Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design


Esri Redistricting App on Frontpage of ArcNews (Spring 2011)

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Redistricting app featured on ArcNews, Spring 2011

Redistricting app featured on ArcNews, Spring 2011

It's always exciting to see your designs come to life but it's even cooler to be featured on the front page of a ArcNews Spring 2011, one of Esri's main publications.

"Esri Redistricting is a Web-based solution for state and local governments, legislators, and advocacy groups to create political and geographic redistricting plans." The app is hosted by Esri and delivered as software-as-a-service through annual subscriptions (30 days free trial available).

Mockups in MS PowerPoint

First of all I want to mention that the project became a success only for the dedicated and hard work of so many talented people, my part was really only the literal drop on a hot stone.

Very early on I had the feeling that this project would benefit from higher graphical fidelity (maps, charts, colors were important) so I decided to use Microsoft PowerPoint to communicate the designs. Using my wireframe stencils to draw the UI elements we iterated through multiple versions and approaches.

Main Lesson: Use slide master layout as background

Mockups in MS PowerPoint

Mockups in MS PowerPoint

My biggest lesson was the need to create a new layout to the Slide Master which would serve as the background. This layout included the banner (logo, user information), the menu (ribbon) and the map area.


  • Changes propagated to all slides (e.g. modify a label)
  • Easy manipulation of elements on top of static background
  • Remove source of errors (forgot to update a slide)
  • Cleaner in general 😉

Cheatsheet: Preparation for User Testing

Posted by Michael Gaigg

I find the following list really helpful when planning and conducting user testing. I collect and refine it constantly and would greatly appreciate any comments or additions I have missed (and I'm sure I did).


  • setup web meeting
  • tell secretary to not delete account and associated recordings
  • test connection, equipment and recording capabilities
  • setup schedule for participants
  • send connection info to stakeholders
  • remind everybody to mute their phones (or whatever else is necessary)
  • prepare necessary data and files

Test machine:

  • hide windows toolbar
  • close mail program


  • enable full screen for all users
  • show host cursors to all attendees
  • allow access to observers
  • share desktop


  • clear user generated content from previous user
  • reset application
  • remove cookies
  • start blank application (if that's part of the test)
  • take a break/breather for yourself
  • prepare your personal notes taking material
  • get acquainted with name and capabilities of next participant
  • provide water for participant
  • start recording
  • greet participant and get going


  • clarify time line for test results (findings & analysis)
  • send thank you emails to participants

An Elephant? Really?

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Go figure...

Go figure...

I think she has a valid point here... But just to make sure I ask the audience...

Which one is your answer? Why?

Pardon the off-topic, can't stop laughing.

Filed under: Go figure 3 Comments

JavaScript Pop-ups – Good or Bad?

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Having witnessed a recent discussion on the WAI Interest Group list I asked myself, are JavaScript Pop-ups good or bad (or evil)?


It depends. But mostly bad 😉


John Colby's from Birmingham City University arguments on why pop-ups are bad:

  1. Because people are warned about them (http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/guides/about-popups)
  2. Because of their association with scams, viruses, malware, sites using popups are 'less trustworthy'
  3. Users with sight or cognitive problems (http://soap.stanford.edu/show.php?contentid=47)
  4. (And personally) if they insist on using popups I'll go away.

Richard from Userite remembers us that:

...the pop-up almost certainly takes the focus away from the current window. Blind users will not know this unless you tell them AND provide a clear method to close the pop-up and return the user to the point immediately after where the pop-up activated. Also remember to provide a text based alternative for those who do not have javascripting.

with Charles McCathieNevile from Opera adding:

...that many users have pop-ups blocked by default now, so won't actually see it even if they are not blind.


Harry Loots of the IEEE has a point when he says:

If it will supply useful information to the user, then don't kick against it, but make sure that the feedback / information so provided is accessible. For example, if the pop-up is used to confirm the product has been added and the user's browser does not support scripting/popups, a physical line of text may be displayed to confirm the product has been added (which can be hidden in the view seen by users who get the popup)

My Take

When a client asks for a specific design element, one needs to wonder where this need came from in the first place.

In the case that the client is not satisfied with visibility of system status. Try

  • Improving titles and labels
  • Adding non-obstructive instructions
  • Providing feedback in an alternative way (as Harry pointed out), additional confirmation page always helps
  • Keeping elements and its status (e.g. shopping cart belongs to the top right corner) in its user-anticipated location
  • Using visual cues to show what just happened

Accessibility Events in May

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Jennison Mark Asuncion just posted 4 upcoming accessibility events in North America:

Missed one? Post it in the comments section.


Highlights of Week 11/2011

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Thanks to everybody that sent me link suggestions. Here the highlights for week 11/2011:


Highlights of Week 10/2011

Posted by Michael Gaigg


List of UX Conferences in 2011

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Here a list of interesting User Experience/Usability Conferences in 2011 (thanks to Sooria for sharing):

Do you have any past experiences you'd like to share? Did I miss one? Tell me in the comments!


10 and 1/2 Lessons Learned from Forrest Gump

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump

Who doesn't remember Forrest Gump? One of the all-time greats in movie history, the comedy turned drama, the 'dumb' guy that teaches us lesson after lesson. You gotta love this movie, at least I can watch it over and over again and so it just happened and I started wondering, why do his stories touch us so much and what can we learn? Bruce Temkin puts it elegantly: "People relate to stories because it is part of their evolutionary makeup. Stories cause our mirror neurons to fire at similar experiences, helping us remember and relate." That's why.

And here are the 10 and 1/2 Lessons Learned from Forrest Gump:

Start small

That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road.

You just start! Start somewhere, anywhere. Then you take one step, then the next, baby-steps to the elevator, right? Once in motion you take the next bigger step, one leads to the other and soon you hit the Atlantic Ocean 😉

Have endourance

shit happens

Some could interpret this as 'get inspired', but whatever it is, it eventually boils down to... sh*&%$# happens! Don't give up, innovate and renovate.

Keep perspective

Jenny, it looked like there were two skies one on top of the other. And then in the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the earth began. It's so beautiful.

Regardless of the circumstances, perspective can change everything. So don't loose perspective.

Move on

My mama always said you got to put the past behind you before you can move on.

What happened yesterday is over.......unless you choose to put it in your future!


And cause I was a gazillionaire, and I liked doing it so much, I cut that grass for free.

Enjoy what you are doing and greatness will be your harvest. Never become so obsessed that you loose touch with the little things in life, many times this is what counts most.


I'm not a smart man... but I know what love is

Care about what you are doing, care about who will be using it. Don't try to be smart, follow your heart.


Momma always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them.

Find a mentor, learn from others, learn from yourself, learn from your successes, learn from your mistakes, whatever it is... learn!

Give and take

Jenny taught me how to climb. And I taught her how to dangle

It is ok to borrow ideas, to get inspired. Nobody needs to reinvent the wheel, but return the favor, contribute, share, help!


I’m sorry I had to fight in the middle of your Black Panther party

Yes, bad idea hahahaha. Well, he got away with it that's why you could/should too. You screwed up? Be honest, be bold, appologize and explain!

Don't get distracted

Have you found Jesus yet, Gump? Forrest Gump: "I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for Him, sir."

Follow your believes, be true to yourself. Don't get side-tracked. It's good to expand your horizon, but stick to your plan.

Don't do stupid things

Stupid is as stupid does

Need I say more? Just don't do it!! And especially, don't do it again! KISS - keep it simple, stupid!

Bonus: Repetition helps remembering

My Mama used to say...'Life is like a Box of Chocolates'...you never know which one you're gonna get!

Repeat 100 times. Yes, it's nonsense. Just read the label and you know, but hey, repeat it often enough and you'll believe (and remember).

Further Reading

Some of the inspiration for this article (and good reads regardless) are the following links:


Highlights of Week 06/2011

Posted by Michael Gaigg

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