Firefox Research in Thailand

In August and September, the Mozilla User Experience Research Team visited Thailand and Indonesia to conduct Firefox qualitative research. The goal of this research project was to understand how people in these markets experience the Internet and to learn about emerging trends that will provide insight into new and current product features. If you would like to learn more about the project planning phase of this study, please read the first post in this series. The fieldwork teams will be dedicating the end of September to the thorough analysis of our findings. In the meantime, we are excited to share five initial observations from our Thailand fieldwork.

The Mozilla research team, along with our partner SonicRim, interviewed 22 participants in 11 sessions over a two week period in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand. We also had the opportunity to explore cultural sights, public transportation, new and second-hand electronics stores, public spaces, Internet cafes, and universities.

Bangkok Day 4 928


The transportation options in Thai cities are seemingly endless - everything from motor bikes and tuk tuks for hire to public boats and trains. In Bangkok, the congestion is also seemingly endless, with an average road speed of less than 10 mph.Perhaps as a result of these long commutes, mobile devices are popular and prevalent on all types of transportation. In fact, Thailand has a mobile phone penetration rate of 120%, which means there are more mobile phones in use than there are people.

A man in Bangkok using his mobile device in traffic.


While basic feature phones are still the most common mobile device in Thailand, smartphone sales have more than doubled in the last two years.3 The latest high-end phones (Samsung, Apple, Nexus) are very popular, though cheaper models, used devices, and knock-offs are also abundant. Mobile phones are routinely sold unlocked in Thailand, which makes it easier to sell used devices or upgrade to the latest technology.

People using their mobile devices in a popular Bangkok mall.

Internet Access

The Thai government has committed 30 billion baht (US$0.94 billion) to its "Smart Thailand" initiative in an effort to connect 85% of the country to high-speed broadband by 2015.4 The government has also partnered with major telecom providers to install more than 120,000 free wifi access points in Bangkok.5 And in May of this year, 20 Thai provinces received the nation's first true 3G service.6 Yet, even with this huge investment in infrastructure, connection speed, price, and availability continued to be major issues for the Thai people we interviewed.

A mall kiosk in Bangkok selling smartphone apps.

Hardware and Software Purchases

Unlicensed software bundles are prevalent in both ad-hoc mall kiosks and more formal stores. As a result, most people have the latest OS and software. It is common for people to buy computers with no operating system installed and buy a package of basic, unlicensed software directly from the salesperson. A typical package included Windows 7, MS Office, Adobe CS 5, antivirus, YouTube Downloader, and multiple browsers (Chrome, Firefox, and IE) for 600 baht (US$20). In contrast, a licensed copy of Windows 8 would cost the consumer 5000 baht (US$130). Similarly, unlicensed smartphone app bundles were also available.

Bangkok street food stall.

Personal Recommendations

Our research indicates that Thai people are more concerned with ease of use, familiarity, and personal recommendations when it comes to technology than they are with brand loyalty. When asked why they were using a particular piece of software, the overwhelming majority said it had been recommended and installed by the person who sold them their device, or it had been recommended by a friend or family member. Personal research or brand recognition did not appear to be factors for most Thai consumers.

Next in this series: The Internet and Browsing in Indonesia: Five Findings from the Field


  1. Get ready for traffic jams & long commutes. (Bangkok Post)
  2. Smartphone sales in Thailand gather pace with over 2.87 million sold in the first four months of 2013. (GfK)
  3. Smartphone sales in Thailand gather pace with over 2.87 million sold in the first four months of 2013. (GfK)
  4. ICT2020 Thailand Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy Framework (2011-2020). (MICT)
  5. Thailand’s free wifi dream might be coming true. (Tech in Asia)
  6. AIS launches the 3G era. (Bangkok Post)

Crain's Tech 50

I'm extremely flattered to be included in Crain's Tech 50 this year!* I'm proud of Chicago's tech scene and it is truly exciting to be in such esteemed company. Though, as many people have already noted, it is disappointing that only nine women appear on this list. I wouldn't be where I am today without the support of many generous people, and those that have been my strongest mentors and allies have been other professional women. I will continue to do my part to continue to encourage other women to enter the tech field and I look forward to the day when having a "Wise Men" category on this type of list (seriously, wtf?) is no longer even a comprehensible option.

(*I'd like to note that while I wish it was the case, I did not learn to program as a child. I also wish they had mentioned the Chicago UX Book Club and my MLIS degree, not to sound ungrateful :)

Emerging Trends: Firefox Research in Southeast Asia

Every good UX researcher has the ability to become totally engrossed in even the smallest research project. Yet, one of the amazing things about working for a global, mission-driven organization like Mozilla is the opportunity to take on some truly big research challenges. The Mozilla UX Research team is about to embark on such a project as we begin our Firefox Southeast Asia research in Thailand and Indonesia.

Research Goals

The primary goal of this research project is to understand how people in specific emerging markets experience the Internet and learn about emerging trends that will provide insight into new and current product features. We are particularly interested in learning about the context of Internet use, values related to the Internet, and specific Internet usage.

So, why not just send out a few surveys? Mozilla believes that there are valuable insights that can only be generated by in-context, ethnographic research. We recognize that many of the people involved in creating new technologies live in a fairly limited tech bubble and we truly value learning from a global community of Internet users.

Why Thailand & Indonesia?

One of the more challenging decisions researchers have to make at the beginning of a project is how to appropriately limit the scope of the research question. For this project, we have decided to focus on Thailand, Indonesia, and India. (India is slated for early 2014.) Both Thailand and Indonesia have rapidly growing economies and relatively low internet penetration rates. Interestingly, the Firefox market share in these two countries is dramatically different. Firefox holds 64% of the browser market in Indonesia, yet only accounts for 23% of the market in Thailand. We believe these two countries will provide valuable insight into understanding user needs and improving the Firefox market share.

Project Planning

A small team of user experience, engineering, and marketing Mozillians will be traveling to Thailand and Indonesia to conduct user interviews and ethnographic research in August and September. We have partnered with SonicRim, an awesome global design research firm, on this research project. Our research is divided into three phases: Planning & Recruiting, Fieldwork, and Analysis.

Brainstorming exercise at our project kickoff with SonicRIm.

Phase 1: Planning & Recruiting

  • Recruitment: Mozilla and SonicRim created a recruitment survey (aka a "screener") to identify the participants for our interviews. We will be interviewing people who are moderate to avid Internet users, who use a range of different hardware and software, and who come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. We then selected two cities in each country to focus our efforts: Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand and Jakarta and Bandung in Indonesia. Our local recruiters will identify 6 participants from each city to participate in formal interviews.
  • Research Activities: Before we arrive, each participant will complete a "homework" assignment that will document their experiences of life and culture through photos and written descriptions. After we arrive, we will conduct 2-hour interviews in each participant's home or place of work. Each participant will select a friend or relative to join them during the in-person interview. Interviewing "buddy" pairs instead of individuals can facilitate a deeper discussion and often results in more detailed data. In addition to these formal interviews, our fieldwork teams will visit locations that may provide interesting insights related to culture and technology like electronics stores and shopping areas.
  • Community Events: Mozilla is a global organization with community members all over the world. We are looking forward to hanging out with some of Mozilla's awesome contributors at the community events we are planning in Thailand and Indonesia.

chiDUXX: Chicago Women of Design & UX

Interested in "empowering the women who design the web?" Consider joining the new chiDUXX meetup group. We are having our first meeting tomorrow (3/5) to get to know each other and define our goals. I'm interested in:

-Seeing fewer local conference line-ups that look like this.
-Encouraging more women to consider speaking at conferences, writing articles, and highlighting their professional achievements.
-Making mentorship connections.
-Having an excuse to get together with some cool ladies in our professional community.

What I've been Reading

Books I read in 2012*, in no particular order:

Tender Buttons by Stein

Heroines by Zambreno

Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office by Frankel

Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by Northrup

Canal House Cooks Every Day by Hamilton & Hirsheimer

Let My People Go Surfing by Chouinard

Bossypants by Fey

The Road by McCarthy

The Tipping Point by Gladwell

Why Have Kids? by Valenti

Wanton West: Madams, Money, Murder, and the Wild Women of Montana's Frontier by Morgan

Blackfeet Tales of Glacier National Park by Shultz

My Man Jeeves by Wodehouse

No More Dirty Looks by O'Connor & Spunt

UX Books

Ethnography: Step-by-Step by Fetterman

Designing for the Digital Age by Goodwin

A Project Guide to UX Design by Unger & Chandler

Agile Experience Design: A Digital Designer's Guide to Agile, Lean, and Continuous by Ratcliffe & McNeill

Sketching User Experiences: The Workbook by Greenberg

Storytelling for User Experience by Quesenbery and Brooks

Seductive Interaction Design: Creating Playful, Fun, and Effective User Experiences by Anderson

Understanding Comics by McCloud

Design is a Job by Monteiro

The Elements of Content Strategy by Kissane

The Shape of Design by Chimero

Mobile First by Wroblewski

Cadence & Slang by Disabato

*Resolving to read more fiction in 2013

Book Update

The Chicago UX Book Club finished out 2012 with 5 more great books. If you are local, consider joining the discussion in 2013!

Design is a Job: A thoughtful book on what it means to make a living through design work. This book provoked a great discussion on a variety of topics including when (if ever) to work for free and things to remember when starting a freelance career.

The Elements of Content Strategy: A fine introduction, but more of an argument in favor of considering a content strategy rather than practical information on how to go about the process.

The Shape of Design: I wasn't crazy about this book while I was reading it, but I was blown away by the discussion. I'd definitely recommend reading this with other people. The chapters discussing "how" vs. "why" tied in perfectly with some of my thoughts on current UX-oriented graduate programs. More on that some day soon.

Mobile First: I'd been meaning to read this book for a long time. Wroblewski does a good job of succinctly making the case that your digital strategy needs to include mobile and provides a number of UX insights to consider during the design process.

Cadence & Slang: We finished the year with our first author event! Nick Disabato joined us for a great discussion on his UX work, his book, and the writing process. Be sure to check out Distance, too.

Raw Corn & Cashew Chowder

Thank you to everyone for all of your kind words after I was robbed in December. I was especially moved that a few of you even offered to contribute to a new camera fund. I'm happy to say that I was finally able to replace my camera on my own, even though I am incredibly grateful for the generous offers.

Tall Ships 8

A lot has changed over the last few months. I'm happy to be back in my old neighborhood in Chicago after grad school. I love my work and my ever-growing professional network. I met excellent people at the Midwest UX conference in June and the Chicago UX Book Club has continued to be fun and thought-provoking.

Tall Ships 5

I spent a lovely long weekend in the Bay Area in May and I'm heading on my annual Glacier backpacking trip with my Dad in a few weeks. The summer has been busy with six weddings and various out-of-town guests. But, I've still found the time to slow down with warm evenings on restaurant patios and a picturesque sailboat ride on Lake Michigan

Chowder and Lighthouse

In addition to my new camera, my other large purchase over the last six months was finally acquiring a fancy blender. I'd coveted a Vitamix for half a decade, but after quite a bit of research I decided on a Blendtec blender and I couldn't be happier with my choice. I have kale smoothies every morning and I've recently fallen in love with this raw summer soup.

Raw Sweet Corn, Cashew & Avocado Chowder


4 ears sweet corn
1/2 C raw cashews
1 avocado
1 1/2 garlic cloves
4 Tbl good olive oil
1 1/2 C water
2 tsp kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper


Husk the corn and remove the silk. In a large shallow bowl, stand the corn on an end cut off the kernals with a sharp knife. Set aside half a cup of corn kernals. Combine the remaining kernals and the rest of the ingredients in your blender, and blend until very smooth. (I used the "soup" setting on my Blendtec.) Adjust the seasoning as desired.

Pour the soup into bowls and top with the reserved corn kernals and a bit more black pepper. Serve at room temperature, or chill if preferred.

What I've Been Reading

It's been a while since my last UX book review. I hope to find the time to go into detail on the following titles, but for now I'll simply recommend them with a few notes. Many of these books were Chicago UX Book Club selections. If you are local, consider joining the discussion!

Agile Experience Design: A uniquely detailed attempt to integrate experience design into the agile process.

Designing for the Digital Age: This is a fantastic handbook for practitioners.

Open Here - The art of instructional design: A fun collection of visual instruction.

Seductive Interaction Design: How to motivate users with the principles of seduction. Some nice examples here.

Sketching User Experiences: Instruction and exercises for various sketching methods used to facilitate design.

Understanding Comics: The history of comics and how we understand visual language.

Rosemary, Black Pepper & Brown Butter Soda Bread

This wonderful recipe was suggested by my friend Joanna.  I liked the idea of adding rosemary, fresh black pepper and browned butter to this quick bread base to create a decidedly non traditional version.

The end result of the recipe was wonderful. A few notes: I found that my dough was quite wet after following the instructions, so I ended up adding about half a cup more flour than the original recipe calls for. Be sure to have a some extra flour on hand so that you can get the texture just right. You want a moist dough that just comes together in your hands.  I didn't knead this bread at all. I simply mixed the dough in the bowl until it formed a smooth ball and then formed the loaves.

Rosemary, Black Pepper & Brown Butter Soda Bread

Adapted from Bon Appetit


1/4 C butter
3 1/2 C flour, plus 1/2 C
1/2 C old-fashioned oats
1 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 3/4 C buttermilk


Place a baking stone in your oven and preheat oven to 375F.  (Don't worry if you don't have a baking stone, you can simply use an ungreased baking sheet. Don't place it in the oven as it heats. If you'd like a baking stone, check out this great post on making your own for $3.)

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat and cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the buttermilk and butter.  Mix well and add the buttermilk and butter.  Mix until the dough comes together in a smooth ball. Add more flour if you need it (I did). Form dough into two rounds with your hands and transfer to the baking stone or baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut an "X" in the top of each loaf - about 1/2 an inch deep.

Bake until breads are a deep golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center -- about 45 minutes.  Allow to cool for a least 30 minutes before slicing. Serve with plenty of high quality butter.

UX Book Club Chicago


I've been missing the Champaign-Urbana UX Book Club, so I decided to take over the Chicago chapter!

The Chicago UX Book Club was founded in 2009 by Gabby Hon. She decided to take a break from organizing and has passed on the reins. We will be organizing meetings through our Meet-Up page, but you can find more information on the UX Book Club Chicago website and by following us on Twitter.

Join us for monthly discussions and the opportunity to interact with students and professionals looking to share their passion and knowledge of UX, IA, UI, IxD, etc.  Each month, we will choose a book or article to read and discuss. You don't have to read the book to attend -- just come with an open mind and an interest in the subject. We are also open to discussion suggestions and presentations by members related to their own UX research, writing, and professional expertise.

"Fleeting Little Universes of Delight"


Last night I had the pleasure of attending my first Chicago Women Developers Meetup to hear Marcin Wichary of the Google Doodle team give a talk on building doodles. Marcin has worked on memorable Google doodles like PAC-MAN and Jules Verne.

Marcin centered his talk around some of the tension inherent in user experience design:

Oversight vs. Freedom
Embracing Familiarity vs. Habitually Trying New Things
Looking Forward vs. Looking Back
Code That Feels Nice vs. Code That Gets the Job Done
Art vs. Technology

Marcin hopes that the, "fleeting little universes of delight" that the Google Doodle team creates will get people excited about what's possible on the web today and inspire people to use tools in ways that weren't originally envisioned. They treat the Google home page as a place for fun and exploration, not a platform to show off. It's about using new technologies to "do something that will delight the user."

It was a great talk. If you missed it, check out Marcin's talk on Google PAC-MAN from Google IO.

(Image Credit: Google)

Library School

Two years ago, I sat unhappily in my office at a Chicago nonprofit and wondered what was next. I had spent the better part of my working life committed to social service endeavors, but the last few years had really put my idealism to the test. I decided to apply to the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library & Information Science and I'm happy to report that this was an excellent decision. Here are some highlights (I'm sure I will be adding to this list):

-I was lucky to receive one of a fleeting number of Graduate Assistantships where I worked with Professors Jim Evans and Joyce Wright to manage an extensive agricultural communication archive in exchange for reduced tuition.

-I had the opportunity to work as a reference librarian in a University of Illinois Library where I learned the valuable lesson that traditional reference work is not for me.

-I met dozens of fascinating people and new friends.

-I took 15 classes over four semesters with a number of excellent instructors. (Straight A's - too!)

Information Organization & AccessReference & Information ServicesAdministration & Use of Archival MaterialsRare Book & Special Collection LibrarianshipFoundations of Information Processing (Python Programming)Introduction to DatabasesE-GovernmentLibraries, Information & SocietyPracticum - Sears Taxonomy & User ExperienceGeographic Information SystemsApplied Business Research (Knowledge Management & Competitive Intelligence)Independent Study - User Experience RAW Photography (Art & Design Department)Interfaces to Information SystemsMetadata in Theory & Practice

-I spent my winter break last year working for the American Library Association where I had the opportunity to manage content strategy projects for two divisions.

-I attended the American Library Association Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA where I learned a lot and had an amazing time hanging out with Julia, Ron, Will & Jeanne.

-I ran the spring Illinois Marathon and beat my previous PR by over 13 minutes.

-I had the opportunity to spend the spring working with the Sears Taxonomy & User Experience department as a practicum student where I learned a ton and got to know the awesome  Jenny B. better.

-I spent the summer drinking beers in the sunshine and discussing user experience research with Melinda and our great advisor Jenny E.

-I helped found the first Champaign-Urbana UX Book Club with Melinda, Meghan & Dan. I learned a lot from all of the members and it pushed me to read some great material.

-I got to take my first art class since middle school. (Thanks for taking a chance on me, Professor Scott!)

-I lived in a beautiful house with two great roommates and friends, Meghan and Maria.

-I started bike commuting for the first time since I lived in Portland.

-I enjoyed some incredible summer bike rides with library friends, thanks to the Bikes & Beers club Andrew founded.

-I made sure to visit Mirabelle Bakery and the Urbana Farmers Market frequently.

-Had an amazing time in Ann Arbor meeting the marvelous Beers and working in the incredible Janice B. Longone Culinary Archive over my spring break.

-Ran the Kentucky Bourbon Chase relay with Nick and nearly a dozen new, awesome friends.

Hooray! I'm officially a librarian!

(And I have a job - more on that soon!)

Pumpkin Pancakes

I'm sincerely touched by all of the kind emails I received after my last post. Today marks the seventh anniversary for Pro Bono Baker (!) and I'm grateful for all of the friends and opportunities this little blog has introduced me to over the years.

Champaign Prairie Grass

I'm still without a camera and expect to be for at least a few more months (student debt is my priority now that I have graduated and, thankfully, found a job). My camera rarely left my side and it's been an adjustment to be without it. My first impulse when enjoying a well-plated brunch or seeing a beautiful sunset is to reach for it. Luckily, I have a few posts saved up to share with you. These shots are from November and December in Champaign just before I moved.

Part of me still feels like I'll be heading back to Champaign after winter break. I'm getting settled in Chicago and it has been wonderful to reconnect with old friends, restaurants, and neighborhoods. But, I know I will miss many people and the easy pace of central Illinois when the semester starts again.


It's hard to believe that seven years have past since I started this blog. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to share this part of my life with so many of you. I wish you all the very best in the new year!

Roommate Brunch

Pumpkin Pancakes

Adapted from Chef Kenny Shopsin


1 3⁄4 C flour
3 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp kosher salt
1⁄4 tsp ground allspice
1 C canned pumpkin purée
1 C heavy cream
1⁄2 C milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 Tbl canola oil
Butter and maple syrup, for serving


Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, cloves, ginger, salt, and allspice. Add the pumpkin purée, cream, milk, and eggs and whisk everything until the batter is fairly smooth (don't go too crazy though).

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour a quarter-cup of batter into the skillet for each pancake, cooking two to four at a time depending on the size of your pan. Cook the pancakes until bubbles begin to form on the edges, about two minutes. Flip and cook for another one to two minutes on the other side.

Repeat with the remaining oil and pancake batter. Serve hot with butter and syrup.

Mushroom Soup with Zaprashka

The last month has been an exciting one! I finished graduate school and earned my Master's in library and information science at the University of Illinois this month. I feel ready to leave, but Champaign, Illinois grew on me more than I expected. I learned a lot about myself and how I want to use my education, I met great friends and colleagues, and I reveled in the markets, theaters, and restaurants of a charming university town. It was sad to pack up and leave this week.

I'm happy to be back home with my parents for the next week and a half, and I have a great job to look forward to in January. I'll be working as a user experience researcher & designer for a small Chicago company. I will be able to use my librarian side to interact with people and learn about their information needs, use my nerdy side to organize information by developing taxonomies and interaction flows, and use my creative side to incorporate these elements into prototypes and visual designs. The work suits me perfectly.

I also just found out that Pro Bono Baker was voted one of the Top 5 Independent Food Websites/blogs by Chicago's New City Magazine! I'm incredibly flattered.

35 mm 1.4 1

The last month has had a few low points to balance all this great news. Just after Thanksgiving I came down with a debilitating tension headache/migraine that left me bed-ridden and full of pain killers and muscle relaxers for the better part of two weeks. The stress of feeling so incapacitated during my last few weeks of school and work didn't help.

Worst of all, Nick and I were mugged by two jerks as we were leaving brunch at the Publican recently. Nick had just treated me to a lovely meal to celebrate my new job. We've spent the last two weeks dealing with the aftermath of police reports, credit checks, and card replacements. They made off with my camera (among other things). So... You might not be seeing too many photos around here for a bit. I'm saving up to replace my Canon 60D body and 50mm f/1.4 lens, but it will be a while. Of course, we are grateful that we weren't really hurt.

35 mm 1.4 20

I hope all of you are enjoying some holiday cooking with friends and family. I was recently asked to shoot a photo for Travel + Leisure to include in their slideshow of traditional holiday foods. This Russian soup is one of twelve courses served in early January to celebrate the Holy Supper. The soup is thickened with zaprashka - a roux of oil, flour, and the liquid rendered from sautéing onions. There are a number of different recipes available for this unique soup. It has a strong flavor, thanks to sauerkraut juice, and it is great served with a bit of sour cream and chives or dill.

Mushroom Soup with Zaprashka


1 small onion, diced
5 Tbl vegetable oil (divided)
3 Tbl flour
1 C of mushrooms, cleaned and diced
3/4 C of sauerkraut juice 1 quart of vegetable stock (or water)
1 potato, cubed
salt & pepper


Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large stockpot over medium/high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until tender. Add the sauerkraut juice and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown the onions in a skillet in 1 tablespoon of oil. Pour off any liquid into a different skillet. Turn off the heat.

After the stock has simmered for 20 minutes add the onions (not the liquid). Begin making the roux by browning the flour in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in the skillet along with the onion liquid. Whisk constantly and be careful not to burn. When it is browned, add one cup of the stock and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the soup.

Simmer for 15 more minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.

Remote Research


Bolt, N., & Tulathimutte, T. (2010). Remote Research. Brooklyn, N.Y: Rosenfeld Media. 266 pages.

We selected Remote Research for discussion at the November UX Book Club CU event. Nate Bolt is the president of Bolt | Peters, an interaction research and design firm. Tony Tulathimutte has left the world of user experience research and is now a fiction writer. This book is written for a broad audience, but primarily for readers who already have a general understanding of how conventional user research works.

Remote research is user experience research that is conducted through the phone and internet rather than in person. Bolt and Tulathimutte explain how to organize, recruit, and run moderated and unmoderated remote research studies. The book includes a thoughtful and necessary discussion on privacy and consent, methods of analysis, and remote research tools. You can find a similar list on the Remote Research website.

My initial assumption going into this book was that Remote Research would be a cheap way to include a large number of test participants in a study. Interestingly, Bolt and Tulathimutte argue that remote research is not necessarily cheaper. Our UX book club wondered if this assertion was partially a symptom of an agency-only perspective. While this seems like a sensible claim for a commercial researcher billing clients for their time, it seemed to us that remote research would in fact be a cheaper method for an academic researcher trying to get the most out of their grant money, for example. One of our UX Book Club members is currently designing a research study that will require remote research methods. It was interesting to discuss the practical considerations with her as it related to her upcoming project.

The most convincing argument in favor of remote research is that this method is able to intercept test participants while they are performing tasks of interest. By catching users in their natural environment as they are performing a task flow they intended to pursue anyway, remote research allows for more authentic insight into the user experience. Similarly, remote research allows researchers to test participants all over the world, rather than just a new batch of local residents.

This book convinced me that remote research is something every UX professional should be learning about. There's no question that the future of user research will incorporate many of these methods. However, the main issue I have with remote research is part of its largest selling point - What type of user would agree to participate in a study in the middle of a frustrating experience? How many non-tech savvy people will be interested in the added challenge of navigating a remote test? How can you be confident in the integrity of your test sample? Of course, these aren't new issues in user research. Similar things could be said about participants in traditional testing. (Is it an issue that all our participants are free on a Tuesday morning? - for example.) Yet, I want to believe that there is something important about in-person research. That observing facial expressions provides unique insight. That greeting a participant and talking them through a study provides valuable information about how humans interact with technology, in a way that impersonal communication does not. Though, perhaps I'm reading more into in-person user research than I should be.

For more information on the topic, check out the Bolt | Peters Remote Research website, this 2010 article by Kyle Soucy in UX Matters titled, "Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing: Good or Evil?" and Soucy's 2011 IA Summit talk by the same name.

Chard with Olives, Lemon & Mozzarella

Over the weekend I received a call from my friend Ariel. Her community garden was closing up shop for the season, but she had a huge quantity of chard that was still growing. She asked if I would like some of it, and of course I said yes. She came right over with a grocery bag full of beautiful rainbow chard.

Preparing Swiss Chard Salad

I thought about making a stir fry or a savory pie, but something about this late season treat called for a less wintry treatment. Instead, I thinly sliced the raw chard leaves and assembled a flavorful salad with sauteed chard ribs, olives, garlic, lemon, and mozzarella. The result was a gorgeous and richly flavored seasonal dish.

Preparing Swiss Chard Salad

Chard with Olives, Lemon & Mozzarella


1 1/2 lbs chard
2 Tbl olive oil
1/3 C oil-cured black olives, quartered and pitted
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 Tbl fresh lemon juice
1 Tbl lemon zest
1 C grated fresh mozzarella
salt and pepper


Rinse and dry the chard. Tear the leaves from the ribs (reserve) and slice the ribs into 1/4 inch pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olives, garlic, and chard ribs and saute with some salt and pepper for about five minutes or until the ribs are tender. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Take the chard leaves and stack them about five-high. Roll the leaves into cigar shapes and thinly slice crosswise. Toss in a large serving bowl with the lemon juice and lemon zest. Allow to rest for about ten minutes. The lemon juice will make the chard leaves slightly tender.

When the chard rib mixture has cooled to room temperature, add to the salad along with the mozzarella. Toss to combine and add salt and pepper to taste.

Halloween Severed Finger Cookies

One of my favorite things about graduate school is how seriously most of the people I know take Halloween, and costume parties in general. Gone are the days of purely revealing or unimaginative attire - instead, many people expend considerable effort to pull off witty homemade costumes. A welcome symptom of student procrastination.

Late October

Some of my favorites this year included Firefox (the web browser), a nine-foot tall raven, a dust bunny, and an entire village of Spartans. I dressed as Daria and Nick went as Harpo. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and hoping that the grown-up-looking house I share with my roommates means we will have some trick-or-treaters.


I hope everyone has had a great Halloween weekend. If you haven't had your fill of sugar yet, give these ghoulish cookies a try. There are many variations of this recipe available online. I read through a half dozen and distilled my own. A couple versions suggested using red jam to secure the almonds. I didn't have any jam on hand, but I think this would be a great addition.

Late October

Severed Finger Cookies Makes about 4 dozen


1 C butter, softened
3/4 C sugar
2 3/4 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt 1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
50 whole almonds (I used raw)


In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the egg and extracts, and mix until thoroughly combined. (I found it was easiest to use my hands to mix.) Form the dough into a ball and cover in plastic. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using about a tablespoon of dough, roll the dough into finger length pieces and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Use a sharp paring knife to cut three creases into the "knuckles" and add an almond to one end of the cookie for a "fingernail." Be sure to secure the almond well. I pushed it down and formed the cookie dough around the sides.

Bake the cookies for about 8 minutes or until the edges just being to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before moving the cookies to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough.


On a foggy October morning two weeks ago, Nick and I left Chicago's Union Station aboard the Amtrak Wolverine line. The route is a beautiful one, beginning in industrial Indiana towns that give way to sand dunes and Michigan vacation spots. The train passes through Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and Ann Arbor - arriving in Detroit by mid-afternoon.

Neither of us had visited Detroit before, though it had been on my list for years. For my birthday, Nick decided to plan a trip around the Smashing Pumpkins concert. It was a wonderful surprise and a very thoughtful gift.


After checking in at our hotel, we walked the two miles from downtown to our dinner destination in Midtown. On the way, we found Motor City Brewing Works which turned out to be far more exciting than our original destination. The place was full of friendly people, served good beer, and had fantastic pizza options (like roasted pear & fig). I would definitely be a regular if I lived in the area.


The first real concert I ever attended was the Smashing Pumpkins on their Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness tour. The Smashing Pumpkins were my favorite band and I was thrilled when my best friend Eileen invited me to attend. The show was at a huge arena near Chicago and it was a truly epic experience for a 13 year-old.


This concert took place at the Fillmore Detroit, a beautifully converted 1925 movie theater. The crowd was great and the show was appropriately epic for the moderately sized venue. Nick and I mused about the absence of solid mainstream rock and roll these days - and then felt kind of old.

Downtown Detroit

I know my Detroit history fairly well and I have a number of acquaintances who have beautifully documented parts of it in pictures, but I wasn't really prepared for the incredible emptiness of the city. I had expected to find a small district of fully occupied downtown businesses surrounded by vacant properties, but activity was much more spread out and the vast majority of the buildings we passed were vacant - even in the more populated areas.

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and the city was virtually empty until the evening when suburban residents drove downtown to parking garages to attend various cultural events. Only a handful of people patronized the few local businesses before or after the performances. Our visit was short and certainly not representative of the city at large, but the impressions were powerful.


The next morning we woke up early to watch part of the Detroit Free Press Marathon. It was a dreary day that looked perfect for a race. We made our way along the race route to Corktown to visit Astro Coffee (pictured above). This beautifully designed coffee shop just opened over the summer and already appears to have a strong following. We enjoyed coffee and excellent breakfast sandwiches on housemade bread. Another highly recommended spot.


It was a wonderful, yet brief trip. Detroit is a beautiful city and I think everyone should visit and support the amazing small businesses that are breathing new life into the area. I'm already looking forward to returning. There are a number of places that were recommended to us that we didn't have time to visit, including Belle Isle, Slows Bar BQ, the Motown Museum, Avalon Bakery, Woodbridge Pub, Cadieux Cafe, and Nancy Whiskey. (Thanks to Elizabeth and Will for all the excellent suggestions!)  Anything else we should add to the list? Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments. You can find more photos from the trip here. I'll be back soon with a new recipe for you.