Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design


What is Good Design?

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Let's start with a warming up exercise: Which of these 2 examples do you think is the best design? A, the airplane cockpit of an A380? Or B, the all-too-familiar Google interface?

A) airplane cockpit of an A380?

A) airplane cockpit of an A380?

Google interface

B) Google interface

The airplane cockpit is an example of a great design for its intended target audience. Sure, a pilot will need some training and I don't pretend to be able to understand it, but I don't think we could simplify the interface without removing important functionality, would you agree?

The Google interface is clean and simple with lots of white space, but the real reason why it is a great design is because it meets google's business need of selling advertisement. Google does not want any distraction or even waste of bandwidth.

Strategy: End-User Needs

So in order to create a great design we have to invest time to define our UX strategy. First we need to ask

  • who our users are,
  • what these users are trying to accomplish or in other words what is in it for them and
  • then how successful they are doing that.

This typically requires research.

Strategy: Business Needs

The second aspect is to understand what the business needs are.

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How do we get there?
  • And most important of all how do we define success?

This is really essential for later stages in a project in order to make objective design decisions. We capture all the answers in a short document that we call the UI Strategy OneSheet (Download Word Template (.dotx)) which is literally only one page.

What is good Design?

So what is good design? What is the meaning of life of your application?

Good design is when it has a purpose, when it is useful to somebody.

Defining the UX strategy and capturing what success means is the basis for creating purpose.


User Experience and Interface Design for Web Apps

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Here the video for my talk about best practices for designing map applications on the web from Esri DevSummit 2015.


Every map application has two characteristics in common: it tries to solve a problem, and it needs a user interface (UI) to do so. This session presents best practices for solving well-known design problems and how to create easy-to-use and compelling interfaces. - See more at: http://video.esri.com/watch/4316/user-experience-and-interface-design-for-web-apps


Part 1 (Michael Gaigg)
Part 2 (Allan Laframboise)


Welcoming Cody Lawson to our UI Design Team

Posted by Michael Gaigg

This week Cody Lawson (LinkedIn) joined our team as a UI Engineer.

Cody earned his Bachelor degree in Web Design & Interactive Media from the Art Institute of California. As a freelancer he has helped many clients with his skills in web & graphic design as well as ecommerce & user interface development.

I'm very excited seeing his design and web development skills being applied to designing map interfaces for Esri Professional Services. Welcome on board!

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Video: Map App UI Design

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Here is the video from the tech session I held at the Esri DevSummit 2013 in Palm Springs, CA.

The session teaches participants best practices for reviewing, conceptualizing, designing and building user-centered mapping applications in a competitive business environment. Methods, techniques and tools for improving the user experience and designing useful and appealing front-end interfaces will be discussed.


Highlights of Week 22/2011

Posted by Michael Gaigg


Highlights of Week 13/2010

Posted by Michael Gaigg


Highlights of Week 12/2010

Posted by Michael Gaigg

I'm still feeling enriched by the exciting sessions presented at the Web App Masters Tour in San Diego. Check out Luke's notes of all the 9 sessions presented - fantastic!


Highlights of Week 02/2010

Posted by Michael Gaigg

  • Does usability exist? How Usability is like Intelligence (by Jeff Sauro) - very interesting analogy to intelligence and a first approach to relating the three usability areas Effectiveness, Efficiency and Satisfaction and how (and how much) they contribute to Usability 'u'.
  • The Case Against Vertical Navigation (by Louis Lazaris) - While I think the argumentation in this blog article is mislead by current design trends and biased in some way, I find 'shaking our world' good from time to time so we can re-think the way we're used to doing things.
  • Bad Usability Calendar 2010 - What would be the New Year without another one of their great Usability Calendars - Enjoy!
  • Curating Comments Threads (by Chris Coyier) - interesting discussion and good points about how to make comments more meaningful.
  • Live, Free webcast: Confessions of a Public Speaker - Probably you've heard already, Scott Berkun has his book out, and he's offering a free, 90 min. webcast about it, don't miss, sign up now.
  • The future of UI will be boring (by Scott Berkun) - Scott seems to be on mushrooms lately judging by the level of activity. Here another really good read about the future of UI design, love the 'rookie trap'.
  • jQuery 1.4 has been released (by John Resig) - right in time for jQuery's birthday, big news for a great JavaScript library, better iframe support, flexible events. My tip: get it!!
Suggested reading:

Free book online: Search User Interfaces

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Marti Hearst generously made her upcoming book "Search User Interfaces" available for reading online. She is definitely not a newcomer to the scene and the book for sure not a Best-Of compilation, moreover the book is written in an academic fashion that backs up its theses usability studies, log studies, or some other form of proof (like it!) - like Harry Brignull states: "Caution: actual thought may be required when reading this book."

Contents: Search User Interfaces

The book has two main parts: search fundamentals (Chapters 1-7) and advanced topics (Chapters 8-12).

0: Preface
1: Design of Search User Interfaces
2: Evaluation of Search User Interfaces
3: Models of the Information Seeking Process
4: Query Specification
5: Presentation of Search Results
6: Query Reformulation
7: Supporting the Search Process
8: Integrating Navigation with Search
9: Personalization in Search
10: Information Visualization for Search Interfaces
11: Information Visualization for Text Analysis
12: Emerging Trends in Search Interfaces

Suggested reading:

Benefits & Principles of User-Centered Design

Posted by Michael Gaigg

We, the people, have been around for quite some years now. Computers, software, applications and the web not so much. Therefore it is clear that applications have to adjust to the people and not the other way round.

Many design principles have developed throughout the decades, but the main difference of user-centered design to others is that

UCD tries to optimize the user interface around how people can, want, or need to work, rather than forcing the users to change how they work to accommodate the system or function.

Purpose of UCD

UCD answers questions about users and their tasks and goals, then use the findings to make decisions about development and design.

UCD seeks to answer the following questions:

  • Who are the users of the application?
  • What are the users’ main tasks and goals?
  • What are the users’ experience levels with the application?
  • What functions do the users need from the application?
  • What information might the users need, and in what form do they need it?
  • How do users think the application should work?

Benefits & Return of Investment

  • Increased usability
    • Higher degree of customer satisfaction
    • Continued business
    • Higher revenues
  • Project management optimization
    • Focus on important functionality early
    • Unforeseen user requirements
  • Reduced costs
    • Training costs
    • Help-Desk calls and service costs

UCD Principles

  • Focus on users’ needs, tasks and goals
  • Spend time on initial research and requirements
    • Identify your target audience and observe them (accomplishing their tasks)
    • Let users define product requirements
  • Emphasis on iterative design process
  • Evaluate system on real target users


Nobody could state it simpler than Susan Dray: "If the user can’t use it, it doesn’t work".