How Can UX Help?

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- The New York Times

“So every weeknight, the siblings stood outside the low-slung school, sometimes for hours, to complete homework for the sixth grade.”

“Yunuen Reyes, 17, a high school senior in Pharr, does not have Internet at home and typically has three hours of homework a day that require research and collaboration with classmates online. Some assignments and take-home exams are due by midnight and must be submitted over the web.”

“The school district has put Wi-Fi on more than 100 school buses to help students who do not have access at home, and Perla relies on school bus rides — nearly three hours a day — to finish homework. I could go home on a shorter bus route, but I want to get A’s,” Perla said.”

^I commute 3 hours every day to Google for work. I rarely work on the bus because I get incredibly nauseous – and I know lots of people who do as well. It’s great that the wifi on the bus option exists, but what other equally useful “bandaid” solutions (whilst the slow, long march to better regulatory solutions continue) can the UX community help think up in conjunction with the kids and educators?




Why User Experience Is So Desperately Needed To Boost Health Literacy

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Why user experience research and design (obviously including amazing content people) is so desperately needed in boosting health literacy:

“Experts also point to another factor behind dropping or losing coverage: confusion.

Some who signed up for coverage this year lost it within months because they did not understand what information they had to supply or even that they were required to make monthly payments, according to counselors who help people enroll in marketplace plans.

“I’ve looked at these letters and said, ‘O.K., I have a bachelor’s degree and I wouldn’t understand this, either,’ ” Ms. Rogers said. “It’s just not worded clearly.”

                                                                                    – The New York Times

I completely empathize. I’m finishing up a master’s of science right now, and any letter or message from my healthcare provider means I’m going to be dialing their hotline or asking a friend for clarification. As someone with a content background, it’s a bit of a pet peeve – use lovely, succinct, plain English, please!

A Different Perspective: Hospital Signage


Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong

I get very, very happy about good, universally accessible signage in public places like airports, trains, roads, etc. On the flip side, I get very, very upset by bad signage and god knows there’s a lot of it.*

So when I took my mother to the hospital in Hong Kong, I was pleasantly surprised by these directional lines on the floor. I quickly and easily followed the green line to the pharmacy desk (navigating through several hospital wings) to pick up her medication. It made me happy, because as we all know, anything that makes the hospital experience better is a blessing.

IMG_7561Waiting in line at the pharmacy desk

*PS – Please hire me to do usability research and testing on signage if you represent an airport, train, subway, or road. PLEASE. I would get giddy from excitement.

A Useful (Micro-Delightful?) Nudge From Yelp


I don’t often praise Yelp even though I use it all the time (another time, we shall address why I don’t praise an app I clearly use several times a week), but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by their Labor Day notification for users, reminding us to call restaurants ahead of time before we head over.

It’s contextually aware, useful and super simple.

And yes I did use it, and it saved me time and effort. That was nice, Yelp. Thanks!


McDonald’s New Hipster Marketing


Or at least new to me. I was walking down San Francisco’s financial district the other day when this flyer was pressed into my hands.

I couldn’t even tell the flyer was for McDonald’s at first. As it’s one of the most iconic brands in the world, that’s pretty surprising. I wonder what their strategy and goals are with this revamp.

My first reaction: It looks very cookie cutter hipster, in pleasantly meh and forgettable way. Maybe that’s only my impression as someone who lives in San Francisco?


back of the flyer




San Francisco Subway’s Warning To Teens


I have a slight obsession with signage on public transit systems, probably because I grew up constantly navigating unfamiliar ones. So the first time I saw this sign on the San Francisco subway system, I was immediately intrigued.

When wondering what led to the creation of this penal code, I conjured up images of teenagers merrily running around, spray painting and marking up subway trains. 

Reading the penal code, it seems unfair…and/or an indication of how bad the situation must have been, or perceived to have been. The teens don’t even need to be doing anything with the spray paint or markers – just having them is against the law.

I wonder what kind of graffiti was created and who were the people behind them? Who were the people behind the penal code, and what kinds of conflict and enforcement had to follow, if it did come to that?

I love the stories that come to mind when you read these random signs around a city. 

- Typed on the go…

Happy July 4th!

July 4 horse

Seen in Aptos, California.

You know what this horse reminds me of? The Mainland China craze of dyeing your dogs to look like other animals about 5 years ago. Not sure what that means? Take a gander:

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Yup, that’s a dog dyed to look like a panda.

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And yes, that’s a retriever dyed like a tiger.

I know it’s not exactly the same as a horse dyed to resemble the American stars and stripes, but still – let’s commend our furry / hairy companions for their patience with us, shall we? :)

Happy 4th!


Facilitating at OpenIDEO San Francisco!


Super fun facilitating a team during the refinement and prototyping phase of OpenIDEO San Francisco Meet Up:Design Thinking Challenge with Social Impact – Refugee Education. This team of 4 strangers from around the world (and none with a UX background) communicated and collaborated amazingly together for 3 hours, working on refining and prototyping one of the submitted ideas!


As a facilitator, I had to go through 3 hours of training one early Saturday morning. In true design thinking fashion of ‘more doing less talking,’ we ran through the refinement/prototyping exercises ourselves so we could learn how to be a better facilitator.

My takeaway? I wish there were these kinds of trainings on how to run a meeting at every company. For something with that much impact (time, money, morale, culture), meetings are still so…bleah.

Ps – If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer for the San Francisco OpenIDEO chapter, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to put you in touch with the organizer!



Trash Can Design in Vancouver

Vancouver trash can

Interesting trash can design in downtown Vancouver!

Can’t help but wonder about the ‘why’ and research behind it, funding, implementation, distribution of such trash cans, how well its done in meeting its purpose and reception by the public. And then of course, how has it changed the public’s behavior, if at all?

And by the public, I also include the people picking through the trash for bottles / cans. Does it help them? Was it meant to? What do they think? Has anything changed for them?

Interesting stuff!

Ps – I have an interest in the global recycling industry (especially China’s role) that was first stoked by journalist and author Adam Minter’s works. If you’re interested, this is a fascinating look into a billion dollar industry from a man who grew up in a family of junkyard owners.

- Typed on-the-go…