A person with a pencil clenched between their teeth as they look at a laptop screen.
A person with a pencil clenched between their teeth as they look at a laptop screen.
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

In Fall 2020, the Library continued our qualitative research into the student research experience. This time, we investigated student engagement with ebooks.

Our research questions centered on:

  • how students were currently using ebooks for their academics
  • what pain points they were experiencing
  • the meanings of print books and ebooks in their academic work
  • “blue sky” brainstorming about an ideal ebook experience

We conducted semi-structured interviews that used “show and tell,” asking students to share their screens and demonstrate how they went about accessing and using ebooks.

We spoke to eight students across class years and disciplines, gathering rich stories and…

Bookshelves filled with books, with no people in sight.
Bookshelves filled with books, with no people in sight.
Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

In Spring 2020, our college joined the mass migration to online learning due to COVID-19. In the Library, we had a ton of questions about how students were coping during this shift.

We decided to conduct exploratory qualitative research to get a better sense of student perspectives, contexts, challenges, and strategies. We used contextual interviews — via Zoom! — to explore these questions, asking our students to tell us the story of a recent research project.

We spoke to seven students across class years, who were incredibly generous in sharing their triumphs, setbacks, excitements and fears during this turbulent time…

A wave cresting under a stormy sky
A wave cresting under a stormy sky
Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash

I’ve been spending the past weeks helping faculty and students transition to an online learning environment in response to COVID-19. This shift has been challenging for all of us, as we try to navigate our new reality of uncertainty, instability, and anxiety.

Headlines and online discussions show that campuses nationwide are all grappling with the same problems: How do we ensure a quality learning experience? How do we support students across inequities in access, resources, and living situations? How do we plan for a turbulent future that may require fully online learning, blended learning, or some new iteration?

What we…

While it might seem that user-centered design practices and UX capacities are ubiquitous, there are plenty of industries where it’s still a new horizon. Here’s some advice I wish I’d gotten when starting out.

An iguana jumping across a gap between two ledges
An iguana jumping across a gap between two ledges
Photo by Denny Luan on Unsplash

I work in an industry (higher education) where there can be a lot of institutional and cultural gaps between users and system designers & administrators. In this context, it can be challenging to highlight connections between poor UX and user outcomes.

That doesn’t mean that poor UX doesn’t have an impact.

You know that it does. You’ve seen it.

But how can you help your organization see it?

The first rule of UX work is you are not your user. That’s why it’s important to conduct research. Similarly, you are not your stakeholders.

You might be enthusiastic about UX, but…

A row of skis propped up in the snow
A row of skis propped up in the snow
Photo by boris misevic on Unsplash

There’s a conversation that happens a lot in my institution when we talk about interface design. “Sure, we want this to be simpler for beginners,” people say. “But what about the experts?”

Indeed. What about the experts?

It feels like an intractable problem, as beginner and expert preferences often seem to be diametrically opposed.

We’re awfully confused about greed in America. Is it good? Is it a sin? How do we stop it? Can we?

Reviewing the science provides some interesting answers, along with more questions.

First, what is greed?

One working definition by Terri G. Seuntjens and others describes greed as, “the tendency to always want more and never being satisfied with what one currently has.”

Greed is associated with dissatisfaction and impulsivity, and can encompass a wide domain. People are often greedy for money and things, but they can also be greedy for privileges, experiences, and social status.

Aerial view of person in a maze-like building at the top of a staircase
Aerial view of person in a maze-like building at the top of a staircase
Photo by John T on Unsplash

This past year, Maximilian Maier, a master’s student at a Swedish university conducted a qualitative study seeking to understand end users’ perceptions of manipulative design, or dark patterns.

Here’s what participants had to say:

“[T]hey are forcing me to do something like buy stuff, click or see something, get some data from me, get advantage of me, and influence me in my behavior”

“[It’s] in the company’s best interest, not the user’s”

“[It’s a] dishonest way to conduct business and interface design”

“[It’s] always shitty behavior”

Participants were unified in their dislike of dark patterns, with emotions described as “feeling…

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

I’ve been struggling for the past few months with failure. The more I read and the more podcasts I listen to, I find myself longing for something specific and strange.

I crave a continual stream of people sharing their stories about how they’ve failed…and how they’re still failing.

Not because I’m a sadist. Because I want to feel less alone.

Success stories inspire us, entertain us, and may even motivate us — but they can also hurt us. This has to do with how our brains work, both individually and socially.

Our brain excels in drawing conclusions from what’s in…


It’s 4:11 pm on a Friday, and I may have just saved us over $1,500 in medical bills.

Or maybe not. I’m still waiting for a call from the doctor’s office. And even then, I won’t really know until we get the final bill, weeks afterwards.

I’ve made over thirteen phone calls, and spoken to eleven different people. I stopped tracking my time on calls after the first two hours. I have three pages of notes, littered with names and numbers and rates and medical codes.

All to answer this one question: How much will two diagnostic heart tests cost?

A retelling of Goblin Market, in a contemporary fantasy setting

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Her sister perches on the barstool, waif-like, delicate ankles crossed and one wrist draped over her drink. She is laughing, a high false trill that makes Stone want to slap her.

Stone grips her lager like a cudgel and says nothing.

In the middle of her laughter, Fire shoots her a look, her eyes sharp with some hidden message. Lighten up, it could mean, or, At least play along.

It’s so quick that no one else notices, even though the entire table’s attention is on Fire and her antics. Stone…

Kelly Dagan

User Experience Librarian, passionate about information systems, UX, and design. I’ve written for UX Collective & The Startup. www.kellydagan.com, @K4Dag

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