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Living with Wearable Tech

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of presenting (once again) at the amazing Midwest UX conference in Columbus, OH. I must say that the event was very well put together, and very well attended. I had an absolute blast speaking, meeting up with old friends, meeting great new people, and learning a ton.

I presented on Living with Wearable Tech as a 5 minute ignite style talk as the closing keynote on the first day. My presentation talked about some personal stories, gave insights and reflections, and honed in on the future of wearable technology.


Wearable computing has come a long way. Devices of yester-year were clunky, hard to use, and fashion backward. As computers continue to miniaturize, the world will see more and more wearable devices. Manufacturers and product makers will continue to try and figure out how to put technology into wearable products and into our lives. As devices make leaps and bounds towards usefullness, utility, and connectedness we will see more and more technology integrated into our lives. How that technology fits into our lives, depends on designers advocating for the best possible experience. Wearable computing takes on a broad range of topics, but most important is the relationship between the person and the technology. Because wearable technology is with us, and on us, throughout most of the day, it’s important to remember how the technology fits into the lives of individual people and the context in which they interact with the technology. This quick presentation describes my relationship with wearable technology and puts forth insights gained from living with the technology through a user experience viewpoint.



If you happened to catch my talk, please send me some feedback as comments, twitter replies or dm’s, or on SpeakerRate. Thanks!

Conference Coverage

Design Critique: Jawbone UP

What is the Jawbone UP

Jawbone UP is a wearable technology powered by an mobile application which tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, inactive and active workouts, as well as tracking your sleep patterns. The system consists of a sleek wristband device, and an iPhone application. The wristband itself is small with one button and an audio port. The iPhone application shows total number of steps and sleep, team information, a feed of your friend’s activity, challenges, and basic profile information. Plugging the wristband device into the headphone port of your iPhone allows you to sync your logged activity and view it in a couple of ways. It could be argued that the overall goal of Jawbone UP is to help make people more aware of their daily activities, concerning physical activity as well as sleep, so that habits might be exposed and changed over time.

Why Did I Buy One?

I am very interested in wearable and fitness technology. Jawbone UP is the first device that is fashion forward enough to wear every single day, which constantly tracks my movement and sleep patterns. I purchased the device in order to track my daily habits and see where improvements could be made. Tracking my sleep patterns and visualizing the information was also very appealing as I have always been curious about how I sleep (as I’m a very “deep” sleeper).


Overall, the UP is quite delightful and good at it’s stated goals. Switching from wearing no forms of jewelry (rarely even a watch) to consistently wearing the device every single day was easy. The device is fashionable without bringing too much attention to itself, and it easily fits in to my overall style and aesthetics. The iPhone application however has many problems. Over the course of 10 days I’ve encountered a number of design and software flaws with the application.

Interaction Design

Jawbone UP Home Screen

The overall design of the iPhone application could be said to be simple and fairly easy to use. First time use or Out Of Box experience was pleasant and gave me a clear sense of what to do within the application. While I’m usually a fan of design which does not require tutorials, designs which sync hardware and software are still a bit new, so some basic tutorials could be useful to a myriad of users. I also find syncing the device to work quite well, thought the tappable buttons seem to be too small and I find myself missing them on the first try. Syncing can also be an issue if the device isn’t fully plugged in and pushed completely into the audio port. To be fair the Square Card Reader has some similar problems.

While most of the application is straightforward and easy to use, I’ve come across a number of problems with the design. While some of these issues are easily fixed usability issues, others are frustrating to use on a daily basis.

Jawbone UP Sleep Activity

  • No understanding that you need to rotate the phone back into portrait view
  • No way to dive deeper into details of the timeline
  • Feed isn’t intuitive and doesn’t mean much to anyone
  • Why would anyone add to their feed manually when this device is all about the automatic?
  • Why is my profile and feed only showing my sleeping activity? Why not all activity?
  • Poor quality scrolling
  • Tapping on Sleep doesn’t bring up the sleep timeline, but rather takes me to the last synced timeline.
  • A 24 hour day in the timeline does not fit with my understandings of a day, if you know when I sleep and wake, you know when my ‘day’ starts and ends.
  • Activity Indicator and vibration alert can not seem to tell when I’m standing and working but not moving beyond shifting weight a bit.

Industrial Design

Jawbone UP with lost cap

The UP device looks fantastic, and I’ve actually been complemented on the fashion of the device. It fits into my overall wardrobe and style seamlessly. Wearing the device is comfortable and I’ve gotten to a point where it feels natural. While the material of the device feels nice, it often get’s caught in cuffs of jackets and shirts. Further, the audio port cap comes off too easily resulting in a lost cap after just 8 days of use.

Missed Opportunities

While the Jawbone UP device is very new to the market, and the overall market of wearable computing is in it’s infancy, I think Jawbone missed several compelling opportunities with the UP device.

  • Telling me how to actually improve my sleep.
  • Vibrating the bracelet until I actually get up and move around (or at least more than once)
  • Automatic snooze of sleep timer.
  • No social graph to recommend people to be in my team.
  • Nap mode, especially given that it knows my sleeping patterns.
  • Not able to add notes about particular sleep or activity patterns to help me see the bigger overall picture of my health. This could work much like the meals option and notes.
  • Should the device be smart enough to go into Sleep mode by itself?


Overall Thoughts

In summary, I love my Jawbone UP. It provides great data on my overall activity, especially sleep patterns. The UP is comfortable and fashionable enough to wear everyday. The only time I take mine off is to shower, but with the device being water and sweat resistance, that isn’t even necessary. I find myself syncing the device 3-4 times per day to see how I’m doing. While the device has some issues, it’s missed two nights of sleep data, and the application has quite a few design problems, I think Jawbone has put forth a great piece of useful and fashionable wearable technology.

Announcing Give-A-Crit

Give-A-Crit allows photographers to upload images and get serious critique from professional photographers. Through video recordings and on-the-fly editing tools, photographers can engage in honest feedback and critique with each other.

Sign up to be notified when it launches in 2012.


Artists and creatives need critique to thrive and produce their best work. As digital photography has exploded in the last decade, hundreds of thousands of people have taken up photography. These new photographers turned to flickr and other sites for feedback and critique. However, text based comments don’t provide for a serious and honest critique. They lack context, technical information, and natural conversation.


Give-A-Crit seeks to address this problem through 4 major design principles; Show and Tell, Respond, Choose, and Quality.

Show and Tell
Video critiques coupled with on-the- fly edits enable professionals to give quality, honest critiques.

Photographers can watch any critique and can respond to critiques of their own photographs.

Photographers can request specific critics for each photograph they submit for critique.

Critics are of the highest quality to ensure professional, honest, and serious critique


Thesis Poster

Below you will find my thesis (or capstone) poster from my master’s program. You can find more information about the project via my blog.

Give-A-Crit poster

Looking for Two Students to Mentor

I’m looking to mentor two graduate level students in the Experience Design field (UX, UXD, UCD, IxD, ED, HCI, etc). As a recent graduate myself I know that having a good mentor while going through a graduate program can mean quite a lot.

I’m offering the following:

  • 6-9 months of mentorship
  • Review and critique of design work
  • Help understanding field
  • Help understanding graduate school
  • Advice of any kind
  • Review, critique, and help with portfolio and resume

I’m looking to mentor any student currently enrolled in a graduate program in the fields listed above who posses the following qualities.

  • 1st or 2nd year student
  • English speaking
  • Ability to listen to blunt, upfront critique
  • Desire to work in the field (not looking to get into a phd program)
  • Enjoys design beyond research (I love research as well, but I want you to love design also)
  • Sense of humor
  • Wants to be active in the design field
  • a ‘go getter’

I’m based in San Francisco, but you can be based anywhere. I will mostly be able to mentor through email, IM, phone calls, and video calls. If you are interested, please send me an email directly explaining why you want to be mentored (can be brief).

Brittany Joy Skwierczynski

Before I left Indiana for San Francisco, I traveled up to Indianapolis to photograph and say goodbye to my really great friend Brittany. While it was a bitter sweet night, I’m so glad to have gotten her in front of my camera. Brittany is a kick ass designer, a super passionate person, and she is beautiful as well. Lucky her, and lucky me for getting to photograph her.

Some of the above photographs represent some of my best work to date (I think). I would love to hear what you think. Leave your thoughts in the comments.