It's a motto that we try to live by, making decisions based on the right solution, not a collective compromise.

Just a guy whiteboarding

Just a guy whiteboarding

Design by committee can be a problem in the Valley. Competing companies try to create ultra-friendly environments, and sometimes that means everyone's input gets baked into the product.

I encourage our teams to vigorously challenge ideas, yet maintain a really positive, collaborative spirit. We celebrate and reward individual contributions — they don't get mushed into a blob of group insights — but we get a range of feedback before drawing any conclusions (this can come from customers, leadership, cross-functional teams, other designers, etc.)

This has helped us produce better work, retain talent, and create a culture of design that works.


Killing the password. Or at least maiming it.

When I first started at Symantec, the VIP Access app could do one thing: provide a six-digit security code. My boss NIco Popp, Sr. VP for Information Protection, wanted more. A lot more. 

My team redesigned the entire app, starting with the look & feel, but focusing on the technical leaps that would get us closer to eradicating that pesky password.

We first added push verification, which removed one annoying step from the login process (tacking on a code to the end of a network password). Next we delivered Touch ID, where you no longer needed to type in a password at all — just click a button on a website, get a push notification on your mobile device, and then tap your finger. 



A light-themed design motif was making its way through Symantec, but we knew that some of our end users used VIP Access in low light conditions (like logging into a network in the wee hours of the morning). Based on field research and customer feedback, we felt a dark theme was an important consideration. We looked at apps that were commonly used in low light, like an alarm on a phone, and we did color contrast research. 

We strive for simplicity in our usability tests, creating scenarios that are relatable and easy to follow. We recruited a wide range of participants, even some with cataracts or color blindness, and conducted our tests in a dark room. We tested different color and contrast combinations, and took note of the success rates. We also quizzed participants on what they noticed, and what worked best for them. It's important, we feel, to observe how someone uses the product, but also gather their thoughts and opinions. It is hard to determine what is best based on pure metrics, or pure opinion. We ended up launching a dark theme that was very well received by our end users (second from left). 

Product design is as much exploration as it is execution.

My team has done all kinds of work at Symantec, from thoroughly lab-tested end user products to conceptual designs for complex enterprise security solutions.  What you see here are rapidly created concepts that were shared with potential customers and partners. Some of the ideas here were scrapped, others made it into the product, and still more are queued up to be added later.

As with every other company, we're taking our products to the cloud. The interface above is a concept for how admins would scan and monitor confidential files. It's a robust Axure prototype that PM used to demonstrate the idea and solicit feedback.

We delivered this over a 3-week period with very loose requirements. Our design approach considered the need to illustrate use cases in  a contextual manner, meaning we didn't want the presenter clicking from page to page to page. Instead, we added sliding panels and modules that likely would be different in the real product. 

This is an early version of what is being called the "organism." It's a visual representation of connected devices. It also can be used for kill chains, where a security analyst can see how a virus made its way through their network.

With one glance, you can see what applications and servers a user is connected to, and where they may have put confidential data. 

We did not invent the radar graph, but we came up with an interesting version of it. This graph shows how an individual rates in a number of security risks. The pink is a risky employee (Fred), and the green is the average rating for the rest of his department. You can see that Fred rates pretty high for data exfiltration (moving files to insecure places).

After, before and more.

When you work in enterprise software, get ready for vast differences in product user bases. How big? Well, some admin consoles could have 10 or so users. Total. That's because we might sell it to 4-5 companies, and the IT people working in the console can be counted with fingers and maybe toes.

Now take a single sign-on portal. This gets rolled out to every employee at a number of large companies, so now you're talking hundreds of thousands of users. It shouldn't change your design approach too much, but upper management tends to think UX time should be focused more on the bigger audience. 

So we got asked to redesign the SSO portal, and we were glad to do it. What you see for the "After" doesn't have all the aspects of our intended design, but it's close. We significantly simplified the filters, improved the visuals, and updated the iconography.





Our team was asked to do a product microsite to help promote the single sign-on portal. I worked with a very talented designer on my team, Shirley Lee, to concept these three hero banners for the site. She did all the fantastic visuals, but we were a good team on coming up with the ideas. Unfortunately, the illustration style we wanted didn't fit the photo-realistic look and feel that marketing had in mind.

Turns out people don't like anyone messing with their money.

I worked with some really smart folks in the Risk org at PayPal, but their central focus was not the user experience, it was losses. Their performance hinged on limiting the shrinkage, so sometimes they didn't think through how this affected the end user. They'd slap holds on people's funds, for a variety of risk factors, and people would go apoplectic. 

My team helped improve the UX, from better messaging to removing unnecessary steps that weren't relevant to nearly all users.

The visual design here is dated, but that was the PayPal style of the day. : )

My team convinced the Risk group to drop these "selling" goals because data showed they weren't relevant for most people stuck in holds.

My team convinced the Risk group to drop these "selling" goals because data showed they weren't relevant for most people stuck in holds.

We improved the identity experience by allowing the user to add a new phone number and do the whole thing through SMS if they wanted.

We improved the identity experience by allowing the user to add a new phone number and do the whole thing through SMS if they wanted.

The unwinnable walkman war

Back in 2005 when I was a merchandising manager at Sony — somewhere between a product and design manager — I had the good and bad fortune of owning the portable audio pages on Sony was getting its ATRAC handed to it by Apple, and there was nothing our US-based Sony site could do about it. We'd release a Walkman with an LCD screen, Apple would have color. We'd have 256MB memory, they'd have a GB. And so on. The home office knew each offering wasn't going to sell, so they provided zero online marketing budget. 

I was on a team of really talented people, with guys going on to found design firms and be VPs at major motion picture studios, so it was a delight and great learning experience to work with them. We came up with the below campaign in a week, putting all our chips on the one advantage we had over Apple — battery life. Sony players lasted significantly longer than competitors, so we focused on what a person could do during that extended play time. I was able to sneak in some edgy content like "drown out mom" and "grind every curb in Burbank." I'm still proud of that.

Sales were slim compared to Apple, but we actually went well above forecast, and upper management was impressed.

We really hammered home the battery life advantage, all the way down to the item level pages. Believe it or not, the Sony Style website was pretty slick for its time. 

We improved the identity experience by allowing the user to add a new phone number and do the whole thing through SMS if they wanted.

And the battery beat continued on with the hard drive player that also could not compete with Apple. Can't say we didn't try!

My team convinced the Risk group to drop these "selling" goals because data showed they weren't relevant for most people stuck in holds.

Revamping the Resolution Center

Some years back, PayPal struck a deal with Discover to make a bigger move into the brick and mortar space. 

The Risk group wanted to update the Resolution Center so it could align with the dispute process for credit card companies.

The Resolution Center had been limping along with reason codes that were too limited ("Item not received" and "Not as Described" weren't enough).


We did research and user testing to work through a complicated issue reporting flow. It ended up being too complicated, based on the requirements from the Risk group, so our project got shelved. Years later, I'm disappointed to see PayPal has still not updated its Resolution Center, and it's still a sore spot with customers. : /

Email apps are dense.

Most of us are in Microsoft Outlook 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. It gets really really familiar, and the sheer breadth of it doesn't really sink in. But, let me tell you, email applications are DEEP. Especially when you're doing the UX for them.

I inherited this mobile mail project about halfway through. I got a good education in how these patterns translate into the Android world. I can't say I love the color palette used here, but it has been the style for Symantec and Norton consumer products for some time.

The Touchdown email app was particularly robust, because people would buy it for extra features they can't find anywhere else (like setting unique vibration alerts for new mail, events, etc.)