Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design


Happy 5th Anniversary

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Thanks once again for encouraging me to write this blog, this really keeps me going! THANK YOU!

The last year was amazing. We were fortunate enough to hire two outstanding and very talented individuals, Jayson Ward and Cody Lawson, which made the team stronger and better than ever before 🙂

I also started a blog about Map UI Patterns where I summarize and publish my experience by describing common patterns, principles, and practices when working with map apps.

Highlights from last year

Map UI Patterns


10 Design Lessons learned from my Sons

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Forget the Theory

The tips won't stop, everybody seems to have their own solution and books just make it harder. Just one thing is certain, all the book-smartness won't help you raise your own children. You need to get your hands dirty, learn the hard way, improve and adjust. Become street-smart, do it and do it again. And after years you still cannot add 'Father' to your resume (unless the fact that your DNA got duplicated is enough for you) because it's not a skill or attribute, it's a state of being, you will never end learning and it will never end (hopefully).

Answer the obvious questions

I get the same questions over and over again. "Are they identical?" - People tend to ask/need to know what is most obvious. It's like walking into a personal library, you just gotta ask if the person has read all the book - of course not, it's a library, it's there to look up something when you need it. But still, people need to ask the first thing that comes to their mind and that's most often the obvious. And yet you will need to answer. Get over it and free these poor souls. Answer the obvious question to get to the juicy ones.

Stop and recognize beauty

Last summer we were walking the beautiful streets of old town Salzburg, Austria. My son stopped in front of a violinist to listen to her street performance. Having had the plan in mind to get to the ice cream store before sunset I dragged him away. Only later it settled that sometimes we overlook the true beauty of everyday things, our life is too fast. Children have this innate, pure sense, plenty to learn!

Terrible two's

It's not about the tantrum or hissy fit, that sudden outburst of temper, often used to describe anger at something else trivial. Sometimes something - like feeding pizza to the cat - makes perfect sense to him but doesn't necessarily fit into our world. We have to observe, understand the meaning of the situation and decide how far we can go and when to cut it (or sometimes just let it be).

Touch is in

If something doesn't respond to touch it is broken. Having learned to operate my Android phone my 2 y/o son was frustrated and without understanding that the monitor of my workstation didn't react to touch AND swipe. Mouse? WTH...


I want to have his patience, repeating the same video, sequence, word, or task over and over again. But one can only master something through practice, and that requires diligence and patience. Both can be (re-)learned and remembered. Or like golfing legend Arnold Palmer used to say: "The more I practice, the luckier I get".


Should be a no-brainer, but my sons laugh and enjoy the small and simple things, but mostly the words, sounds and interactions that come across pure and authentic. They feel when I'm "into it", not distracted, bored, absent, etc. This passion translates into good designs, make your users feel special. Priceless!

Feedback / Responsive

Kids want feedback, a simple repeat of whatever they were mumbling helps already to show them that we 'understood' them. It's like ordering at McDonalds where the clerk at the window repeats my order, it helps me feel at ease that the other side will actually stack my burger without pickles. Kids will continue asking for you until you answer, and believe me, they will make their voices heard if you don't answer immediately.


Imagination is basis of creativity and innovation. Being able to imagine situations is essential to understanding problem spaces and situations. "Pretending to be" is the current #1 game of my son. He is so into imagining to be "somebody else" that he can start crying when something conflicts with something that is meant for "him". Zooming into my office, bystanders probably think I am crazy when they see me staring at a blank wireframe for 1/2 hour. I'm not the type of guy that starts sketching the heck out myself, I prefer deliberating all possible situations, workflows, alternatives (at least the ones that I can come up with) in my mind first. It's like a chess player that thinks multiple moves ahead and then takes the 'best' move according to the current situation and knowledge.

What are your thoughts and experiences? Anything else to add?


Highlights of Week 20/2011

Posted by Michael Gaigg


Implications of the Inability of Users to Search Effectively

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Jakob Nielsen outlines in his latest alertbox newsletter (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/search-skills.html) the inability of users to search effectively.


My colleague Neal Dinoff, Esri Usability Lab Manager, summarized the article and outlined Jakob Nielsen's core findings:

  • People (even highly educated people) have remarkably poor search skills.
  • Once they head down a keyword path, no matter how fruitless, they seldom change their search strategy
  • Users will enter search terms into any open text field with no understanding of whether they are searching the whole site, the World Wide Web, or only a discreet section of the site.
  • Users are overconfident in the reliability of results.
  • Almost no one uses Advanced Search. When they do, they use it incorrectly.


Neal continues to conclude lessons for our search design:

  • Don't assume that advanced search will help your website; you might build such features, but people will use them only in exceptional cases.
  • Spend the vast majority of your resources on improving regular search (simple search).
  • Design for the way the world is, not the way we wish it were. This means accepting search dominance, and trying to help users with poor research skills.


I believe more implications can be deducted:

  • Curate (make sense of) content (!!!):
    • Aggregate (most relevant in one location)
    • Distill (more simplistic)
    • Elevate (identify and describe trends/insights)
    • Mashup (create new points of view based on multiple sources)
  • Every page is a potential landing page, so help user to:
    • Locate themselves (titles)
    • Provide context (the bigger picture)
    • Find the content/functions they were originally looking for
    • Navigate further (well thought-through navigation architecture + good links + meaningful footer links)
  • Create pages so that they can be found through:
    • Search Engine Optimization (metatags, headings, etc.)
    • Write in the language of your users, that’s how they will search

What are your Experiences?


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:


Secret of Pixar’s Success [Link]

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Secret of Pixar's Success

Secret of Pixar's Success

A friend of mine sent me this link to an article called The Secret Of Pixar’s Success (How to make great movies and billions of dollars) by Helen O'Hara.

Lessons learned

Besides being an interesting and worthwhile read I'd like to share my lessons learned and how they can apply to web design:

  • Innovate (basically: use new technology when the time is right and only when it’s absolutely necessary but continuously try solving real problems, not inventing fictitious ones)
  • Genius (have a great team)
  • Keep learning (Field studies 😉
  • Fail early and often (Prototyping)
  • Advice (Heuristic evaluation, expert reviews)
  • Don’t be afraid of failure (should be part of the company culture to be successfully applied)
  • Share (should also be part of company culture, but mostly isn’t)