expe­ri­ence, part of the culture.

Make sure that not only women but every­one involved in your event or place of busi­ness are safe and included appro­pri­ately. This is not just the respon­si­bil­ity of those run­ning the show — every attendee and every employee counts. One great method I’ve seen is sim­ply say­ing “we don’t do that here,” which is most effec­tive in are­nas that have a pol­icy in place.

Per­son­ally, since Christina Wodtke’s arti­cle Tweak­ing the Moral UI in 2014, I’ve made a com­mit­ment not to speak or attend con­fer­ences that don’t have or enforce a Code of Con­duct, which is a solid per­sonal com­mit­ment to make if you haven’t already.

In 2018, look for ways to be more inclu­sive and make your com­mu­ni­ties safer for every­one in every way pos­si­ble, from inter­face to com­pany culture.

Usability Testing Answers Questions. Stop Speculating.

Are you 100% pos­i­tive you know how your tar­get audi­ences use your website?

Have you been in the midst of a redesign when ques­tions come up about how some­thing should work, how a per­son will flow through your web­site to accom­plish their pri­mary task, what a per­son might grasp when they get to a page with detailed con­tent, or other ques­tions like these?

Start answer­ing these ques­tions with usabil­ity testing.

To run a usabil­ity test, it helps to have a spe­cific ques­tion in mind. While you can gain an under­stand­ing of your audience’s impres­sions of marketing-critical pages from usabil­ity test­ing, it’s most effec­tive in find­ing out how a user might approach a task or series of tasks. In higher edu­ca­tion, this might include sched­ul­ing a visit or apply­ing for admis­sion. In health care, this could con­sist of find­ing a doc­tor, sched­ul­ing an appoint­ment, or find­ing dri­ving or tran­sit directions.


Beyond uncov­er­ing answers to these ques­tions, you often gain mean­ing­ful con­text dur­ing usabil­ity test­ing ses­sions. In one case, I sat with a high school senior in her school’s study hall in inner-city Philadel­phia and watched her get dis­tracted by other stu­dents throw­ing paper balls behind her, all while she was try­ing to get through a uni­ver­sity admis­sion appli­ca­tion. She’d got­ten the same error twice in a row and kept try­ing to click past it, as the melee in the back­ground continued.

Ana­lyt­ics alone wouldn’t have shown what was caus­ing these repeated errors. A real-world test­ing envi­ron­ment helps you under­stand the dif­fi­cul­ties your audi­ences may be expe­ri­enc­ing. Hav­ing the con­text of this sit­u­a­tion showed us we needed to take a com­pletely dif­fer­ent approach to that par­tic­u­lar por­tion of the application.

First time sit­ting through a full-day usabil­ity study of a site for which I’m respon­si­ble. Stress­ful, exhaust­ing, and so helpful.

— Aaron Rester (@aaronrester) July 11, 2017

So help­ful. Usabil­ity test­ing is worth the stress and exhaus­tion, because you gain solid insights and a list of items to fix. You’ll help more users than you can measure.

If you’ve never seen a usabil­ity test in action, this one may help you under­stand their value. Watch peo­ple strug­gle with Spo­tify.

This next exam­ple isn’t pre­cisely a usabil­ity test, but it is an exam­ple of a real-world sce­nario that many site cre­ators may run into. In this clip from HBO’s series Sil­i­con Val­ley, Richard protests that every­one so far has loved his prod­uct, then real­izes he’d only shared it with engi­neers.

“You’re try­ing to sell the plat­form to reg­u­lar peo­ple, but you never actu­ally put it in the hands of reg­u­lar people.”

Elim­i­nat­ing Hypotheticals

This demon­strates the real value in usabil­ity test­ing: the elim­i­na­tion of hypo­thet­i­cals. After test­ing, you know how your new site is being used by real peo­ple and, ide­ally, by your real audiences.

Test­ing early saves you time and money in devel­op­ment. Depend­ing on what you intend to test, the most effec­tive time to con­duct usabil­ity test­ing is often in the strat­egy and design phases of your site cre­ation. Have a ques­tion? Answer it with testing.

A day or two of test­ing can save many more of spec­u­la­tive con­ver­sa­tion. #aeachi

— Stephanie Ertz (@s_plum) August 29, 2016

Don’t spec­u­late. Test.

Here’s the thing.

I believe each of us can change the world.

Every­one can make this world a lit­tle bet­ter, or a lit­tle worse — often with­out thinking.

I believe in the power of mak­ing things that improve the world, bit by bit.

Bit by lit­eral bit, in some cases.

I believe in ethics, in human­ity, in inclusivity.

Since design is delib­er­ate and con­sid­ered, both delib­er­a­tion and con­sid­er­a­tion should be part of every design.

Design is political.

I believe in the power of giv­ing a shit, but not so much that it under­mines your work. That bal­ance is pow­er­ful, but tough to attain.

I believe in the power of small teams. I believe that col­lab­o­ra­tion pro­duces bet­ter work than indi­vid­u­als, even “rock stars.” I believe there’s a peak to this ben­e­fit: teams that are too big kill pro­duc­tiv­ity. If you’re spend­ing more time orga­niz­ing than exe­cut­ing, your team is too large. (See also: run­ningmak­er­space.)

That said, design requires vari­ance of inputs and cre­ators. Not only should you seek out the indi­vid­u­als that will use what­ever you’re design­ing, the cre­at­ing team should include a mul­ti­plic­ity of back­grounds and expe­ri­ences and, yes, points of view.

I believe that fix­ing prob­lems begins with rec­og­niz­ing them. Point­ing out prob­lems is the first step: respect those that do so rather than greet­ing them with denial, or worse, indif­fer­ence. That mul­ti­plic­ity of voices will help you rec­og­nize prob­lems, and also solu­tions, that oth­ers might miss — but only if those voices feel they’ll be lis­tened to.

I believe the course of his­tory leans toward progress, but it’s easy to knock us back a few decades. This has rarely been truer than right now.

You’ve got your whole life to do some­thing, and that’s not very long.”

— Ani DiFranco, “Will­ing to Fight”

I believe that the right to express your opin­ion stops when it threat­ens anyone’s life, anyone’s right to exist.

I am not a paci­fist, but I believe in the power of non­vi­o­lent protest.

When I get mad and I get pissed / I grab my pen and I write out a list / Of all the peo­ple who won’t be missed / You’ve made my shitlist”

L7, “Shitlist”

I believe every­one con­tains their best self, though only some of us are work­ing on it. I sur­round myself with peo­ple that expect the best of me. I also do my best to expect the best of those around me.

I believe diver­sity makes us stronger. I believe in unity, but not in forced compromises.

While we’re at it — facts can­not be “alter­na­tive;” sci­ence and cli­mate change are real; a woman’s place is wher­ever she damn well pleases; gen­der is a con­struct; black lives mat­ter; trans rights are human rights; and love is love.

I believe if we each only fight for our own con­cerns, as a soci­ety we will not progress nearly as far or fast as we could otherwise.

Your voice is a weapon / And we’ll do with it what we can… Nothing’s quite as it seems / Society’s altered you see… Throw all your hells towards the heav­ens / Cause your voice is a weapon”

— Bastille vs Angel Haze, “Weapon”

I believe that nation­al­ism is inex­tri­ca­bly tied up with fas­cism. On the other hand, we need to fight the urge to con­flate nation­al­ism and patri­o­tism, even though some­one at a podium may present both in the same breath.

Geno­cide is not a polit­i­cal position.*

I believe that empa­thy is both shield and sword. Both are capa­ble of pro­tect­ing. Both are just as capa­ble of wounding.

Don’t for­get: your own sword can cut you.

Cause I know the biggest crime / Is just to throw up your hands / Say / This has noth­ing to do with me / I just want to live as com­fort­ably as I can / You got to look out­side your eyes / You got to think out­side your brain / You got to walk out­side your life / To where the neigh­bor­hood changes”

— Ani DiFranco, “Will­ing to Fight”

Here’s the thing:

Give more than you take. Be kind. Take care of each other.

*though peo­ple in polit­i­cal posi­tions may enable or enact it.

Your Next Move is the Only One that Matters

Your Next Move is the Only One that Matters

ORD Camp is dif­fi­cult to describe to those who haven’t attended.

You can start with facts: ORD Camp is an invite-only uncon­fer­ence spon­sored by Google and Inventa­bles in Chicago, host­ing about 300 peo­ple each year.

Which frankly tells you very lit­tle regard­ing what it’s actu­ally about.

You can talk about the ses­sions cov­ered, but that only gets you a slice. With ten con­cur­rent ses­sions run­ning for hours on end (and I mean hours: the last sched­uled ses­sion is at 4 a.m. one night), there’s no way to expe­ri­ence or explain even a frac­tion. I do know that for two years run­ning I found myself tak­ing pho­tos of newly minted fire spin­ners at 12:30 a.m. one night.

You can call it an “inno­va­tion sum­mit,” as this arti­cle in the Chicago Tri­bune did when it noted the atten­dance of some ORD Campers at a protest over the week­end. In some ways, sure.

I’ve even tried to explain it in the past: I co-wrote this blog post with Joe Born after 2014’s event.

The clos­est I’ve got­ten is that it’s all in the atten­dees: their mashup of dis­ci­plines and pas­sions, along with their open­ness and will­ing­ness to share, cre­ate the magic that is ORD Camp. There’s an incred­i­ble amount of over­lap, sur­pris­ing over­lap at that, when you get enough smart and pas­sion­ate peo­ple in one place.

In one case this year, my ses­sion about the Dan­ish con­cept of hygge ended up hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant inter­sec­tion with another ses­sion about the refugee cri­sis and how it’s being han­dled in Amer­ica. A ses­sion on work goals came up in a ses­sion about inten­tional hap­pi­ness, which came up in a ses­sion about express­ing cul­ture through food, which came up in a ses­sion about fer­men­ta­tion, which came up in a ses­sion about eco­nom­ics, which came up in a ses­sion about gov­ern­ment, which came up in a ses­sion about burnout.

While each year isn’t explic­itly themed, look­ing back you can often rec­og­nize the theme for that year. The first year I attended, in 2012, had empha­sis on the Maker Move­ment.

This year was clearly the year of “how can I help?

With that in mind, here are my take­aways from this year’s ORD Camp:

  1. You are not alone
  2. You can make a difference
  3. Together we can move the world
  4. Be kind, and take care of each other

These can be applied to life, to activism, to work.

If you care about the future, remem­ber that the only move that mat­ters is your next one.

Your turn.

Logging off: results.

TL;DR. I’m back online, but don’t expect prompt responses via email, DM, etc. Text me if you really need me.

I’m back!

(a Boston ter­rier pops into view and smiles)


For the first few weeks of 2017, the goal for me was to log off and stay off. I had a bunch of self-imposed rules around this, but the goal was ulti­mately: to hit the reset but­ton on habits that were becom­ing unhealthy.

And for that, I suc­ceeded! I no longer feel quite as much like Hei­hei from Moana:

Hei­hei pecking

I also, mostly, no longer just do this:

(fire burn­ing as Moss of The IT Crowd types)

Part of this is the oft-mentioned “self-care,” which, if you’re not famil­iar, please check out some resources (also from Paul, Amanda, Eileen). It’s putting on your oxy­gen mask before try­ing to help oth­ers. You can’t help any­one else fur­ther if you’ve already passed out.

Part of this is being more self-aware: rec­og­niz­ing my ten­den­cies, when habits are detract­ing from other parts of my life, all that.

Another thing that helped dur­ing this time: Bud­dhist prac­tices like mind­ful­ness.

A side note here: when I went to find that arti­cle, I did not know it fea­tured one of my own pho­tos. But there it is! Appro­pri­ately cred­ited, even.

Let me be clear: this isn’t technology’s fault, though cer­tainly many of these prod­ucts are made to be habit-forming, so that plat­forms and pro­duc­ers can make money from us. And I get that. But tech shouldn’t be a scapegoat.

See also: How I Got My Atten­tion Back.

I dis­cov­ered this basi­cally after the fact, but it’s use­ful: Fast Company’s Guide to Unplug­ging.

So, in short, I’m tak­ing mea­sures to ensure that despite the fire that may be burn­ing behind me, I retain my chill.

(thumbs up with fire burn­ing behind)

And that, hon­estly, means main­tain­ing some of the rules — or at least mod­i­fied ver­sions thereof — that I set up for myself dur­ing this time.

I can­not be ruled by expec­ta­tions. That may mean dis­ap­point­ing some peo­ple, long wait times on responses, miss­ing some events, and not see­ing that post you assume I’ll have caught by then — I’ll note this last one hap­pens a lot!

Thus: please don’t assume I (or any­one else) has read every­thing you pro­duce. It’s not super fair to either person.

This is me own­ing my atten­tion, and apply­ing it judiciously.

Thank you in advance for respect­ing this, and thus me.

Good job, you.

Stephen Col­bert and Jon Stew­art: Wow! Bravo!

The Maker Movement: Chicago Edition

While I’ve gone in depth on the Maker Move­ment before, here’s the dis­til­la­tion for the Chicago crowd. I’ve been involved in the maker move­ment since 2009, almost entirely in Chicago: in fact, in 2011 I was Pres­i­dent of Pump­ing Sta­tion: One, Chicago’s largest and old­est makerspace.

The momen­tum for the Maker Move­ment in Chicago started in 2009, when Pump­ing Sta­tion: One opened its first phys­i­cal space. Since then, PS:One has become one of the most notable mak­er­spaces in the move­ment. In 2012, Chicago had its first North­side Mini Maker Faire. Cat­alyze Chicago opened in 2014, focus­ing on phys­i­cal hard­ware cre­ation. In 2015, the Maker Move­ment took over the Tech­nori Pitch in Chicago, a night usu­ally ded­i­cated to software-primary projects, and in this case those mak­ers pitched to a sold-out crowd of 500.

Today, Chicago’s maker envi­ron­ment is wide and var­ied, with some spaces that do a lit­tle bit of every­thing all the way to the other extreme of uni­task­ing spaces.

(Arduino bread­board work­shop, Pump­ing Sta­tion: One in 2011)

With ORD Camp gear­ing up this year again shortly, I fig­ured it would be use­ful to do the run­down, both for folks join­ing the move­ment now and those look­ing for new places to rejoin the fun.

A brief tour through Chicago’s var­i­ous makerspaces:

Pump­ing Sta­tion: One itself is six years old with over 400 pay­ing mem­bers
(some of my pho­tos of PS:One here): a broad-based membership-focused space

Cat­alyze Chicago, just over the river from down­town in the West Loop, which focuses on mov­ing phys­i­cal inven­tions from con­cept to production

SSH Chicago on the South Side (Bridge­port): also a broad-based space

Chicago Indus­trial Arts and Design Cen­ter in Rogers Park

Edge­wa­ter Work­bench in — you guessed it — Edge­wa­ter, which includes 3D print­ing and laser cut­ting ser­vices as well as do-it-yourself

Museum of Sci­ence and Industry’s Fab Lab (some of my pic­tures here
and more pic­tures here)

Chicago Pub­lic Library Maker Lab, with Mini Maker Labs being grad­u­ally
spread through­out the Chicago Pub­lic Library system

Blue1647, serv­ing the South and West Sides, which cov­ers cowork­ing as well as a stu­dent learn­ing lab (arti­cle here)

Chicago Inno­va­tion Exchange’s Fab Lab at The Uni­ver­sity of Chicago

The Mak­ery, West Loop ad hoc space for makers

Chicago Children’s Museum Tin­ker­ing Lab, a kids- and family-focused space

Lev­elUp, a teen-focused mak­er­space on the South Side, not far from
Mid­way Airport

Bit Space, for ages 6–13 in Lin­coln Square

Hack­Stu­dio, for stu­dents in grades 3–12 in Evanston

Work­shop 88 and Space­Lab in the ‘burbs (Glen Ellyn and
Mokena, respectively)

There’s also a more in-depth overview of the three old­est Chicago-area mak­er­spaces here. Many other pri­vate mak­er­spaces and labs do exist in Chicago, but they’re fre­quently not open to join or use. Lane Tech’s Inno­va­tion and Cre­ation Lab is a prime exam­ple: keep an eye out for occa­sional events.

For some­one just get­ting into mak­ing, the Chicago Pub­lic Library Maker Lab and the Museum of Sci­ence and Industry’s Fab Lab are great options, with classes and ter­rific envi­ron­ments for learn­ing. For those more ded­i­cated (depend­ing on their angle to mak­ing), I rec­om­mend Cat­alyze Chicago, Pump­ing Sta­tion: One, or SSH Chicago.

Aside from spaces, there are also pop-up expe­ri­ences and events and mee­tups, like:

Mini Maker Faires

Chi Hack Night (focus­ing on civic tech, they pro­duce most Open City Apps: here’s Chi Hack Night’s great 2015 year in review post)

Maker Biz

Chicago Women Devel­op­ers Hack Nights

Girl Develop It

Design Tech Weekend

Ran­dom Hacks of Kindness

Cod­ing While Black



Chicago City of Learn­ing (teen/kid-specific)

Com­edy Hack Day

Cen­ter for Lost Arts (my pho­tos from their orig­i­nal space’s clos­ing party here)

ORD Camp (which I’ve pre­vi­ously writ­ten about, though it’s not open to
the public)

Power Rac­ing Series (if/when it’s in town: it started here in Chicago but
grew nationally)

• And one near and dear to our hearts here at Right­point, hav­ing taken on a
project for them: the EPIC Maker Rally

(Arduino work­shop, Pump­ing Sta­tion: One in 2011)

As I’ve said before: as upstart, as DIY, as muddle-it-through-until-you-find-an-answer as the Maker Move­ment might be, it’s also the per­fect place for curi­ous, scrappy, whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-job-done inter- and intra-disciplinarians like us that enjoy being both high-level and in-the-weeds. We who love hyphens in what­ever we do.

So try some­thing new, or a new take on some­thing you’ve done before: go to a hack night, a mak­er­space, a Maker Faire, or any­thing you like in the maker space (so to speak). You’ll learn some­thing new — almost guar­an­teed — and meet new folks, and emerge inspired.

Orig­i­nally posted at on 1–14–2016 at 10:19 AM

The Maker Movement: Making the World Our Canvas

The Maker Move­ment has emerged, evolved and is now thriv­ing not only in the US, but inter­na­tion­ally, as well as here at Right­point. I and my fel­low mak­ers — entre­pre­neurs, inven­tors and tin­ker­ers, all — exhibit curios­ity, adven­ture and intel­lec­tual engage­ment, craft­ing inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to often-complicated prob­lems. For us, mak­ing often requires not only col­lab­o­ra­tion, but the intrin­sic drive to shape the world rather than merely let­ting it hap­pen around you.

Here’s how we’re shap­ing the world. Come along for the ride:

I’ve writ­ten before about how proac­tive Right­point is in cre­at­ing its envi­rons and cul­ture. The real­iza­tion and inter­nal encour­age­ment of Rightpoint’s maker spirit is the next step of this con­scious cre­ation. But let’s back it up a step: what is the Maker Movement?

Dale Dougherty coined the term “maker” as we use it today in the con­text of the Maker Move­ment, and as he puts it in We Are Mak­ers, a great video intro­duc­ing the Maker Move­ment: “the whole world becomes our can­vas.” It’s expe­ri­en­tial, a drive to try it your­self, hands-on, rather than be told some­thing does or doesn’t work. You make mis­takes but recover faster, and in the process (again, as put in the video): “broaden your selec­tion of hammers.”

Here at Right­point, we’re con­stantly broad­en­ing our selec­tion of ham­mers and mak­ing sure we’re not just bang­ing away at every­thing that looks like a nail. Part of that is try­ing new tech­niques, such as Google Design Sprints or our PEDL pro­gram or col­lab­o­ra­tive sketch­ing, along with test­ing the sci­ence behind happy expe­ri­ences, cre­at­ing phys­i­cal prod­ucts like Pour­cast, and so on. We’ve broad­ened into prod­ucts that cut across dis­ci­plines and along the way, each of us ends up learn­ing and aggre­gat­ing expe­ri­ence from those other disciplines.

In that same video, Allan Chochi­nov explains a tenet of design con­sult­ing — that cre­at­ing some­thing very quickly earns trust and makes progress. As soon as you give peo­ple some­thing to react to, reach­ing its essence becomes more clear. Part of that tenet is why we have a 3D printer for the office — espe­cially since once we were mak­ing physical-digital crossover prod­ucts like Pour­cast and Room Nin­jas, phys­i­cal rapid pro­to­typ­ing became much more important.

I would argue that rapid pro­to­typ­ing, test­ing, and hav­ing a prod­uct (rather than project) mind­set as Ross explains here absolutely makes you a maker. But it turns out the bar is even lower than that. As Dale puts it, in order to get involved in the Maker Move­ment, you “join it by just say­ing ‘I’m a maker and here’s what I do’.”

And: We. Are. Makers.

Now that you’ve got­ten this far: my disclaimers-slash-qualifications, with more hyphens to come. I’ve been involved in the Maker Move­ment since 2009 to a larger or lesser degree over time. My involve­ment has been almost entirely in Chicago, though I’ve vis­ited mak­er­spaces in places as close as Detroit and as far-flung as Copen­hagen — along with Århus if we’re counting.

In 2011, I was Pres­i­dent of Pump­ing Sta­tion: One, Chicago’s largest and old­est mak­er­space. I’ve taught at the Chicago Pub­lic Library’s Maker Lab and attended ORD Camp for years. I have friends on Make mag­a­zine staff — Dale Dougherty founded and runs Maker Media which includes Make and Maker Faires, for con­text — and oth­ers that con­tribute to O’Reilly’s edu­ca­tional mate­ri­als. I care about this move­ment, I love how Chicago’s push­ing it for­ward, and I’m hap­pier still that Right­point has rec­og­nized and is encour­ag­ing its maker spirit.

As exam­ples of what you can start mak­ing, dur­ing my time at Pump­ing Sta­tion: One, I made or helped make things like:

And helped Pump­ing Sta­tion: One do things like:

For Chicago’s maker con­text, a quick tour through Chicago’s var­i­ous makerspaces:

There’s also an overview of the three old­est Chicago mak­er­spaces here.

Just going by this list, Chicago’s def­i­nitely got a strong move­ment going, and that’s not count­ing the pop-up expe­ri­ences like Cen­ter for Lost Arts (my pho­tos from their orig­i­nal space’s clos­ing party here), ORD Camp (which I’ve pre­vi­ously writ­ten about), var­i­ous startup and hack nights, as well as Mini Maker Faires.

It’s also a national move­ment, with Pres­i­dent Obama declar­ing a National Week of Mak­ing, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the first-ever White House Maker Faire, and announc­ing the Nation of Mak­ers ini­tia­tive. My favorite moment from that event was Obama hang­ing out with a life-size robotic giraffe (video also avail­able).

More broadly, though, mak­ers’ pri­mary resources tend to be other mak­ers, thus the launch of Mak­er­Space by Dale Dougherty and the launch of Maker­Base by Gina Tra­pani and Anil Dash (you can find me there too). There are phys­i­cal mak­ers and dig­i­tal mak­ers, and many cross from one to another. The move­ment has even diver­si­fied into groups like civic hack groups, Maker Biz, the Kick­starter crowd, and those hack­ing for edu­ca­tion. I’m fond of the fact that I was there at the start of the Power Rac­ing Series (in fact, my photography’s still on the site), which may look friv­o­lous and fun, but actu­ally teaches kids and adults across the coun­try about every­thing from brakes to bat­ter­ies to electronics.

If you’ve made it this far on this wild ride, I prob­a­bly don’t have to tell you that the Maker Move­ment has become a $29 bil­lion indus­try, and that approx­i­mately 135 mil­lion adults are mak­ers (that’s 57% of adults over 18). But if you still need con­vinc­ing, those are the facts. Com­pa­nies like Kick­starter and Indiegogo and Etsy are help­ing drive this indus­try for­ward, and indus­try giants are jump­ing in with projects like GE Garages and UPS’s entry into the 3D print­ing mar­ket, not to men­tion TechShop and Shape­ways.

Even though these giants are now in the mar­ket, we’re here too. We’ve always been here, whether we talked about it or not.

As upstart, as DIY, as muddle-it-through-until-you-find-an-answer as the Maker Move­ment may be, it’s also the per­fect place for curi­ous, scrappy, whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-job-done inter- and intra-disciplinarians like us that enjoy being both high-level and in-the-weeds. We who love hyphens in what­ever we do.

And that’s why we’re here. Thanks for mak­ing it so incred­i­bly far through the his­tory of the Maker Move­ment with us today. Let’s look toward the future of the Maker Move­ment together.

















Practicing UX Through Company Culture


We’re pretty proud of our cul­ture here at Right­point and we’re not ter­ri­bly shy about it. We’re also incred­i­bly pleased that we’ve recently been included in the Chicago Tribune’s Top 100 Work­places, among many other promi­nent lists like Forbes’ America’s Most Promis­ing Com­pa­niesCRN’s Fast Growth 150For­tune and ICIC’s Inner City 100 and Crain’s Fast 50 (and that’s just from this year).

As con­sul­tants, we get to spend time within other com­pa­nies and get a taste of their respec­tive cul­tures. And as a User Expe­ri­ence Con­sul­tant, I look at many busi­ness processes — includ­ing cul­ture — through a UX lens. I’ve found that each orga­ni­za­tion has its own spot on the UX Tip­ping Point spec­trum. Includ­ing us!

Specif­i­cally, Right­point is hap­pily beyond the point at which UX sat­u­rates the orga­ni­za­tion cross-silo.

In the lan­guage of com­pa­nies far larger and more siloed than Right­point: UX doesn’t just live in the CTO’s side of the orga­ni­za­tion. It’s also not just in the CMO’s side. Instead: the COO gets it. The per­son on the phone doing cus­tomer sup­port gets it. HR gets it.

User and cus­tomer expe­ri­ence touches every­one. As Jared Spool puts it: “In this phase, it becomes impos­si­ble to sep­a­rate out the invest­ment in UX from the rest of what the orga­ni­za­tion deliv­ers.” In short, we’ve cre­ated an expe­ri­ence cul­ture.

This topic cer­tainly crosses over into areas like change man­age­ment and cus­tomer expe­ri­ence — since as Ross (one of our two co-founders) once put it: “Right­point believes that great cus­tomer expe­ri­ences start with happy team mem­bers.” Not to men­tion cross­ing into cus­tomer obses­sion, which we also believe starts with cul­ture.

In Rightpoint’s prac­tice of inter­nal UX, we do what UXers do best: lis­ten, empathize, syn­the­size and imple­ment. It’s not just UXers doing this — it’s through­out the orga­ni­za­tion, though the inter­nal focus is offi­cially con­cen­trated in Peo­ple Poten­tial and those respon­si­ble for the care and feed­ing of our cul­ture. But in prac­tice, that means every­one.


Both for­mally and infor­mally, we’re lis­ten­ing to each other every day.

For­mally: we con­duct a Peo­ple Pulse sur­vey quar­terly that goes out to every­one at Right­point, we give each other Super Sim­ple feed­back after every project, we award each other badges sup­port­ing our val­ues and WOWs when­ever appro­pri­ate, and we recently imple­mented break­fast round­table dis­cus­sions to help ensure that feed­back is as holis­tic as pos­si­ble. Some of the direct, mea­sur­able results from these for­mal sys­tems include:

  1. indi­vid­u­ally under­stand­ing what we do well and what we need to improve
  2. improved inter­nal tools for time report­ing, expenses, reviews and project management
  3. bet­ter cof­fee in the office (!)
  4. more soft skills training
  5. improve­ments to how we onboard new Rightpointers
  6. more inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion and transparency
  7. upgrades to the sur­vey itself

Infor­mally, both team mem­bers and peo­ple we don’t work with directly at all will stop by and check in reg­u­larly. Those infor­mal check-ins lead to all sorts of cross-pollination as we dis­cover solu­tions and resources that can be shared between projects and people.

Sim­i­lar activ­ity hap­pens inter- and intra-office on Yam­mer, which is front-and-center on our intranet along with top-level inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion items, help­ing to coor­di­nate our geo­graph­i­cally dis­persed offices. Our WOWs and badges are also pulled into Yam­mer, which high­light to every­one what we’re doing well and what to shoot for.

This ear-to-the-ground men­tal­ity leads us to dis­cover things which oth­er­wise would have gone unnoticed.


Whether or not the chal­lenges our col­leagues express are chal­lenges we share, Right­point­ers gen­er­ally tend to empathize with one another. We take into account each oth­ers’ points of view and excel at sup­port­ing each other. When folks on my team bring up a prob­lem they’re fac­ing, the responses are often equal parts com­mis­er­a­tion and solu­tion sug­ges­tions, which end up being immensely con­struc­tive if only by reduc­ing the feel­ing of fac­ing the prob­lem alone.

Even in dis­agree­ments between col­leagues, there’s an effort toward refo­cus­ing the con­ver­sa­tion to see the sit­u­a­tion as if you were in the other person’s shoes. That moment of get­ting out of the posi­tion you’ve taken will often lead to a res­o­lu­tion. This reflects the break­through moment of usabil­ity test­ing: when you’re able to see first-hand the worst moment of user frus­tra­tion, the cause and its effect on the per­son doing the test­ing, and thus feel their pain. That moment — often referred to as the “a-ha” moment — often leads directly to a solution.

We take it a step fur­ther with Com­pas­sion Crew, the group that spear­heads our effort to sup­port the com­mu­ni­ties in which we live. Com­pas­sion Crew often takes on causes that Right­point­ers care about, facil­i­tat­ing Right­pointer dona­tions of time and/or money to many local char­i­ties, the major­ity of which the com­pany will match or oth­er­wise defray costs for.

Among many, many other projects, Com­pas­sion Crew has orga­nized or con­tributed to:

  1. our Day of Ser­vice, dur­ing which all our offices donate a day’s phys­i­cal labor to a local char­ity in need — in the last three years we’ve sup­ported Friends of the ParksYMCA of Metro Chicago and Heart­land Alliance
  2. a drive for Bear Neces­si­ties Pedi­atric Can­cer Foun­da­tion, which pro­vided gas and food cards to fam­i­lies with kids in the hospital
  3. a “sign­ing event” where a team pre-signed 1,000 cards with pos­i­tive, sup­port­ive mes­sages so these cards could be dis­trib­uted to the above kids through­out the year
  4. a chili cook-off which raised money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository
  5. a hol­i­day dona­tion of time to cook and serve food at the Law­son House, the largest SRO that pro­vides ser­vices to low-income and for­merly home­less men and women in Chicago
  6. a hol­i­day gift drive for orphaned chil­dren liv­ing in a group home
  7. a trivia fundraiser for Heart­land Alliance
  8. our annual Movem­ber drive, includ­ing mus­tache com­pe­ti­tion, which this year ben­e­fits Gilda’s Club Chicago
  9. a book drive for Bernie’s Book Bank


Dur­ing both for­mal and infor­mal listening/empathizing cycles, items that get repeated bub­ble up to the top and are then pri­or­i­tized as mak­ing the most imme­di­ate impact — this hap­pens in both UX processes and in our own inter­nal Right­point expe­ri­ence process.

In syn­the­siz­ing, we also dis­till: five sim­i­lar prob­lems might have a sin­gle solu­tion if it can be iden­ti­fied and solved for the great­est pos­i­tive impact.

In UX, the result of this stage may look like a report, audit or analy­sis, or per­haps a jour­ney map or series of user sto­ries, but almost cer­tainly it will con­tain a series of rec­om­men­da­tions. In our inter­nal UX prac­tice, this ends with a plan — and that plan has a cham­pion, either some­one involved from the begin­ning or some­one excited to take up the cause. Some­times even both: Cul­ture Club is one that has both an offi­cial spon­sor (Vaiva, who leads Peo­ple Poten­tial) and an enthu­si­as­tic cross-section of team mem­bers who rep­re­sent var­i­ous geo­gra­phies and ser­vice lines (Josh, one of our devel­op­ers, even wears the “Boy George” hat).

Cul­ture Club ends up being our syn­the­sizer (might’ve walked into a Rock Band pun there) of infor­mal feed­back to improve Right­point cul­ture since its mis­sion is to pur­pose­fully evolve our cul­ture in a pro­duc­tive way. While Cul­ture Club does casual fun events like Gam­ing and Movie Nights, it also pro­vides vital input about how to evolve our onboard­ing of new folks and show recog­ni­tion, among other contributions.


In UX, imple­men­ta­tion might look more like sitemaps, wire­frames, pro­to­types and user flows. In our inter­nal imple­men­ta­tion, it looks more like — if you’ll excuse the col­lo­quial swear­ing for empha­sis — s*** get­ting done.

And we see that change quickly, whether that’s a change to our phys­i­cal envi­ron­ment, a change in tools, or a fur­ther open­ing of lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Usu­ally that means things flow more freely, which is the state we aim for in our UX projects as well. We want to get out of the users’ way as much as pos­si­ble, sim­pli­fy­ing and stream­lin­ing to help them reach their goals as effi­ciently as possible.

Rather than see­ing our cul­ture and envi­ron­ment as ideal and being unwill­ing to change any­thing about either, we see Right­point in a state of con­tin­ual change — par­tially due to our rapid growth, and par­tially because if we want to be agents of pos­i­tive change we have to prac­tice pos­i­tive change — so we con­sciously work on con­tin­u­ously improv­ing. To con­tinue iter­at­ing inter­nally, we need to lis­ten to and sup­port those who make up our cul­ture — that is, all of us. And we do.

We can absolutely do things bet­ter than we do now, but the point is: we’re con­tin­u­ously work­ing on it.

Orig­i­nally posted at: on on 11–23–2014


This month’s Expe­r­i­month is about being your own Jane Goodall.

While I’ve admired Beck Tench’s work ever since we met at High­Ed­Web many, many years ago, I think this is the first Expe­r­i­month I’ve jumped in on, and I’m enjoy­ing it immensely thus far. Been using a slim 48-page Field Notes note­book that I got from ORD Camp, I think, branded with the Groupon logo since that’s where we were being hosted. I’ve got­ten a few days down and am look­ing for­ward to what I might learn.