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And by Team, it's really just Me

Josh Carter

Josh Carter

Owner/Lead Designer

I am the owner and lead designer at Prodigal Design. I enjoy making new connections so feel free to contact me however you’d like.

Prodigal Design was able to capture the vision and heart behind my business idea and translate it into design. Not only are they excellent in static design, but have done an amazing job with the interactive part of my site resulting in a great user experience. I look forward to continuing to work with them on future projects. 

– Autumn Bonner, MyTailoredFitness.com

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My latest posts and rants


DON’T Read the Comments

Whatever You Do, DON’T Read the Comments

We recently had to re-platform our e-commerce site. It took our team about 6 months of working days, nights, and weekends (you know the drill) to complete a minimum viable product. We had to remove a few of the fringe features in order to launch on time, and we knew we would catch a little flack for that, but we were taking a 5-year old site with tons of bad data and converting it into a modern and responsive e-commerce site. We were hoping customers would appreciate some of the newer, more important features like being able to see past order history and actually track the status of your current order, instead of missing the fringe features like badging (which meant nothing) and voting (which also meant nothing). We tested it well, at least that’s what we thought. We did user interviews and observations to inform our design decisions.

We were proud of it. Very proud of it.

The night of the launch, it took our team over 8 hours to complete the change over. They didn’t get to bed until after 6am.

At 8am, I was awakened by the sound of buzzing, incessant buzzing, coming from my phone. I was surprised to find several missed calls from people in our company, and texts as well. Apparently, while we were very proud of our work, our customers were not. And they let us know.

Superb job. Your web guy must have been so happy, first a gold star for show and tell with his guinea pig in class then someone actually used his broken ass programming. –Paradisel

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“The World will Bow to the Greatness of My App”

Why you shouldn’t build a mobile app, despite recent user trends

A few weeks ago, I went to the mCommerce Exchange in Las Vegas, put on by this Exchange Network. I sat in a room for 2 days with Marketing and Mobile Directors from some of the country’s largest and most profitable retailers. Every one of them was dealing with the same issue.

Should we create a native mobile shopping experience for customers?

At the end of Day 1, after being barraged by information from vendors and “experts” in mobile technology and trends, a tall 40-something Argentinian man with a ton of spunk got up and started his presentation by saying, “You don’t NEED a mobile app!” You could almost hear the sigh of relief from the attendees. It was as though they were being held hostage by a 300 lb. Yetee, and someone just told them the Yetee was simply their imagination. Shear relief.

Is a mobile app right for us?

I work for an eCommerce company. We sell everything on our website. Yes, it’s mobile optimized, and soon it will be a responsive “mobile-first” site. Our online store is our only source of revenue. No brick & mortar locations. No mobile app. No physical presence in the world.

Like most of the conference attendees, we too have been exploring the benefits of having a mobile app for customers to use to purchase our products. As we continue to explore the pros and cons, I keep coming back to the question, “Is this what our customers want?” To answer that question, I have to do some research (one of my favorite parts of the job).

The insane growth of mobile app usage

I think when it comes to user behavior, people are split on the subject of retail mobile shopping. Roughly half of the mobile users I’ve spoken with would prefer to have the information readily available to them via a native app. The other half would rather navigate to a site and save the space on their phone. But will that 50/50 split continue, or will the app-advocates eventually overtake and consume the others like T-Rex?

Flurry Analytics does a ton of market research and analytics when it comes to mobile user behavior. They recently published a study that compared mobile user behavior from Q1 2014 with behavior from just a year ago. People are gleaning information from the study and blasting their interpretations all over the interweb.

The study shows that mobile users are spending more time using apps vs. the mobile web. Which really doesn’t surprise me when I think about my own usage: music and video streaming, maps, social networking, games, banking, etc. So the question has to be asked, “What apps are people using?”

Flurry found that users spend the majority of their mobile time Gaming (32%) and Social Networking (28%). That’s 60% of their mobile usage. As it pertains to my industry (eCommerce Retail), it wasn’t even on the list!

Then I came across this post, which quotes another study from Flurry Analytics which compares 2013 app usage to 2012. According to it, overall app usage was up 115% year-over-year. This time they included a “Lifestyle & Shopping” category, which grew 77% from 2012 to 2013. My first reaction was, “Wow. Obviously people want to use a mobile app for shopping.” But the category isn’t just shopping, but lifestyle too. And this statistic doesn’t take into account the increase in available shopping apps. Obviously if Macy’s pushes out a mobile app, a good percentage of people are going to try it out over the mobile web experience.

What do we measure?

According to a study by Statista in July 2013, 62% of UK retailers offered an iPhone app. That seems like a ton, but it still doesn’t convince me. Of theprojected 118 million mobile shoppers in the US, what I want to know is how many of them used a retailer’s native mobile app to 1) browse products and 2) purchase a product on the app. Knowing those statistics would help retailers further understand the cost-benefit analysis of creating a native mobile app for customers.

In addition to that, downloads aren’t enough. Matthew Ferry of Artisan Mobile led a great discussion helping leaders identify what their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) would be if they developed a mobile app. We are after engagement, not just downloads. How long are people spending on our app, and is it because they enjoy it, or because they can’t find what they are looking for? How often do people interact with the app through saving products to their wishlist, writing reviews, or making a purchase?

Esteban Kolsky said, “You don’t NEED a mobile app.” He didn’t say not to create one, he just said that you don’t necessarily need one. And the largest determining factor is your users.

All of these studies and all of these statistics explain one thing: No one knows what’s best for my company. No one. I can read all the statistics and compile all the quantitative data that’s available, but that still won’t answer the question for me. Only my users can answer that.

The 12th level of Product User Research Experience Analysis

I was speaking with a Mobile Retail Director for Toys R Us and I asked him if they had a mobile app. Here was his response:

No, I don’t think we need one. Most of our customers only shop with us a few times a year. Why would we develop a mobile app for them to download once and then forget about, or worse yet, delete after they’re done using it once? It just doesn’t make sense for us.

He’s right, it doesn’t make sense. He knows his customer and their behaviors. And despite what all the studies and so-called experts are saying, he has decided a mobile app is not what his customers are asking for.

There are a million benefits for my company to have a mobile app. But those are all OUR benefits. Now that we’ve established the potential growth in customer engagement and sales, next we have to get out of the building to figure out if this is what our customers want. They will be the ultimate decision-maker on this issue.

High-ho Silver!


When Form Rebels Against Function

A short look at Yahoo!’s Billion Dollar Bracket sign up

I was in my quiet place this morning, that place I do most of my thinking and reading (you know the place). I took out my phone and navigated my browser to Yahoo!’s Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. In case you haven’t heard about this, Quicken Loans and Warren Buffet have teamed up with Yahoo! Sports to put on a nation-wide March Madness bracket challenge.

We are excited to team up with Quicken Loans and Warren Buffett to give fans the chance to win a billion dollars using all of the information, tools and services available from Yahoo Sports.

— Ken Fuchs, VP and head of Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance and Product Partnerships.

Poor example, but trust me, the Yahoo! Fantasy Sports app is phenomenal.

Quicken hired Yahoo! to design and build the online bracket experience. Now if you’ve ever used a Yahoo! mobile app or mobile website, you would think this was a great partnership. Yahoo!’s Fantasy Football app continues to impress me year after year. I love the design and experience. They left no feature out. However, because of the depth of functionality within the app, it does take some learning to get comfortable with it. I’ve been using it for 3 years now, and I continue to discover new features. So when I heard that Quicken was partnering with Yahoo! to create the bracket challenge experience, I was very excited.

But back to the lesson at hand. As I was sitting there in my quiet place, trying to register for the challenge, I was floored by how difficult and time consuming the entire process was. Let me explain.

Step 1 — Registration: C+ Grade

This is just the top part of the registration screen. There’s another dropdown and 3 check boxes below.

The first registration screen was daunting to say the least. I’m surprised I actually kept moving forward once I saw this. Usually an online form this extensive would send my mouse running for the ‘Close’ button, but I stuck with it out of curiosity. My first reaction, “Holy cow! How did Yahoo allow this to happen?”

I understand that Quicken would never offer up a hefty bounty like $1 billion dollars without getting some sales leads out of it (and rightly so). But why do you need my address and DOB? But hey, at least they didn’t auto-check all the special offers for me. And another thing they did right was bringing up the numerical keypad for dates and Zip code.

Step 2 — Sign In: F Grade

So after taking 2 minutes to fill out all those fields on my phone, I’m then sent to the Yahoo! account login screen, which begs the question, “Why couldn’t I have just done this first?” But mine is not to question why…. Actually that’s exactly what mine is.

Yahoo! did it right by bringing up the numerical keypad for numerical entries like Zip and dates.


I fill in my Yahoo! account info, and wouldn’t you know it, they’ve updated their account security settings. So now I need to create a new password (Submit)…it can’t be the same password (Submit)…it needs an uppercase letter (Submit)…it needs a number(Submit)…it needs a special character (Submit)…it needs a DNA sample from your dead great great grandfather on your mother’s side (Submit). Finally!

Oh but wait, there’s more security measures. Now we need to send you an SMS verification code. Close browser…open SMS…copy code…close SMS…open browser…paste code…Submit. Success!

Step 3 — Registration 2, Electric Boogaloo: Fx2 Grade

Oh not so fast, eager beaver. You thought you were already registered and logged in? Yeah you’re not. After spending the last 6 minutes (still in my quiet place) filling out the world’s most elaborate registration form and trying to excavate the blood types of dead relatives, I’m greeted with this screen.

Let’s do it all again, since it was such a great experience the last time!


If you said, “Hey that looks just like the initial registration page,” you would be correct. If you also said, “I thought you already did that,” you would receive extra credit for being observant to the obvious. Yes. I’ve already been here, and yes, I’ve already completed this form. Why am I here again? Do they think I might have purchased a home in the 5 minutes I’ve been gone? I filled out so many form fields I started to wonder if I had.

Now I probably should have stopped here and just cut my losses. But I’m already pot committed at this point (all pun intended), and I was determined not to let Yahoo get the best of me. (Also, from here on out I will not be including the signature ‘!’ when referring to Yahoo. There is no longer any excitement in my attitude toward them.)

So I spend another 2 minutes filling out the registration form…again.

Email verification is the 4th level of Yahoo’s UX nirvana.


Step 4 — Email Verification: ‘You Won’t Beat Me’ Grade

I just want to fill out my damn bracket! Why won’t you let me?!

Close browser…open email app…open email from Yahoo…click on verification link.

At this point, it has taken me nearly 10 minutes to register for this stupid contest that I’m probably not even going to win. But I’m determined to get through. At this point, who gives a damn about the picks. I just want to see where this rabbit trail leads me. With every touch of a button, I continue to be amazed at how badly Yahoo screwed this up. I’m shocked.

No, I will not forgive your elves.


Step 5 — Elves at Work: WTF Grade

I literally laughed out loud when I saw this screen (it’s OK, I was still in my quiet place, alone). I looked around to make sure I wasn’t being pranked. This seemed like something straight out of Candid Camera. “You can’t possibly be serious?” was all I could think.

My window of quiet was quickly coming to an end. Soon I would have to get back to work. I imagined my coworkers getting worried about me. Maybe they were drawing straws to see who would have to come rescue me. Do they know I’m just trying to fill out a March Madness bracket? I bet they’d have a good laugh if they did.

Right before I left the solitude and peacefulness of that place, I clicked the ‘Refresh’ button on the screen. I was thinking that I would just continue this in a couple hours when I went for a coffee break. Little did I know what awaited me.

No words.


Step 6 — Download the App: ‘I hate you, yahoo’ Grade

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Man, this is a long article.” That’s exactly my point. How does registering to fill out a bracket become a 6 Step process? You should ask the wizards over at yahoo (no caps, not anymore).

With the ‘Refresh’ click, I thought I was entering the Holy of Holies, the sacred place of bracketology, hope, and fortune. I was wrong. Upon ‘Refresh’, I was greeted by this screen you see here. You have got to be kidding me.

Since I‘m a sucker for self-deprecation, I click the button, which takes me to the Play Store, and I download the free yahoo sports app (which is different than the fantasy sports app that I have and love).

Upon opening the app, I’m greeted with a familiar screen…Log In. Again.

So this is what heaven looks like. I thought it would be brighter.


Step 7 — Make Your Picks: ‘Why didn’t you say that to begin with?’ Grade

I made it. I finally made it. The joy of accomplishment ws overhwelming. I began to tear up. Knowing that I had endured through the chaos, that I didn’t give up, made the victory that much sweeter. And my prize was before me, in all it’s glory and splendor. I was richly rewarded for my troubles.

Which of these picks is ludicrous?

The tourney section of the yahoo sports app is incredible! It shows your current bracket right up front. Plus you can create a pool for your friends or office or church. When you click on your bracket, the interface is so simple and intuitive. It’s just a zoomed in bracket. It’s that easy. Swipe up/down, left/right to view the bracket, make your picks by simply selecting who you think will win. Their name automatically gets populated into the next round.

It was difficult not picking SDSU, but I have to go with what I know, which is nothing.


For the finals, you have to input what you think the final score will be (they use it as a tiebreaker). Instead of using an input field, they use a scroll wheel, which is so much nicer!

What are the lessons learned? It’s ok to laugh out loud in the bathroom, as long as no one else is in there.

And please think through the whole process of an experience! It doesn’t matter how amazing your app is, if it takes someone the better half of an hour to get into it. Do not let form rebel against function.


Lean UX – Part 1

I don’t know if I’m going to post more than once, but I’m hoping for it, which is why this is Part 1.

I was recently set as the Product Manager for our website, TeeFury.com, which meant I needed to learn how to manage, prioritize, estimate, schedule and track all issues and tasks on our site…both on the current code and the re-platforming project they hired me to design. Needless to say, it’s a bit daunting. But I’m up for the challenge.

So I started doing research (and still am). I’ve looked into all these different software development methods like XP, Agile, Kanban, Waterfall, etc. Now I’ve never personally been a part of a development team or a design team. Being self-taught and doing freelance work, I’ve never had those experiences before. But I have tried using Agile workflows before with design teams I’ve lead and it didn’t go over well. Sure, we pushed out a ton of work, but no one felt any ownership of a project and it didn’t allow for a ton of time to create exceptional designs. So I’m at a place where I have to find which method, which workflow is going to work best for us, but I can’t make the decision in a bubble. I have to discuss it with everyone! How do my developers like to work? One of them wants to crawl into a cold dark room, put on his dubstep, and just crank out code like a wood chipper. Another has to talk through every step of the way and gets easily distracted with new features and bugs. I also have to talk to my boss, the CEO. He has a ton of knowledge and comes from a history of product ownership and dev team leading. What has been his experience? What would he recommend? But more importantly, how much involvement does he want to have? What deliverables does he need?

So I’ve spent the last 2 weeks reading and watching everything I can find on Agile, Kanban and Lean workflows. I got side tracked for a day trying to figure out how I could create a LEGO kanban board. I got side tracked again when I couldn’t figure out how to best prioritize our issues when we have a time-sensitive project going on. And again when our CEO placed a pair of Google glasses on my desk and said, “Have fun!” But I think I might finally have an idea of how to best mange the current projects and workflow of my team.

Our dev team got together yesterday and created milestones from our requirements list. The milestones are definite: Issues and Features we have to accomplish in order to move forward on the project. Each milestone has a date, which is purely speculative. It’s hard to say it will take us 4 days to create a new feature, if we’ve never created that feature before. So we estimate on the high end. Each milestone has a issues, tasks, and features within it. For instance, one Milestone is to create a single sign on feature for the site. We are integrating Drupal with our Magento platform and need to create a single sign on (that also allows for social sign on) for user accounts. Within that Milestone are like 10 tasks such as research, installing Drupal, installing the social login plugin, etc. We estimated each task to help us estimate the milestone due date. These milestones will help us schedule the project and manage our time. For instance, if we are ahead of schedule for a certain milestone, but can’t move forward until another milestone is reached, we know we have time to address some lesser bugs on the current site or work on a “nice-to-have” feature. That’s another thing, milestones can be running simultaneously. As the UX Designer, I have specific features and tasks that I have to do before a developer can get his work done. I’m blocking him. So I created milestones for myself. Our front-end developer has milestones and so does our backend.

TeeFury Kanban - Agile Board - JIRA

The milestones get versions (0.1, 0.2, 0.3, etc.) and we use those to label our issues and features in JIRA. JIRA is what we use for all issues, bugs, features, and tasks, including design. I created a Kanban board in JIRA that I will continue to update as the team progresses through issues. Anyone can view this board. I have also created a physical Kanban board in our office that we will use for 2 week Sprints. This board has been complicated to create. I saw a ton of videos saying, “Oh you can create a Kanban board in 5 minutes”. Yeah, if you’re a single guy working at Starbucks and it’s just for yourself, sure. But for a product as complicated as an e-commerce site, with a re-platforming project going on, and old code to fix, plus you have a team of developers and tons of story owners demanding their issues be resolved…well now its a bit more complicated. We use columns, swimlanes (I learned those were basically rows), colored sticky notes, colored circle stickers, magnets, and of course, LEGO avatars. Because I was going to find a way to include LEGOs into my board somehow!

So now the physical board represents what we are currently working on, and the virtual board represents where we are at in the grand scheme of the project. So now I have a large and small view of the product.

What’s next is to implement some of the Lean UX principles I discovered from Jeff Gothelf. More on that later…


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