The making of the Stevens Pass anniversary logo, and its hidden memorial

stevens-pass-75-years Near the end of my 11th season designing for Stevens Pass, it came time to design a logo, badge, emblem… that encompassed the resort’s 75th anniversary. Little did we know how much life would change by the time it was done. The project ended up being one of the most emotional designs I’ve worked on, and one that ultimately ended in me taking creative work from someone else and not telling anyone.

Although this project had more iterations than most projects – including eight major redesigns – that’s not what set this apart. It wasn’t that this was a big anniversary, or that there were a lot of thoughts on what it should be. Those were all factors, but not the major hurdle. The challenge came as we lost the Ambassador of All Things Rad – Chris Rudolph. He was the effervescent 30-year-old marketing director for Stevens Pass.

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The UX Critic: Square – An Awkward Receipt

The payment processing company Square has spent the last few years revolutionizing payment processing. For many years I consulted with businesses of many sizes with ecommerce. I don’t know how many companies I walked through the process of getting a merchant account, and explaining to the customer all of the pain they were about to suffer. Many companies came along and offered very, very small improvement for a significant increase in cost. From my perspective, Square changed all that. Suddenly a friend who self funded and self published a children’s book could setup a table at another friend’s event and take payments with ease.

Square has set the bar pretty high. So when a couple months back I ran across a really, really irritating issue with them, I was quite surprised.

Often when we purchase from a vendor that uses Square, we probably don’t care about a receipt. It gets emailed to us, and that’s good enough. But what happens when we need to use that receipt in an expense report? I know that’s clearly not their primary use case, but it shouldn’t be an edge case that gets ignored. However, Square ignores it. Let’s take a look. Continue reading

The UX Critic: Washington State Parks Reservations – Can you find it?

In this edition of The UX Critic, we’re going to talk about discoverability. Much of the time I’m on the web, I’m just a user. I’m pretty good at turning off my UX hat… otherwise I’d probably go insane… and just being a user.

Camping season is coming soon, so I’ve been exploring some parks and looking to make reservations. One park is run by the Washington State Parks system. I Googled for Washington State Parks Reservations and came across a result at the top titled “Reservations | Washington State Parks and Recreation”. Yeah, that sounds right.

The result is http://parks.state.wa.us/232/Making-Reservations

Take a look at this full screenshot and let me know where you would click to make a reservation.

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The UX Critic: Weather.com’s mobile web access takes huge step backwards

In mid January, Weather.com dropped their mobile website entirely. All previous links to the mobile site now redirect to the corresponding page on their main site. To start off, I do want to mention one key tip that Weather.com handled well.

Tip #1: If you switch domains, subdomains… or otherwise change the URL of a page, you should redirect users from the old URL to a new one which provides the same basic content as the old. Don’t just redirect them to the home page, or even worse, fail to redirect them at all.

The mobile web

The core issue with the next tips is: How to best handle mobile web users. Previously, weather.com offered up a m.weather.com version of their site that was designed specifically for mobile. The content was focused. The code loaded fast.

Responsive web design is very popular. In many cases it is the right solution. Weather.com highlights a handful of pitfalls with responsive design. From a user’s perspective, their previous solution – a dedicated mobile site – was far superior than the responsive site. Continue reading

The UX Critic: SoundTransit – Exit on your right. No, your other right.

In the mid 90’s, I spent a lot of time using all forms of mass transit in Europe. I can’t tell you how many times in Germany I heard the phrase telling passengers to be careful while boarding, the doors close automatically. The choice few words varied by country and for some reason the phrases have always interested me. It’s somewhat like a call to action on a website – you’ve got just a sentence or two where people are going to pay attention, so you choose your words with great care.

I don’t ride light rail in the US very often. In the Seattle area, it’s fairly new. Recently I was on the SoundTransit light rail system and was comparing it to my experiences in Europe.

The first issue was pointed out by visitors who were confused as to what stop they needed. I didn’t notice this at first, and then a local pointed out to them the sign listing the stops was backwards. The train travels North and South. The graphic they used on the West side of the train was the same as the one on the East side of the train. This is the first time I’ve ever run across a train or light rail map on a car that was not reversed based on which side of the train car it’s on.

Tip #1: Light rail station maps should have correct left & right orientation. For example, if the train is going to the right as the user is looking on the map, then the next stop on the map should be the one to the right of the previous stop.

That one is so painfully obvious, I’m disappointed I have to mention it. SoundTransit does show stops in different order on their website, depending on the direction of the route.

map_clink_nbound map_clink_sbound Continue reading