A day in the life, usability edition

A few weeks ago, Brad told us what a day in his life is like. Inspired by Brad, here's a day in the life of a user experience researcher. My days are highly variable, depending on whether I'm doing a usability study or not, so I'm not sure if this description is typical of one of my days, let alone any other user experience researcher's day.

7:30am - Compared to Brad, I sleep in. I have a shorter commute than he does -- about 10 minutes, maybe 15 if the traffic lights aren't cooperating or if I stop for a coffee or Jamba Juice on the way in.

8:30am - I got into this habit when I had a longer commute. I always check my email before I leave home. I tell myself that it's so that I know when my first meeting is, but I spend much more time reading/responding to email than checking my calendar. One of the items in this morning's email tells me that our Redmond campus is closed today due to snow. I'm torn between being jealous that they got a snow day and happy that I live in the Bay Area and thus snow is something that happens to other people. Somehow I manage to spend an hour reading and responding to email.

9:30am - This is a fifteen-minute commute day. I need coffee.

10am - Meeting #1 is with my contractor. I'm about to go on vacation for most of December (yay!), so we're mapping out all of the work that needs to be done between now and mid-January: working with the app teams to ensure that our usability recommendations for previous studies are included in the final products, creating the task lists for our next two usability studies, and recruiting for usability participants at Macworld Expo in January. (And don't forget that you can sign up to participate in usability studies, too.)

11am - Meeting #2 is with the other PowerPoint leads: program management, development, test, marketing, and user assistance. We're all working hard on Magnesium (that's our codename for Office 12), and our status for that is the major topic of conversation today. We also agree on when I'll run my next usability test.

noon - The email gods are never appeased, and they have delivered another eleventy billion into my inbox. Sigh. Some of the email is from snowbound Redmonders who are apparently losing their sanity due to the cold.

1pm - The email gods deliver good news in the form of my 2pm meeting being cancelled. Oh thank goodness. I have some time to catch up on my to-do list, and I blast through many of them: write up my weekly status report for my manager, make a first pass at prioritising the usability findings from my last Entourage study, make a first pass at prioritising the usability findings from my last PowerPoint study, write most of this blog post.

3pm - Meeting with my manager. I ask him to hold down the fort while I'm gone. I hope he doesn't let the teams make a new UI element bright pink or blinking ...

4pm - And the meetings are done for the day. I have another chance to get things done, so I do: review a few things and send feedback, respond to some of the email, help out an Entourage PM with a question he has about laying out a dialog, chat with the PowerPoint lead PM about an upcoming meeting, chat with the PowerPoint lead dev about the differences between interviewing a candidate for an intern and a full-time position. I wrap up the day by writing up my to-do list for tomorrow so that I don't forget what I really need to get done first.

5:30pm - I duck out of the office to attend a Barenaked Ladies concert in San Francisco. Good night!

Comments (12)
  1. Rosyna says:

    “make a new UI element bright pink or blinking”

    Does this mean a UI element that is bright pink *and* blinking is ok? If so, I think I can assist with that. http://web.mac.com/rosyna/iWeb/Site/Menu%20Evil.html (takes a long time to load, sorry).

  2. Matthew Kirkcaldie says:

    Speaking of usability, will new versions of Office improve interoperability with Windows?  I routinely need to open files created by Word or Powerpoint under Windows, and every time I strike a WMF or EMF inclusion, the current Office 2004 apps do an ABYSMAL job of cross converting, with text all over the place and misoriented, and graphic elements all over the place.  I was resigned to that being an irreconcilable difference until I tried converting them in Apple’s Pages and / or Keynote.  The converted files are rendered perfectly, so it’s clearly possible.

    The most extreme example I can think of is a Powerpoint created poster which wouldn’t generate a usable PDF in Powerpoint on Mac OS X – OR on Windows, where it was created.  Importing it to Keynote allowed a perfectly rendered file to be exported to PDF in a single step.  Clearly things can improve in Office!

  3. Rick Schaut says:


    Looks like we’ve come a long way from Tom and Ed’s original Fish! screen saver.

  4. Rosyna says:

    Rick, indeed. Perhaps I should make a movie of that same effect in the Word menus. I secretly added the effect to a beta version of one of my projects and users were shocked. Mostly because of how fast it was in rendering in many menus. CVDisplayLink, FTW.

  5. nadyne says:

    Matthew — Compatibility is really important to us.  We’re always working to improve our compatibility, and I think that you’ll see some important improvements with regards to WMF and EMF in the future.  

    I’d love to get a copy of the PowerPoint presentation that you’ve had trouble with.  Would it be possible to get that from you?  If it is, please use the following link to give me your contact details and some more information about the systems you’re using (OSes, versions of PowerPoint, etc):


  6. nadyne says:

    Rosyna — That is just wrong.  If I have nightmares tonight, I’m blaming it on you!

  7. llorban says:

    I would be interested in learning more about ‘your day as a user experience researcher’ – specifically what kind of things do you do when you run a user experience study – methods, sampling, how are results communicated etc



  8. nadyne says:

    Levi – That’s a great question, and requires much more space than I have here in a comment.  I’ll write up some things in the future about this — but not now, tomorrow’s my last day in the office before I go on vacation. 🙂

  9. Joe says:

    I hope you have a few more usability tests going on…

    With the new DST change to March — In Entourage all my repeating calendar events between March 11th and March 31 for EST are off by 1 hour.

  10. George says:

    I’m also curious about the Entourage calendar repeating event problem in March 2007? Is there going to be a cure?

  11. Darcy says:

    I think that schedule sounds nice. Mine lately has been:

    6:30a – UP. At this time I can either do contract work, go to work early to help get to a deadline, or keep in touch with friends/family (blog, flickr update, email etc.)

    7:30a – Eat, shower, clothes, make bagged lunch.

    8:00a – Drive to work.

    8:15a – Day job starts. Code code code.

    10:00a – Granola bar break. 5 minutes later, back to coding.

    11:30a – Granola didn’t work. Eat lunch.

    11:45p – Back to coding, or read a magazine for a little break.

    12:30p-1:00p – Back to coding.

    3:00p – Push through exhaustion slump. Code.

    5-8pm – Go home somewhere in there. Coding until.

    8pm-12am – Either spend time with wife and relax, or do more contract work.

    Rinse repeat. That’s my $50k/year existence. 🙂 I had 5 days of holidays in August, and have 2 days left for December. My next 5 days aren’t until May.

  12. Mo says:

    Will the new version of office support right-left languages? IE Hebrew.


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