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General Information
CategoryConsumer Web


San Francisco, USA
Pier One
Bay 2
San Francisco, CA, 94111


Co-Founder & President




Adaptive Path

Adaptive Path helps organizations develop product concepts through experience strategy and deliver on those concepts through experience design.

In the fall of 2000, as the bubble was bursting, Peter Merholz sent an email to the future co-founders of Adaptive Path. He was thinking of striking out on his own but didn’t want to go solo.

And he wanted to focus exclusively on user experience problems. Despite the chaos of the market, it was clear there was a demand for user experience services. Were they interested in joining forces?

A few months later in March of 2001, probably the worst time to start a business, Adaptive Path was launched at SXSW on the rooftop of the old Waterloo Brewing Company.

From the very beginning, the company has worked with recognizable brands on hairy problems. NPR and PeopleSoft were the first two Adaptive Path clients. Other early clients include Intel, UN Relief Web, PBS, and Wells Fargo.

It was important to the founders to approach client work differently than most consultancies. No telling clients how to do business. No forcing a rigid methodology. The Adaptive Path way was purposefully flexible—based on what was learned from clients during the course of each engagement. That flexibility and the ability to respond to emergent forces and to include clients in the process were crucial to Adaptive Path’s early success and continue to inform the practice today.

Another founding principle was openness of ideas. Not only amongst each other, but with the community that was forming around user experience. With missionary zeal, the founders spread the word about UX, writing about it, speaking at conferences and leading workshops on user experience. It was clear people were hungry for more.

In 2002, co-founder Jesse James Garrett published The Elements of User Experience, to help explain user experience to non UX folks. It has become a classic in the field, taught widely in college courses. Also that year, with the first public workshop in Chicago, the Adaptive Path events line of business was launched, offering some of the only hands-on training available for UX professionals. The following year, UX Week, Adaptive Path’s flagship event, kicked off in Washington, D.C. Today it is considered the premier user experience conference, drawing hundreds of UX professionals from all over the world.

In addition to sharing ideas and furthering the practice, there was Ajax. In 2005, Jesse coined the term in an effort to help a client understand the concept of rich interaction with native Web technologies. Coining the word helped the idea take off, and placed Adaptive Path firmly in the middle of the Web 2.0 revolution. We worked with Blogger (after it was acquired by Google), and Flickr. In 2006, Measure Map, an analytics tool for bloggers that we built in-house, was bought by Google.

Then there was Charmr. In 2007, Adaptive Path’s R&D team took up the plea of diabetes blogger Amy Tenderich to create a product to make diabetes management less clunky and awkward and more sleek and seamless. The work was awarded patents and was responsible for opening the door for us to work in healthcare, an industry for which we are especially well suited.

That same year, two new events launched. UX Intensive, a traveling four-day workshop series, and MX: Managing Experience, a conference for managers with a user experience mandate. We also opened our Austin office.

In 2008, our book Subject to Change, published by O’Reilly, hit the shelves. It captured our philosophy in approaching the development of products and services. In 2009, there was a recession. We survived. (Whew.) The following year Adaptive Path Amsterdam opened for business.

It’s been a great ten years. From a beginning in web user experience, doing upfront user research and information architecture to delivering wireframes, our work has evolved to being involved from strategy through visual design, tech and development across a wider variety of platforms and environments. We are routinely hired to take a crack at the tough problems and complex challenges our clients face and think only we can handle. We continue to seek the difficult, the crazy, the impossible and push ourselves and our clients ever forward.

Since Adaptive Path’s inception UX has emerged from the backroom to the boardroom, going from something that’s “nice to have” to an essential element of successful products and services. Adaptive Path can take a little bit of the credit.

Recent Milestones





Aurora is a video of a possible future user experience for the Web created by Adaptive Path. Aurora is part of the Mozilla Labs concept series, a project to grow the Mozilla community around the surfacing of new ideas and concepts through pictures, sketches or videos as part of the Concept Series.

People, places and things on the web are represented by objects in a 3 dimensional space. When users stop using objects, the objects drift off into the distance. Data objects can easily be dropped in and out of applications and communication tools are built into the UI.

Closely related objects are clustered together. As users rotate through the wheel (aka the dock) at the bottom of the page, the spacial view gives greater visual emphasis to clusters that are most closely related the object at the center of the wheel.

Adaptive Path screenshot
Aurora Aurora Aurora


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