Updated Free Online Course: User Experience Fundamentals

At The Team W we’ve updated our free User Experience Fundamentals online video course. This latest version of the course has been filmed in our new studio. We’ve expanded and updated the content. The video clip below will give you an idea of what’s in the course.

You can get details on the course, preview some lessons, and/or register for the free course at our online video course website.  To see the catalog of all of our online video courses, go to the main catalog page. 

The Fascination Of Live Video

Logo for HumanTech podcast

Now anyone anywhere can create and stream live video. Have you spent any time at the Facebook Live Video Map? It’s fascinating and addictive. We explore why that is in this podcast episode.

HumanTech is a podcast at the intersection of humans, brain science, and technology. Your hosts Guthrie and Dr. Susan Weinschenk explore how behavioral and brain science affects our technologies and how technologies affect our brains.

You can subscribe to the HumanTech podcast through iTunes, Stitcher, or where ever you listen to podcasts.

Growing User Experience In Your Organization

If you are interested in growing the user experience group or capabilities in your organization, then you might want to watch this webinar recording. Jeff Horvath and I discuss five success factors to pay attention to when/if you want to grow UX. The video is an hour long, so get a cup of coffee or tea and settle in!:

Here are the five points for Growing UX that we discuss:

1. It’s a process, not a product

2. It takes great leadership

3. Be flexible

4. Be resourceful

5. It’s a culture thing

What are your challenges and successes you’ve had in growing UX capabilities in your organization?

You might also want to check out our report on skills that every UX professional needs:

Button that links to the Top 10 Skills Report

What Would Make An Animated Character Appear “Creepy”?

Realistic animated character that looks creepy.Have you ever stopped to think about animated characters? With the capabilities of graphics these days it’s possible for an animated character to look just like a real person. And then there are still cartoon characters created that look nothing like real people. Have you ever experienced an animated character that “creeped” you out?

Animators have to make constant decisions about how realistic a character should be, and what that even means. Research shows that there is a point where animated characters are not “cute” anymore, and actually can become “creepy”. This point is called the “uncanny valley”.

This semester at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, I worked with a student on an independent study project about the uncanny valley. This blog post is a guest post by the student, Kierstan Leaf, who describes the research study she did this semester:

The Uncanny Valley is the idea that as things, particularly robots and animated characters, become more realistic they eventually hit a point where we determine them to be creepy and nonhuman. This is due to the small inconsistencies that we see within the characters, for example, the skin texture or reflection in the eyes may seem a bit off.  We unconsciously notice these things because these are attributes that we observe daily in our interactions with people.

The Uncanny Valley theory originated from Masahiro Mori, while working with robotics in 1970. He compared the relationship between robots and their “degree of human likeness” (see the references below). Mori noticed that when robots become more lifelike they began to be viewed as being creepy. On the other hand when the robots did not have much human likeness, such as a robot in a factory, the creepy level was very low, if non-existent. 

For this study on the uncanny valley I took images from movies, cartoons, and television shows. I used images that ranged from “less realistic” (in other words, not human-like) to “more realistic”. These images were shown to 58 people to rate on a scale from 1 to 10 where “normal” was at one end and “creepy” at the other. I hypothesized that as the images become more realistic they would be considered creepier. Here’s a short video that summarizes the research shows the images I used, and the results of the study.



The hypothesis was correct. The more realistic the images were, the more creepy people rated them.

So what does this mean for decisions about animations in design? If  you would like your viewer to fall in love with your character nearly instantaneously, then perhaps you should stick with more cartoonish designs.  If you want your user to be scared of a monster or evil villain, you can push the line of realism and tip your viewer over to the creepy side. Knowing these unconscious reactions exist, you can apply them to your projects.


Mori, Masahiro. The Uncanny Valley. Trans. Karl F. MacDorman and Norri Kageki. IEEE Spectrum, 2012. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. <http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/the-uncanny-valley>. 

Karl F. MacDorman. Exploring the Uncanny Valley. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. <http://experiment.informatics.iupui.edu>.

What do you think? What do you think makes animated characters cross into the “creepy” realm?

If you have questions for Kierstan you can reach her at    kleaf716@uwsp.edu

Will 2015 Be The Year Of the Demise Of The Keyboard?

picture of a necklace made from keys on a keyboard.
Necklace and Photo by “Cassette Cavalcade”

Maybe I’m giving away my age when I say that I’ve been waiting to talk to computers since I was a kid watching Star Trek. Although voice interfaces have been around for a while, until recently they really didn’t work that well. Along came Siri and now there is “OK Google”, and we are starting to really get there.

The question that comes to my mind is, “When will the keyboard become a relic of the past?” or phrased another way, “When will I be writing my blog posts and books by talking into my computer.”

I’m reminded of one of my favorite Star Trek clips where Scotty and the Doctor go back to the 1980s and Scotty tries to talk to a Mac computer by speaking into the mouse:


Talking is a natural human activity. Touching objects (touch screen) or moving your hand (gestures on a screen or even trackpad) are natural human activities. Looking at pictures and symbols is a natural human activity even if it is on a screen. Typing on a keyboard? Not so much. Typing is an artificial invention. I’m a very fast typist, but I still can’t type as fast as I can talk.

We’ve now got smartphones that talk to us and understand our speech. And the new smartphones are so large they aren’t phones, they are “phablets”. So when are the rest of the devices going to catch up? Our laptops can have touch screens. Why not let the tablets and laptops and desktops do what the smartphones can do.?

Here’s a prediction that is probably more wishful thinking than prediction. Let’s make 2015 the year we throw away the keyboards. I hope this comes to pass. I’d like to see keyboards become obsolete (with the exception of specialized devices for the visual and/or speaking disabled). Just like I have a turntable in my house, in case I decide I want to listen to one of the old vinyl records I still have, I might have a keyboard just in case I get laryngitis. But as soon as it’s ready I’ll be buying a touch screen computer with excellent two-way voice capability and the keyboard will end up on a shelf in my basement gathering dust.

What do you think? Do you agree? When do you think this will happen?

The great photo at the top of the page and the unique necklace is by “Cassette Cavalcade” who makes various “tech” jewelry. You can find this necklace and more at their Etsy site. 


Why I’m Still In Love With User Testing

I’ve been doing user testing for (I’m afraid to admit) decades. And I still love it. It’s a great way to get feedback from people about how effective your design, your product, your assumptions are.

In these days of Lean everything you can’t beat user testing as one of the best Lean UX techniques to test your assumptions.

Here’s a short video on Why You Need To Do User Testing. It’s the first lesson in our newest online video course on User Testing. 

Do you know someone who needs to see this video?!




The Art & Science Of Creativity

The Art & Science Of Creativity SlideI’m really excited to announce that my newest online video course, The Art And Science Of Creativity is now live on Udemy.

How many times have you heard that certain people are just “born creative,” and certain people “aren’t.” It’s not true. Creativity is a process with clearly defined steps that you can learn and apply towards ANY project. Using techniques taken from brain science to rocket science, you’ll learn that everyone, including you, is born creative. If you think of yourself as creative already, this course will make you more efficient and productive with your creativity. If you think of yourself as one of the “not creative” people, this class will show you that you ARE creative, and how to bring that creativity to fruition.

The course teaches a creative process: from coming up with an initial idea, unpacking and expanding upon it, to shaping and refining it, the seven key principles of creativity – principles that apply whether you are working by yourself or as part of a team, the common roadblocks to creativity, and the remedies to get you through these roadblocks if and when they occur, so you can move forward on your project.

And in the course we talk about the brain science of the unconscious, how it applies to creativity, and how to give your brain the right data it needs to figure out the problem or next course of action, even when you are not consciously working on it.

Here’s the opening lesson: 


Go to the Udemy page for more information, to register for the course, or preview more videos.

We are offering a special price ($89, more than 50% off) if you register by March 3, 2014 and use the coupon code: VIPEntry

Instead of teaching this one by myself, I’ve got a co-instructor, Sam Spitzer. Sam is a rocket scientist, inventor, and composer. He’s very creative! I think you will enjoy learning from the two of us together.



Give Me Your Opinion — What Should Be My Next Online Video Course?

QuestionMarkIn April 50 people signed up to take one of my online video courses that I offer through Udemy.com. A big thank you to those who have signed up for a course. I have enjoyed putting these together, and the feedback I’m getting is that they are helpful and that people are learning a lot by taking them.

Now I need YOUR feedback on what the next courses should be that I develop.

Currently I have these four courses:


Task Analysis Boot Camp Course Logo






Personas & Scenarios Course Logo







Secrets of Intuitive Design Course Logo







Designing For Engagement







I’m working right now on this course:

Great Presenter







which will be ready in a few weeks.

Now the question is, what’s next?

I have a lot of ideas (in fact I have a whole list of courses in the queue, but I haven’t started them). Give me your opinion. What online video courses are you interested in taking that I should consider developing?

Write your ideas in the comments area, or send an email to susan@theteamw.com

Thanks in advance for your feedback!