UX Examples for Start-ups

June 21st, 2009 · 2 Comments

In my last post, Education for a team of none, I wrote about how I’ve noticed very little documentation for someone in my situation. And I don’t think it’s a rare one: I’ve got low or no budget for user research. I’m new to UX (1.5 years, professionally). And the people I’m working with need to be educated about the importance of UX design.

If my circumstances aren’t rare, why haven’t I seen relevant examples of hardships and successes evangelizing and designing user experiences in start-ups?

After speaking with several people about my curious observation, I’ve come to a number of conclusions. One is, relevant examples are a small part of the big picture. Another is, people who are new to UX don’t know or don’t want to talk about their challenges and successes. But I’d like to focus on producing examples, rather than motivating people to talk more. The former I can directly achieve, the latter I can only passively affect.

Personas were a bad example

In my last post, I used an example of how I had not seen an example of low-budget personas. Unfortunately, personas were a poor choice for discussing a lack of documentation. Hardly anyone can agree that they’re useful, so I struck a nerve that might have distracted some people from my main point: the lack of examples. Also, there aren’t a lot of people doing them, so naturally, it’s going to be harder to find relevant examples of low-budget personas. So, I digress.

An example from the bit caveā„¢

I’m going to use an example from a subject that is well documented, HTML and CSS. I know this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, but the contrast is enlightening (to me at least).

In chapter 2 of the excellent book Bulletproof Web Design by Dan Cederholm, an example of scalable navigation is dissected and built from the ground up. He starts by giving us some context, showing a common approach to tabbed navigation. He then refutes the flawed approach and expounds a better method of building tabbed navigation. His example is repeatable and replicable. You can take the code he provides and build your own scalable navigation, step-by-step. There aren’t many examples like that in UX design. But there are some who are providing clear examples of entry-level UX design tasks and methods.

UX documentation examples

Kevin Hoffman reminded me of one of the first UX design books I had ever read: Dan Brown’s Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning. It has plenty of examples to whet the appetite of an UX newbie. But what I’m really after are examples of wireframes or flow charts from someone in my situation: low-budget, no expertise, and inexperienced (UX-wise) colleagues.

Why do these examples have to come from someone in this situation? Because I’m willing to bet that how an amateur does wireframes is going to be different (but not necessarily better) than how an expert does wireframes. The amateur might not know the best way to do it, but they’ll likely cover ground that’s more familiar to other amateurs. I’m not discounting the expert as irrelevant, on the contrary, the best way to learn is from experts. But, that aside, I haven’t seen amateurs teaching amateurs, and would like to see what comes from it.

Maybe I’m asking for too much? Which is why I’m not shaking my fist at the world, demanding someone else fill this void. Rather, I’m going to start writing about UX design examples in the wild, at my start-up company.

Jason Robb, on wireframes

My first article will be on wireframing with sticky notes, a notebook, and good ol’ markup and style. I’ll (hopefully) show how I went from a set of business requirements, to a rough concept on paper, to implementation in HTML and CSS. I’ll be publishing it on this site some time in the very near future.

My first ever presentation, at Pittsburgh Web Design Day, was about wireframes. The presentation went okay, but one thing I realized was how crucial examples are to effective communication. Unfortunately, my slides were saturated with lists instead of wireframes from the wild. Not to mention I was grossly unprepared. So hopefully this will be a nice opportunity to reclaim some lost ground.


If you have a suggestion for a topic to cover, I’d love to hear from you! There is nothing too simple or mundane for me to talk about, anything from UX ideation to implementation. Please email me or @ me on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Tags: Communication · User Experience · Blogging · Education · Documentation · Start-ups

What do you think?


  • 1 Education for a team of none — Jason Robb Jun 21, 2009 at 10:18 am

    […] updates ← UX Generalists & Specialists UX Examples for Start-ups […]

  • 2 James Sinclair Jun 23, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I look forward to your first post.