UX for smart marketers: Get outside the building, and 3 more TIMA tips from user experience expert Abe Crystal

Dr. Abe Crystal
Abe Crystal of More Better Labs

As marketers and designers, we need to get “outside the building” to ensure we’re meeting our customers’ needs, according to Dr. Abe Crystal of More Better Labs. He presented “User Experience 101″ at yesterday’s TIMA meeting.

Couldn’t make it? You missed out — it was a great session. Abe covered some theory but focused on real-world user experience (UX) examples and questions that we marketers can answer to improve our products. I’ll link to the handout and slides as soon as TIMA shares them.

Here’s my “quick highlights” recap of the event at the Marbles Children’s Museum in Raleigh, N.C. If you want even more, sign up for More Better Labs’ two-day UX101 workshop in RTP.

My Top 4 UX Lessons from Abe Crystal

  1. ASK: What’s one small thing you can do THIS WEEK to get “outside the building” and reach out to a customer? Effective product design doesn’t happen entirely in a cubicle. On the handout, Abe shared a list of questions to ask your customers, via Cindy Alvarez at KISSmetrics.
  2. DO: Come up with a mantra for your project, instead of a verbose mission statement. A few years ago, Guy Kawasaki rewrote hollow “corporatespeak” mission statements as simple sayings. For instance, Wendy’s would be “healthy fast food” and Nike would be “authentic athletic performance.” The three- and four-word mantras are easier for employees to internalize and execute.
  3. MAKE: Sketch, mock up, or draft an “artifact from the future” for your project. Showing a hypothetical software box, Abe asked what we’d highlight if we had room for just three bullets. It reminded me of an exercise in my improv comedy class, where we had to do a scene in 40 seconds, and then 20 seconds, and then 10 seconds. When you have less time or space, you get to the point faster!
  4. REVERSE-ENGINEER: Deconstruct and analyze the user experience principles of a product or service you like. Abe highlighted how Mint, Kayak, Flip, and 37signals succeeded where competitors have failed, due in part because they “get” UX.


This month’s Triangle Interactive Marketing Association‘s user experience lunch-and-learn built nicely on what I’d learned about UX from Jess Martin at Refresh the Triangle. I don’t have a personal mission statement but if I were to condense my essence into a mantra, it might be “meaningful, measurable marketing.”

I went back to the office with several ideas to help my clients immediately. I also need to think about how to make my blog simpler to navigate. And I’m going to look into Don’t Make Me Think and Designing for Interaction, which Abe recommended. The TIMA event wasn’t a sales pitch but based on Abe’s intro-intro, I’m strongly considering registering for More Better Labs’ two-day UX101 event on September 23-24.

What were your biggest takeaways? What’s your mantra?

Marketing strategist and account manager Karl Sakas uses research, insights, and relationships to help companies quickly find new ways to make more money. He’s available for hire on a full-time or consulting basis from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Photo credit: Abe Crystal via Twitter


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