Author Archives: Andrea Libelo

About Andrea Libelo

Andrea is a user experience designer at Excella Consulting. She specializes in user research and interaction design.

Posts by Andrea Libelo:

User Focus 2014

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The speakers at User Focus 2014 didn’t just focus on the user; they inspired us all to think more broadly about the UX profession. The conference on October 17 gave me a lot of food for thought. Here are a few of the highlights:


Photo courtesy of Elaine Li

1. Consider the socio-cultural factors

Keynote speaker Curtiss Cobb described his research results looking at India’s socio-cultural barriers to internet adoption for women. Don’t forget about the social and cultural factors that influence users.

2. Look beyond the pixels in front of you

The UX profession is recognizing the importance of creating a unified, seamless, targeted experience across channels. We have to focus on the omni-channel experience to create a great user experience, not just on the individual websites or apps.

3. Responsive design is not the mobile design solution

We all know responsive design is increasingly popular for bridging the gap between desktop and mobile. It has its place, but it doesn’t solve everything. We have many techniques to solve unique problems. I hope Thomas Vander Wal will release a cheat sheet of his presentation that we can hang on our walls (hint, hint).

4. Use empathy to create accessibility

Svetlana Kouznetsova shared her personal experience growing up deaf when there was no consideration for accessibility. The most significant message was a lesson in empathy.

What if you couldn’t hear your favorite movie or participate in a video conference with your hearing coworkers? Try to empathize with the 20% of all Americans who have hearing disabilities the next time you are designing a website that contains audio. Provide quality captions for all audio content.

5. With digital empathy, tools measure emotion 

Andrew Schall and his team at Spark Experience brought the lab to the stage with a memorable live demo of emotion charted digitally in real-time. UX professionals now have a range of tools to use to measure the emotions of their users – eye tracking, electroencephalography (EEG), skin conductivity (sweating) and facial analysis, to name a few. These tools are now inexpensive, easy to use, less invasive than their predecessors, and increasingly accurate.

Thanks to everyone at UXPA DC, the sponsors and volunteers for making User Focus 2014 such a memorable event! I can’t wait for next year!


Photo courtesy of Jerry Doremus


Photo courtesy of Jerry Doremus


Photo courtesy of Elaine Li


Photo courtesy of Elaine Li


Photo courtesy of Elaine Li

UX Testing Workshop Recap

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Presenters talk about UX testing techniques to attendees on a Saturday afternoon in Arlington.

“How can we be better at user experience testing?”

We answered that question at the UXPA DC User Experience (UX) Testing Workshop on Saturday, April 12 at the Mediabarn User Experience Lab in Arlington. Local experts from leading usability labs addressed how to plan, conduct, and analyze user experience tests.

For the first half of the workshop, Sara Mastro, Senior Director of Experience Design at Mediabarn and Caroline Little, Lead User Experience Researcher at SPARK Experience, shared their wisdom about why we test and how we should plan our tests. The nuggets of their message? A good test requires preparation. When done right, it gives us insight into user behavior and preferences, it helps us understand what and how to design, and it reveals whether or not what was designed was designed correctly.

In the afternoon, speakers focused on more advanced topics. Andrew Schall, VP of User Experience at SPARK Experience, provided tips for how to deal with troublemaker test participants like The Mute who barely answers questions and certainly doesn’t think aloud. (Hint: ask The Mute lots of close-ended questions.) Andrew also took everyone out of their comfort zone with a laughter-inducing moderation exercise. Have you ever experienced a test participant whose hamster just died?

Jen Romano Bergstrom, User Experience Research Leader at the Fors Marsh Group rounded out the afternoon with insight on how to sift through test results and communicate recommendations. She’s a proponent of using a combination of both qualitative and quantitative techniques to get a full view of how a design is performing. She reminded us that our clients are the end users of our testing services. Users don’t take the time to read and neither do our clients. So make your reports concise.

In summary, we can be better at user experience testing by:

  • taking the time to think through and plan our research
  • keeping cool and staying professional
  • getting to the point when we share our results with clients

So, with that advice, I wish you happy testing, everyone!

Interested in more UXPA DC events like this one? Check out the UXPA DC events page.

UX Strategy: Why and How

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UX Strategy with Janice James

Janice James shares insight about what UX Strategy is and why it’s important.

Who better to help us ring in spring than one of the founding mothers of the UX field and principal founder of UXPA, Janice James? With 25 years of experience in user research and user-centered design, Janice has plenty of wisdom on the subject of UX strategy. In her talk, Janice uncovered the commonalities among the many contradictory definitions of UX strategy, including:

  • The collaboration of a cross functional team.
  • The use of UX activities to understand the underlying purpose of the business and to design ways to achieve that purpose.
  • The use of data to inform design.
  • The resulting design that provides users a useful, engaging, delightful product or service.

Referencing Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Janice emphasized the importance of focusing your UX Strategy on “the why” and “the how,” rather than “the what.” Don’t let your strategy be driven by the technology or product for the sake of the technology or product. Instead, the strategy should be focusing on the purpose of the business, product or service. Only then should you focus on how you can achieve that purpose using the appropriate technology. To drive this point home, Janice asked, “Looking back, did any of us think we needed a smartphone?” Before smartphones, we were all content with our cameras, address books, day planners, calculators, encyclopedias, maps, telephones, and so on. Our lives would be very different if mobile phone developers had focused on the what (mobile phones) at the expense of the why (a convenient, multifunctional experience in your pocket). Finally, Janice answered the question, “Why UX strategy?” She suggested that UX strategy can help:

  • Change misconceptions about what UX is and what UX professionals do.
  • Develop trust between UX professionals and their colleagues in product management, marketing and other specialties.
  • Accelerate the inclusion of UX as a key part of the business strategy.

For more information about UX Strategy, Janice recommended The UX Strategy Conference. Summaries of presentations from the 2013 conference are available at Thank you, Janice, for your insight! And thank you to the new and continuing UXPA DC leadership for organizing this event and for making UXPA DC more accessible through free membership and event registration. Your efforts are what make UXPA DC so great. Janice James’ slides on UX Strategy are on slideshare.

Tech the Halls 2013: Geeking out in Style (w/pics!)

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Tech the Halls

There has been no better place to get your geek on in style this year than Tech the Halls. The event on December 12 at Co Co Sala brought together around 180 entrepreneurs, designers, developers, coders, strategists and UX professionals. It was the perfect opportunity to make new connections and strengthen old ones both within the UX community and within the broader DC tech community. Nine great local and national tech groups were represented.

Chocolate Parfait at Tech the Halls

Chocolate Parfait at Tech the Halls

This year the event had an air of elegance. The venue, Co Co Sala, lived up to the hype with a chic ambience and warm atmosphere matched with delicious hors d’oeuvres and desserts. A DJ kept the mood light and drink tickets made for a no-fuss evening at the bar.

At the end of the night, everyone received gift bags with tech-related goodies from sponsors including a 30-day trial of Adobe Technical Communication Suite 4, some Co Co Sala chocolates, and a pad of “buzzworthy” sticky notes from the Beekeeper Group. A lucky few also won raffle prizes like the Adobe Technical Communication Suite 4, an Amazon Kindle Fire HD, a UXPA DC lunch box, and much more. (Sadly, I was not one of the winners.)

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Thanks to Bri Monet of Bri Monet Photography for most of the photos in this post. To see more photos from this event, check out the Society for Technical Communications’ Tech the Halls Facebook Album.

Interview: MoDev East’s Pete Erickson

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Pete Erickson

Pete Erickson

Author’s note: I had the privilege of asking Pete Erickson, founder of MoDev and Disruptathon, about the upcoming MoDev East conference on December 12-13 in McLean, VA. Here’s what he had to say:

Andrea: Can you describe MoDev East for anyone who hasn’t been?

MoDev East is a mobile conference in its third year. It is at the Gannett and USA Today Conference Center December 12th and 13th and it’s a conference that has mobile development as the centerpiece but then includes all things around that as well. It has 4 tracks—enterprise, UX, marketing and mobile development. There’s also a hackathon that’s going to happen during the course of the conference starting Thursday morning extending all the way through Friday evening.

We like to bring together a real mix of professions and people to our conferences. We find that creates a really interesting, fun environment, a lot of creativity. A lot of really great connections happen when people meet that are from different aspects of the development ecosystem. So, MoDev East is a collection of really smart people from several different disciplines all focused on mobile.

What’s in store at MoDev East this year that’s new from the previous years?

What’s in store this year is really an expansion of the content. We have 4 tracks going this year. We’ll do enterprise and UX on Thursday the 12th and we’ll do marketing monetizations and development on the 13th. I think what attendees are going to see is an explosion of content over the previous year, 120 speakers this year versus maybe 35 or 40 speakers the previous year.

I think that it’s an interesting time right now. We’re going to see people touching on wearables. We’ll see people touching on the internet of things and a lot of the trends that are happening right now, trends that we see like Snapchat. Where is this coming from and where is it headed? We see companies like Snapchat get offered $3.5 billion and turn it down. There’s something happening in that space. And the fight for those users is really amazing.

One thing that can be certain is all the companies that we know about today and hear about at MoDev East, there will be ones that are household names next year that we haven’t heard about yet. And if you look at this year, what’s interesting is, you know companies like Snapchat and others that we didn’t know about a year ago. There’s always something new and exciting in mobile.

We like to say mobile is moving way too fast for any one individual or any one company to keep up with. So, MoDev’s mission is to connect people with the information they need, not because we know what the information is, but because our peers oftentimes are learning about things just as fast as anybody else. We try to spread that knowledge in a peer-to-peer manner and that’s really what MoDev East is all about.

So, come learn about the industry by folks that are just like you working hard to advance whatever causes they are working on. Chances are every individual out there knows something new, unique and interesting about development or tools that others need to hear about. We are always encouraging people to become thought leaders. Don’t just be a coder, don’t just be a UX expert, don’t just be a designer, get out there and teach what you know because it’s important. It’s also a great way to learn.

What are you personally most looking forward to for this upcoming MoDev East?

For me personally, I get a lot of enjoyment out of bringing smart people together. So, I’m looking forward to hearing from a lot of really smart people on both the main stage and in the breakouts. And also being lucky enough to be the one to connect a lot of people, and knowing that we have a hand in creating lifetime lasting relationships that can build businesses. I look forward to the event more than I look forward to any single talk, although I can tell you that there are a lot of really interesting talks that are going to be happening at MoDev East, very compelling, cutting-edge, from smart people. I look forward to hearing them, but I really look forward to being a party to connecting smart people and then seeing where that leads.

Want to learn what’s cutting-edge in mobile development? Join other UXperts at MoDev East.

Tech the Halls: 6 Reasons to come (like a Cyber Monday discount!)

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Tech the Halls is the event we at UXPA-DC look forward to all year. We get to blow off steam and enjoy an outstanding party. This year, it’s December 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Co Co Sala, and you definitely should be there! It’s where entrepreneurs, startups, designers, developers, coders and strategists come together to eat, drink and be merry, not to mention to network and exchange ideas. So here’s why you should come to Tech the Halls 2013:

1. Cyber Monday Discount – save $20!

Buy ’em today! Tickets for this mega tech holiday party are on sale until Tuesday, December 3 at 11:55pm for $35. Go to the registration site and enter the code “TTHCyberMonday”. After the sale, the price will go up to $55.

If you already bought your ticket at regular price, you can get a second and third ticket for $30 each. Just forward your email receipt to to receive a special discount code.

2. Enjoy great company

Tech the Halls brings together all the brightest and most creative technologists from 9 local and national tech groups:

  • User Experience Professionals Association DC Chapter (UXPA-DC)
  • DC Web Women (DCWW)
  • Society for Technical Communication, Washington DC – Baltimore Chapter (STC WDCB)
  • Interaction Design Association DC Chapter (IxDA-DC)
  • Web Content Mavens
  • Content Strategy Meetup
  • Reaching Latinos Online
  • Color of Tech
  • National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs (NAMDE)

3. Amazing food and drinks

Who doesn’t love chocolate,  drinks (you get two with your ticket), and unlimited food? You can have all three at Co Co Sala. It’s a chocolate lounge and boutique, at 929 F Street NW in DC.

4. Techie Gift Bags

The Tech the Halls gift bags are getting an upgrade this year. You get to take home a nice tote bag and tech-related swag.

5. Learn What’s Going on at Adobe

As the official event sponsor, Adobe is giving us a special treat, and sending one of its leading content professionals to talk with us.

6. Win Great Prizes

With a slew of great sponsors like Adobe, you have the chance to win great door prizes like Adobe’s Technical Communications Suite 4 (almost $800 in value), Amazon Kindle Fire HD, UX Design books and much more. Is one of those not for you? This year, you can choose which raffles you want to enter.

So register for Tech the Halls and remember to use the TTHCyberMonday code. See you there!