An Update on Crowd-Sourcing Design Terms


“Hi Everyone,” I wrote several weeks ago on LinkedIn and in a Google Group, “I have a list of 100 UX/UI/UXR/Design-related terms that often confuse people. I'm looking for several volunteers to help define by them by crowdsourcing.”

The response was AMAZING.

53 people volunteered from around the globe. We divided into five groups, each with a leader. The list swelled to 150 terms. By last Friday, after only 7 days, 100 terms had been defined. Then we played “Musical Terms” with the 50 that remained.

Language matters. The terms we use can be super confusing. If we don’t speak the same language, it's enormously difficult to work together. And precision is extremely important!

Plus, there’s a big difference in how applied and academic research professionals communicate. I hope to create an effective bridge having both on this project.

True confession: I’m blown away we exceeded the goal in our original 10-day timeframe. I’ve never crowdsourced anything and it's been a truly magical experience. Participant feedback is SO positive.

My post also said “my thinking is that we would all benefit from a shared vocabulary and our teammates and clients would reap the benefits as well!”

We're on our way thanks to the many contributors below.

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How to Take Notes


Sure, you take notes in some meetings. But how much thought have you given to HOW you take notes? Notetaking forms new pathways in the brain, which makes recall easier. On top of that, storing the info allows you to revisit it later and reinforce what happened initially. In user research, taking notes is an art, a science AND a key process; here are some tips taken from our world that you can apply to your own notetaking: 1. Don’t try to capture every word; instead focus on the big ideas and essential observations. 2. If you need every word, record and transcribe the audio later… but still take notes. It will help you synthesize key points and l the meeting with better retention. 3. Only take notes to the extent you still notice the non-verbal information being shared. If you are always head-down, you’ll miss quite a bit. 4. To gain multiple perspectives, consider swapping notes afterwards with other meeting attendees. 5. For more nuanced takeaways, try capturing feelings, stories, thoughts, observations and behaviors in your notes. 6. To speed your notetaking and the actions that follow, assign codes to different categories or topics. Eg a +/- for positive/negative remarks, check boxes for followups, all caps for a-ha’s, etc

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Crowd-Sourcing Design-Related Terms


Hi Everyone, I have a list of 100 UX/UI/UXR/Design-related terms that often confuse people. I'm looking for several volunteers to help define by them by crowd-sourcing. My thinking is that we would all benefit from a shared vocabulary and our teammates and clients would reap the benefits as well!


1. I'm thinking of dividing the list of 100 into 4 or 5 smaller lists of 20-25 terms. Then gathering feedback from small groups of people in a Google doc, for a week or so, until they are fleshed out. I originally thought of a wiki but that doesn't seem very viable right now. Anyone have a better suggestion?

2. Are you interested in defining one or more terms? Taking a first pass at a term (or twenty)? Adding to the list of 100? GREAT! Please add your email address below, send me a DM, or email me at and we'll go from there!

OTHER THOUGHTS: I'm interested in people contributing that represent various experience levels. This will create a richer experience and provide an opportunity for new practitioners to learn from more established talent as the definitions unfold, and vice versa.

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Which languages do you speak?


Years ago, I moved back to San Francisco to work for Bank of America, in my first exposure to finance. “I'm going to get me some of this,” I quickly thought, meaning 'equity'. So I bought my first place, a COMPLETE DUMP in the Mission.

Then I redesigned it from the ground up, expanding it in two directions. I excavated and added a third unit. I was in complete heaven! For the first time, I brought together my father's architecture influence, my mother's interior design insights and my new-found finance knowledge.

I loved thinking about how people would walk through those spaces. Where would they put their keys? What types of molding are appropriate? Then I designed each unit in a totally different style because I figured, OMG, I'm never going to have a chance to do this again! And I just fell in love with what turned out to be my first foray into experience design and the built environment.

Since then, I like to say I'm multilingual. Design is my first language. Banking is my second (having spent 13 years as a creative in financial services). And now research is my third. I'm fluent in all three and together they allow me to enrich my projects and relationships with unique perspectives.

Which languages do you speak?

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Checklist to Launch a Study


I’m drafting a checklist for my General Assembly students to assess their own readiness to launch a user research study. Looking for input from people who have context about what's missing, confusing, helpful to add/remove, clarify etc.

  1. Do I know the business-driven reason to conduct this study?

  2. Which performance metric does this research tie into, specifically?

  3. Do I understand how the learnings will inform current and future business decision-making and when the learnings will be applied?

  4. Am I clear on the big questions, goals and assumptions?

  5. Are my stakeholders with business impact included and significantly invested?

  6. Am I clear on who will support the project, in what capacity, and when?

  7. Have I gathered the information and past learnings related to the topic that already exist?

  8. Is the timeline, budget and resource allocation aligned with the overall approach and the format and timing of the expected deliverables?

  9. Is there a way to supplement or complement previous, current or future research?

  10. Are there any specific client or participant cultural considerations?

  11. Am I asking the right people the right questions, in the right way?

  12. What are the biggest risks and how can I mitigate them?

Visit to download the beta version of this checklist!

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Make Each Other Better


I am a firm believer that conducting user research is and should be a team sport. Last month I spoke at a LTUX event about this topic, specifically on the importance of including your stakeholders throughout your user research process and how to do it every step of the way.

Your user research will be better as a result of this inclusion and diversity of thought. It will also lead to deeper buy-in earlier in the process and in turn allow you to move faster from insights into action.

Last night I went to the CascadeSF Growth Design event at In the lobby sat four of Thumbtack’s brand pillars. This one really struck a chord:

“MAKE EACH OTHER BETTER We only realize Thumbtack’s potential if we realize our own. So we’re humble, encouraging and transparent with each other even when it’s hard.”

It immediately reminded me of my LTUX talk with a terrifically simple, aspirational and attainable message. I may just rename my talk about including your stakeholders in user research to simply “MAKE EACH OTHER BETTER.”

That’s what it comes down to at the end of the day, right?

Lifting each other up and MAKING EACH OTHER BETTER.

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User Research is Part Art, Science and Improv.

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To me, user research is part art, part science and part improv. Yep, improv. But—let’s face it—not many people think of researchers as being good at improv.

In truth, we frequently have to get into character, switch roles, and channel our beginner's mindset (and quickly). We have to loosen up in order to think on our feet. We improvise when a prototype isn't done or doesn't function properly... we have technical issues, a stakeholder moved the goal post, we can’t recruit the right people, our subjects aren't responding in ways we expected. I could go on and on. Trust me, I think on my feet a lot in my work!

The improv aspect of user research is partially what makes the practice super fun too.

To me, decent research work involves a mixture of art and science, but to produce great, truly inspired work, you need to also add in the ability to improvise. There are opportunities to do so from the first meeting with a new client, during each stakeholder interaction, when conducting (or performing!) the research with the people we’re studying, and after.

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The Wrong Way to Use Social Media for Research

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Here’s an example of the WRONG way to use social media for research purposes. “Please take a look at my About section and give me feedback. Is it easy to read and do you understand what I do?”

This post was in one of my professional groups. I see these requests a lot and THEY SCARE ME. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely applaud anyone who seeks genuine feedback. But there are MUCH BETTER ways to do it.

Here’s why this makes me sad (because it won’t be very effective).

First, she’s not asking her target audience (cannabis oil users). Half the people who respond probably aren’t even vaguely in her market.

Second, there are no means to judge whether they actually understand. What’s the right answer here?

Third, “easy to read” is such a subjective question; people have very different interpretations of ease.

A better approach might be, “Hey cannabis oil users, I'm trying to see if my About section is communicating my message accurately. Could you please comment on what you think I’m saying?”

This defines who she wants feedback from and provides a method to evaluate whether they understand or not.


Got a question about research? I’ll be happy to answer it. Seriously, this stuff keeps me up at night. I wish I could tell her this.

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Learning to Ride a Bike is A Lot like Learning to Have a Meaningful Conversation

My daughter, Que (it’s a long story!) is learning to ride a bike, and I’ve noticed that doing so is a lot like learning to have a meaningful conversation.

Both require you to be neutral and balanced. You need to focus and try not to get distracted by the little things that are happening around you. And there’s also this notion—which you need to accept—that in the beginning you're gonna stumble. With more experience, you're going to gain confidence and improve.

Importantly, no one's going to come out of the gate the first time knowing how to do it.

When you think about it, having a meaningful conversation is MORE complicated than riding a bike! So it’s totally unrealistic to think that you can do it without practice and failing and learning and falling and getting better and getting it to be completely natural.

Just as with riding a bike, you're building new muscles. You are building your focus muscles. You’re learning to be present and curious. You’re learning to instill trust and confidence in the other person.

One last point: fear is what stops people from learning both skills, but once you conquer it, you will be amazed that you ever felt fear at all.

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Are your customers are behaving “illogically”?

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Last month I challenged myself to write about questions clients ask me to explore. Now I think it may be more fun to share interesting work stories, like this one, instead.

Has the thought ever occurred to you that your customers are behaving “illogically”? Maybe you haven’t looked closely enough at their needs or motivations.

A few years ago, I worked with an online retailer that had 10k people on their site at a time. Visitors would often spend hours there… but purchasing was very low. My client wanted to understand why.

We discovered two big things early on. First, many people were using the site to KILL TIME. They found it entertaining and valuable, almost like an educational tool. They used it to comparison shop, to find out if what they were finding elsewhere was a good value or not.

Second, customers LOVED the site… and engaged customers are a huge asset! There was an opportunity to harness their energy and desire to learn. Simple example: ask them to contribute tags, or flag something that's tagged inaccurately, to improve search. Or help people achieve different levels of certifications or education, instead of simply trying to sell them products.

Helpful hint: what you sell (today) is not necessarily a good way to define or understand your customers.

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What Makes a Great Teacher? An Outstanding Researcher?

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What makes a great teacher? An outstanding researcher? It turns out many of the answers are pretty similar for both professions.

I both conduct and teach user research, so it recently occurred to me that a good researcher and a good teacher share many of the same characteristics. They both are or should be:

  • Passionate

  • Deeply invested

  • Able to think quickly

  • Agile

  • Collaborative

  • Conversant

  • Curious

  • Empathetic

  • Ethical

  • Friendly

  • Informative

  • Open-minded

  • Resilient

Each profession requires quite a bit of improvisation. Curveballs keep interactions interesting, dynamic, fun, and challenging. I learn just as much from my students as they learn from me. I love making my classes dynamic to mirror what happens in the field.

But the similarities go even deeper. Identifying research goals and good research questions (i.e. being a researcher) is very similar to identifying actionable and achievable learning outcomes (i.e. being a teacher).

In both professions, you start with a topic, narrow it down, explore related questions and eventually dive into a juicy, semi-structured mystery. It's the bomb.

Thank you to my teachers during this teacher appreciation week! You inspired me to practice what I preach. I'm off to class (seriously)!

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