Notes & Links

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Engagement is an antimetric

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As a word, engagement is meaningless. It’s a stand-in for any number of measurements collected by the tracking technology embedded into every website, app, and TV. For Google, engagement might mean the number of times an ad is seen. To Instagram, engagement is probably a complex formula comprising likes, comments, and follows. Netflix could count the number of hours the average person spends watching Friends as engagement.

A meaningless word, but a meaningful measurement; engagement drives algorithms. So engagement is closely monitored. Right now, product managers, designers, and engineers are planning, building, and shipping to drive more engagement. Those measurements feed the formulae that guide what shows we watch, what ads we see, and what products we buy.Engagement is an antimetric

Matthew Ström is quickly rising to become one of my favorite bloggers.

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Investing in things that don’t go out of style

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The best business advice we ever got is from Jeff Bezos from Amazon.com (Jeff bought a small piece of our company in 2006). He told us “Find the things that won’t change in your business and invest heavily in those things.”

He explained it like this… “Take Amazon for example… 10 years from now people aren’t going to say ‘I wish Amazon shipping was slower’ or ‘I wish Amazon had a worse selection’, so we invest heavily in fast shipping and a broad selection.”

So what are those things for us? 10 years from now people aren’t going to say “I wish Basecamp was harder to use” or “I wish Basecamp was slower and less reliable” or “I wish it took longer to get an answer from someone at Basecamp”, so we invest heavily in infrastructure, great design, and customer service.Investing in things that don’t go out of style

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How Slack ruined work

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“With email you know you probably have time to read through a bunch of messages and have a day to respond,” he says. “Slack is instant and we get a rewarding hit of dopamine every time we respond to someone or someone reaches out to us to let us know a member of our ‘work tribe’ needs us. It makes us feel valued and informed, but it also makes us fearful every time an alert comes in that we’ll be out of the loop or ill-informed if we don’t check a message, even though very few truly need our instant attention.”How Slack ruined work

I should probably limit my Slack usage.

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What We Want Doesn’t Always Make Us Happy

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But Allcott et al. also found that the people who deactivated Facebook as part of the experiment were happier afterward, reporting higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of depression and anxiety. The change was modest but significant — equal to about 25 to 40 percent of the beneficial effect typically reported for psychotherapy.What We Want Doesn’t Always Make Us Happy

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Basecamp is releasing a new product, Hey

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Is it a paid service? I’m done with free.

Aren’t we all? It is indeed pay. I mean, all services are. We just accept the payment in cash money, whereas so many others take their payment in privacy violations or attention hoarding.@dhh on twitter

Basecamp is releasing their first new product in years, Hey and I’m very excited about it. I’ve been looking at options to move away from Google for years and this could be it. Loved the above response from @DHH in his Twitter thread.

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A newsletter is a relationship

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For me, the most significant insight was to understand that a newsletter was a relationship — a chance to serve. Not just to sell.

An example.

You have two friends. One who calls you and always wants something. Then the other friend, who just calls to see how you are, and tells you about a film you would love or a podcast you should listen to.

Now, when you are busy, and the phone rings, who do you always take the call from?

We all know the answer.

So why does that matter? Because our competition is not another brand, but the fact that our customer is busy. E-mail for growth

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Debbie Millman - Time Well Spent

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Build something meaningful rather than build something fast. The length of time it takes for you to succeed is generally a good measure of how long you will be able to sustain — and enjoy — it.Debbie Millman - Time Well Spent

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The last tracker was just removed from Basecamp.com

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Can you believe we used to willingly tell Google about every single visitor to basecamp.com by way of Google Analytics? Letting them collect every last byte of information possible through the spying eye of their tracking pixel. Ugh.

But 2020 isn’t 2010. Our naiveté around data, who captures it, and what they do with it has collectively been brought to shame. Most people now sit with basic understanding that using the internet leaves behind a data trail, and quite a few people have begun to question just how deep that trail should be, and who should have the right to follow it.

In this new world, it feels like an obligation to make sure we’re not aiding and abetting those who seek to exploit our data. Those who hoard every little clue in order to piece of together a puzzle that’ll ultimately reveal all our weakest points and moments, then sell that picture to the highest bidder.

The internet needs to know less about us, not more. Just because it’s possible to track someone doesn’t mean we should.The last tracker was just removed from Basecamp.com

I just started using Fathom for this particular reason. While it does cost (as opposed to Google Analytics that people refer to as ‘free’), it’s not much unless your website has millions of visitors (which in that case, good for you!). Give your website visitors a treat and switch from Google Analytics today.

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Fathom Analytics

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Fathom Analytics exists because we were sick of compromising when it came to website data. We didn’t want to settle for analytics from “big tech” companies who like to make us the product and sell our data. We didn’t want to collect data but have to pour through 100s of pages of reports to interpret it, we wanted quick and easy (which is why our software is ONE page).

I just started using Fathom and it’s one of the products that you immediately can tell that it’s built with love. If you want dead simple analytics that respect your user’s privacy - Fathom is for you. Fast Company listed them as one of the options to ditch Google Analytics which, let’s be honest, no one really knows how to use.

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Accessibility drives aesthetics

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Oftentimes, ableist people use this as an excuse to avoid designing for disabled people. That’s not what this rule is actually about. This rule is intended to focus on the most common user goals and scenarios. Take a pet supply online store, for example. If 80% of people want to buy pet food, we can de-prioritize the case where 20% of people want a treat tasting subscription service. But people should be able to buy pet food whether they are Blind, or Deaf, or have cerebral palsy, or have any kind of disability that requires accessibility.

Edge cases refer to scenarios, not humans.Accessibility drives aesthetics

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How putting a price on speed helped one retailer increase mobile revenue in just 2 months

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While Olsson himself was immediately sold by the idea, convincing K-Rauta’s internal stakeholders of the need for speed was less easy. “It’s difficult to connect speed with revenue, which understandably doesn’t sit well with most C-levels. I’ve learned that having a checklist or one-pager that stresses the importance of speed can do wonders – the key is keeping the information bite-sized, and focusing on product data and direct impact.”



Getting everyone on board wouldn’t have been possible had K-Rauta not been able to calculate the value of speed. “Being able to illustrate that better site speed could lead to a 25% increase in sales made C-levels aware of business value, and showed developers the impact of low hanging fruit,” says Olsson. “To effectively roll-out a project this big, you need decision makers as well as technical experts. It’s this multi-level collaboration which has allowed us to work efficiently while keeping everything in-house.”How putting a price on speed helped one retailer increase mobile revenue in just 2 months

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Smart people use simple words to make others feel smart.

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Smart people use simple words to make others feel smart.

Industry buzzwords and corporate lingo, on the other hand, make you look unapproachable — or worse, clueless. From presenting work in meetings to articulating ideas in writing, you win hearts and minds with everyday language.Smart people use simple words to make others feel smart.

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The great paradox of our time: everything is both better and worse than ever before

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Our world is better off now than at any point in human history, but at the same time things have never been worse.

It’s a contradiction that presents us with a seemingly unresolvable conundrum: the source of our progress has become the source of our downfall. Things are too good for us to change it all, yet too bad for us to leave anything as it is.

This is the great paradox of modern times.The great paradox of our time: everything is both better and worse than ever before

I loved this piece but at the same time it left me wondering - hasn’t this always been the case?

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The Enemy

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I even received an email from my mailing list provider the other day that my welcome email had a higher rate of abuse complaints than they allow. This isn’t Mailchimp’s fault either—they’re looking out for the sender reputation of their service and their customers. The problem is that people are freely signing up for my list, getting my welcome email, disliking it for some reason, then marking it as spam (when it’s clearly not—spam is email you get without asking for it). It’s totally demoralizing, because my welcome email was something I was quite proud of, and has been talked about all over the internet as something unique and interesting. And, of course, I teach an online course about using Mailchimp… the irony here is not lost on me.

In the end, I axed: the silly tattoo story (which I felt was on-brand and truly me since I have a lot of tattoos), a single swear word I used (purposefully), toned down my voice and very clearly remind people of the specific URL they used to sign up to my list. The experience of signing up for my mailing list, my most valued part of my business, is now diminished because it has to be if it’s to keep existing. But it did bring my “spam” rate down to zero.The Enemy

😢

Paul’s newsletter has remained as one of my favorites for years, he was the one who even introduced the concept of an onboarding email to me.

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Will millions in funding ruin 1Password?

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Twitter was alive yesterday with drama, after 1Password raised a whopping $200 million in funding, breaking an independence streak of 14 years. Usually, funding announcements are met with a resounding meh, but the internet was divided on a single point: why is 1Password taking all this money, and isn’t that bad in the long run for its users?

The disdain resonated with me for a single reason: tech companies, particularly those focused on consumers, that take a metric ton of cash from venture capitalists usually hunker down on growth at all costs, pivoting into new features and markets… when those customers were perfectly happy before.

It always seems that when a startup raises too much cash, or a company gets too big, it just can’t resist adding random bloat. The infamous @DHH put it well on Twitter:

Whenever I read about a software service I like hopping on the venture capital train to unicorn-ville, I fully expect them to go to shit. 1PW now need to beome a many billion dollar company OR DIE TRYING. That usually lead to desperate/shitty decisions.

It’s easy to find evidence of this in companies that have previously had incredibly focused products, like 1Password, but ultimately pivoted away from their core competencies to justify their valuations. Dropbox is a prime example of this: the company recently pivoted to be more than a file sync service, instead offering a “work management utility” to help busy knowledge workers organize all of their digital things.

The overwhelming sentiment? The new Dropbox sucks, and the company has been railed for forcing users into using a bloated, feature-laden app they didn’t actually ask for. Another example of this can be found in Google’s rumored plan to offer banking in 2020, which prompted me to wonder: does every tech company need to do every damn thing?

1Password is good because it’s focused, simple, and does the job very well, so taking on venture capital money does seem dubious. That’s what makes the reaction to 1Password’s fundraising so visceral: a worry that a huge blob of cash will lead the company to add new features, pursuing growth at all costs in markets that nobody really wanted them to be in anyway.Will millions in funding ruin 1Password?

Sorry for the long quote but to be honest, I could have pasted the entire post, it’s a great read by Owen. Choosing simple over complex still remains the holy grail (unfortunately).

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How to Have a Successful UX Career at Google (Or Anywhere Else)

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Upping your vocabulary and understanding of basic business and product terminology is another fairly simple way of being able to speak shark. Get familiar with business metrics like KPI, sales revenue, net profit margin, gross margin, customer lifetime value, and product metrics like daily/monthly active users (DAU, MAU), churn rate, conversion rate, engagement etc.How to Have a Successful UX Career at Google (Or Anywhere Else)

YES.

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Tool tips: How our design team switched to Figma

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When Figma initially marketed themselves as the first collaborative design tool, I asked myself: “Why would I need that? Why would I want some manager to poke around my designs? Why would I need to work on a file simultaneously with another designer?”

It was only after the switch that I came to understand the value.

At Intercom, we do regular design critique sessions where designers get feedback on their work. The fact that multiple designers can jump into and inspect one file at the same time in Figma turned out to be a dramatic improvement for these sessions.

But it is when you start looping in engineers that the collaborative aspect of Figma truly shines. The very fact that the entire handover now happens with a single click on the “Share” button is amazing, a considerable improvement on the previous process.

Another benefit lies in how its commenting feature works – conducting design reviews and gathering feedback, looping in managers and content designers, even asking for support, Figma brought together all these various types of communication inside the tool, and it goes even further now with plugins. This opened a whole new world of possibilities.Tool tips: How our design team switched to Figma

I’m currently working on two separate projects where most of the reviewing and discussions are in Figma and I absolutely love the experience. Engineers, managers and stake holders all comment on progress in Figma - and they always know exactly where to find the latest designs. No more: here’s something the team is working on but this isn’t actually the latest design, can you send me an updated .png?

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Interview with Cap Watkins

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What do most new leaders get wrong?

They try to control the outcomes directly at a very low-level, rather than set up principles and structures so that people can make good decisions on their own that, taken together, are congruous with other decisions being made across the team. Basically, you have to find ways to scale yourself and your vision for the team without it all relying on you being present for every decision.Interview with Cap Watkins

This highlights perfectly why I often start with a UX Strategy. A great team is formed when everyone has the same goal and everyone has confidence to make decisions based on a common strategy.

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The Hot Potato Process

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The big misconception I’ve seen designers and developers often fall victim to is believing that handoff goes one way. Designers hand off comps to developers and think their work is done. That puts a lot of pressure on the designer to get everything perfect in one pass.

Instead, great collaboration follows what Brad Frost and I call “The Hot Potato Process,” where ideas are passed quickly back and forth from designer to developer and back to designer then back to developer for the entirety of a product creation cycle.The Hot Potato Process

When I’ve had the honour of working with Dan, even as a designer, we sent stuff back and forward quite a bit and there was never this need to feel that something was ‘more or less done’ before passing it over. Instead, really rough ideas were sent back and iterated on. It’s a process I really enjoyed and I can only imagine the difference in both process and output when it’s between designer and developer.

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Leave the Phone at Home

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Buying things is more fun than running, which is why I convinced myself that an Apple Watch was the perfect inspiration to get back into my trainers. It is now a few months on—I’m still not running regularly, but the watch provided a different and unexpected benefit. I can now leave the house without my phone and still maintain a line of connection to the world with messages, email, and maps. It is freeing. I have no social media on the watch, so no snares in which to get stuck in idle moments. It’s a tremendous relief to be free of the drag of demented global consciousness, and I predict that many others will find the appeal of this situation.Leave the Phone at Home

I have just got my hands on an all-new iPhone 11 Pro but this makes me really wanting the Apple Watch.

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Ad Age 2019 A-List no. 6: Work & CO

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“We try to avoid that word [culture],” Sheehan says. So if you’re the kind of person looking for ping-pong tables and meetups throughout the week, Work & Co might not be the way to go. “We’re not trying to create an environment or quote-unquote ‘culture’ where [people] feel like they have to stay later because other people are staying late,” Sheehan says. “We’re really trying to encourage people to go home to their family, go home to their friends, go home to whatever they’re passionate about outside work and make sure that’s a priority in their lives.”Ad Age 2019 A-List no. 6: Work & CO

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Apple VP Nick Law: creative agencies must learn new capabilities or they’re f*cked

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Well, that’s a problem with the word ‘digital’. This is why I always thought the title of chief digital officer was absurd. It’s like saying ‘chief air officer’. Everything is digital. You can’t compare a very narrow set of formats that constitute traditional advertising – broadcast, print, direct, radio – with digital. Digital is a suite, not just of platforms where you can buy media, but also of utility, of services, of transactions, of business. Digital is a membrane over society now. It’s central to the way we operate as humans.Apple VP Nick Law: creative agencies must learn new capabilities or they’re f*cked

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How we work with microcopy

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If we’re aiming full WCAG compatibility, we have to be extra diligent to make sure everything makes sense for everybody. Sometimes we write additional copy, like aria-labels, to make sure it works smoothly for people who use screen readers or other aids to use the product. We can still make human interfaces with a personality, but when it comes to accessibility, being clear and concise is much more important than being funny or minimalistic. Test it, and test it again.How we work with microcopy

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Mobile E-Commerce UX: Deemphasize ‘Install App’ Ads or Avoid Them Entirely

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These issues make it clear that having an ad for “Install App” has a high cost in terms of causing an often severe negative impact on users’ product-browsing and -purchasing experience on the mobile website. During our testing “Install App” banners were the direct and sole cause of several abandonments of some of the world’s largest e-commerce websites.Mobile E-Commerce UX: Deemphasize ‘Install App’ Ads or Avoid Them Entirely

Even for e-commerce sites that I visit on a weekly basis, like Mr Porter, I would never install their app.

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Analytics are reshaping fashion’s old-school instincts

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It’s important to “break your own news”, says Ed Burstell, senior vice president of product innovation at Neiman Marcus. “Look at Gucci — it is the biggest phenomenon of the last couple of years, and it certainly wasn’t waiting around to see if it would be a trend. It put its flag in the sand and said, ‘This is it.’”Analytics are reshaping fashion’s old-school instincts

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People Are Starting to Realize How Voice Assistants Actually Work

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Because the complex of AI tools and human review exists in this feedback loop, the stakes only get higher as companies improve voice assistants, asking us to embed them deeper into daily life. Amazon has patented technology that would allow its speakers to assess users’ emotional states and adjust their responses accordingly. Google filed a patent that would enable its speakers to respond to the sounds of users brushing their teeth and eating. Voice assistants are already being tested in police stations, classrooms, and hospitals.

The effect is that our tools will know more and more about us as we know less and less about them. In a recent article for The New Yorker on the risks of automation, the Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain coined the phrase intellectual debt: the phenomenon by which we readily accept new technology into our lives, only bothering to learn how it works after the fact. Essentially, buy first, ask questions later. This is the second feedback loop grinding onward alongside the first, a sort of automation-procrastination complex. As voice assistants become an integral part of health care and law enforcement, we accrue more intellectual debt in more aspects of life. As technology gets smarter, we will know less about it.People Are Starting to Realize How Voice Assistants Actually Work

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“I Just Knew I Was Going to Surpass These Guys I Was Working For”

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When I was just starting out, I’d see some of the decisions my early bosses made and I’d think, I’m not experienced, but this is how I’d do it. I was beginning to get an inkling of my own tastes and judgment. I just didn’t have the certainty and maturity to act on it. I wasn’t a prodigy personality who is like, “Get out of my way, I’m doing this.” I was a little bit uncertain about my skills. But I just knew I was going to surpass these guys I was working for. I remember once I interviewed for an internship at the Washington Post, and a guy said I was too confident. I was like, “Why don’t you retire now, because you’ll be working for me?” Men are always trying to drag women down. I said, “I’m not too confident. I’m fantastic.” I was always, always like that. And I appreciate that about myself, I have to say.“I Just Knew I Was Going to Surpass These Guys I Was Working For”

“I’m not too confident. I’m fantastic.” is my new mantra.

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A Mindful Approach to Technology

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Instead of calling a friend to check in, we check our email. Instead of jotting down ideas, we see who liked our last Facebook post. Instead of writing in our journal, we end up scrolling through Instagram.

In short, we’re consuming instead of creating. By default, we’re constantly chasing “more.” We can’t resist the siren call of the new and shiny, so we’re pulled mindlessly toward the mesmerizing glow of our screen without thought to what we’re really doing there.A Mindful Approach to Technology

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Fast Software, the Best Software

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I love fast software. That is, software speedy both in function and interface. Software with minimal to no lag between wanting to activate or manipulate something and the thing happening. Lightness.

Software that’s speedy usually means it’s focused. Like a good tool, it often means that it’s simple, but that’s not necessarily true. Speed in software is probably the most valuable, least valued asset. To me, speedy software is the difference between an application smoothly integrating into your life, and one called upon with great reluctance. Fastness in software is like great margins in a book — makes you smile without necessarily knowing why.Fast Software, the Best Software

I’ve been banging the drum of speed for years, but this entire essay is a piece of brilliance.

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Stay in your lane and outlast your competition

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The only thing that matters is that you keep going. The only way you truly fail at a marathon is to stop taking the next step. Sometimes you’re running, sometimes you’re walking, and sometimes you’re crawling. It doesn’t matter. If you’re moving forward, you will succeed.Stay in your lane and outlast your competition

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What to Do When You Feel Uninspired at Work

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One of the most common sources of lowered motivation at work is what Harvard researchers called the progress principle, which is the idea that making progress in meaningful work is the “single most important factor” in boosting one’s “emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday.”

“Often you’re not motivated because your goal is too big,” Ms. Fosslien said. “So if you can just break that into mini-milestones — like what are you going to do today that you can cross at the end of today?”

Even tiny units of progress, like sending an email you’ve been meaning to write forever, can contribute to a sense of accomplishment, which can boost your overall motivation, Ms. Fosslien said.What to Do When You Feel Uninspired at Work

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Data-Driven Design Is Killing Our Instincts

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We’re told all design decisions must be validated by user feedback or business success metrics. Analytics are measuring the design effectiveness of every tweak and change we make. If it can’t be proven to work in a prototype, A/B test, or MVP, it’s not worth trying at all.

In this cutthroat world of data-driven design, we’re starting to lose sight of something we once cherished: the designer’s instinct. “Trusting your gut” now means “lazy, entitled designer.” When we can ask users what they want directly, there’s no room for instinct and guesswork.

Or is there?Data-Driven Design Is Killing Our Instincts

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Freelance and Business And Stuff

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We’d like to start by saying: dumber people have done this. Starting your own business will be clunky and unfamiliar at first, like a baby deer on a trampoline, but it’s just new. You’re building new skills in an unfamiliar environment. Fearing what you don’t know or don’t understand can only last as long as you let it. Freelance and Business And Stuff

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Why Consultants Quit Their Jobs to Go Independent

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They also do not miss the internal politics and career management involved in staying inside a traditional firm. They are clear about what is important to them: great client work, intellectual challenge, the flexibility and control to choose where, when and with whom they work, and a good work-life balance – and independent work is delivering on all these dimensions. Interestingly, their traditionally employed peers also find these things important, but their satisfaction levels with most of these elements are significantly lower.HBR: Why Consultants Quit Their Jobs to Go Independent

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Superhuman and email privacy

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I’ve told the basic Superhuman tracking story to a few people over the last few weeks, and asked whether they realized this was possible; all of them expressed shock and many of them outrage as well. Email should be private, and most people assume, incorrectly, that it is. You have to be a web developer of some sort to understand how this is possible. Email is supposed to be like paper mail — you send it, they get it, and you have no idea whether they read it or not. It bounces back to you if they never even receive it, say, because you addressed it incorrectly. The original conception of email is completely private.Superhuman and Email Privacy

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Your inbox is spying on you

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Davidson’s extremely detailed posts get at a core issue of the privacy debate, which is that none of this invasive technology happens by accident. Our privacy crisis is a crisis of design. Take that telling line from Vohra, Superhuman’s C.E.O., which is less than a week old and has already aged poorly. We did not consider potential bad actors. But, as Davidson goes on to explain, Superhuman did receive negative feedback about email tracking; it just didn’t listen. “We did not consider” doesn’t mean the company was unaware but that they didn’t seem to take the feedback into consideration.NYT Privacy Project Newsletter

Davidson’s post are here and here.

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On Modus: It’s Time for a Code of Ethics for Designers

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It’s Time for a Code of Ethics for Designers is my first post over at Modus - Medium’s design publication. I’ve been honoured to have been featured in other publications at Medium before, particularly UX Collective and Prototypr but this is my first piece in Medium’s own publication.

I’d highly appreciate any ‘claps’ for this piece if you like it!

This is our vision for Modus: We want to create a place where designers can read high-quality, practical, thought-provoking pieces that will help them be better at their craft. We want to go beyond the design-basics articles you can find anywhere on the internet and be a trustworthy source designers can rely on to help them level up their skills and knowledge, stay current on the state of the design and tech fields, and dig deeper into the areas that interest them.

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Frank Chimero on causing ’good trouble’ and re-imagining the status quo to combat achievement culture

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There’s a quote from the Brazilian entrepreneur Ricardo Semler that I like. He says: “We’ve all learned to answer email on Sundays, but none of us has learned to go to the movies on Monday afternoon.” Good trouble is a re-negotiation of the rules, creating a little pocket of autonomy where it is safe to ask yourself the question, “How would I have it if I could choose?”Frank Chimero on causing ‘good trouble’ and re-imagining the status quo to combat achievement culture

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Citrix improves UX and cuts costs by 65%

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At JAMstackconf NYC, the Citrix documentation team shared their journey from a legacy web management system to the JAMstack and Netlify. They executed a massive migration in mere months — ahead of schedule — resulting in a 65% cost savings and a significantly better user experience, measured in faster page loads, faster publishing times, and improved customer satisfaction.**[Citrix improves UX and cuts costs by 65%](https://www.netlify.com/blog/2019/06/12/jamstackconf-nyc-session-recap-citrix-delivers-better-ux-with-less-overhead-using-jamstack-and-netlify/)**

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Delight Comes Last

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The key to the product needs hierarchy is one that Walter only mentions tangentially: your product has to satisfy the needs at each level before moving on to the next. A product can’t be efficient if it isn’t functional. A product can’t be delightful if it isn’t efficient and functional.Delight comes last

It’s a great post by Matthew Ström, one of my favorite writers. I wrote about the same topic back in 2015 but didn’t address the above point at all.

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Tim Cook’s Stanford Commencement Address

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“First things first, here’s a plain fact.

Silicon Valley is responsible for some of the most revolutionary inventions in modern history.

From the first oscillator built in the Hewlett-Packard garage to the iPhones that I know you’re holding in your hands.

Social media, shareable video, snaps and stories that connect half the people on Earth. They all trace their roots to Stanford’s backyard.

But lately, it seems, this industry is becoming better known for a less noble innovation: the belief that you can claim credit without accepting responsibility.

We see it every day now, with every data breach, every privacy violation, every blind eye turned to hate speech. Fake news poisoning our national conversation. The false promise of miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood. Too many seem to think that good intentions excuse away harmful outcomes.

But whether you like it or not, what you build and what you create define who you are.

It feels a bit crazy that anyone should have to say this. But if you’ve built a chaos factory, you can’t dodge responsibility for the chaos. Taking responsibility means having the courage to think things through.

And there are few areas where this is more important than privacy.

If we accept as normal and unavoidable that everything in our lives can be aggregated, sold, or even leaked in the event of a hack, then we lose so much more than data.

We lose the freedom to be human.

Think about what’s at stake. Everything you write, everything you say, every topic of curiosity, every stray thought, every impulsive purchase, every moment of frustration or weakness, every gripe or complaint, every secret shared in confidence.

In a world without digital privacy, even if you have done nothing wrong other than think differently, you begin to censor yourself. Not entirely at first. Just a little, bit by bit. To risk less, to hope less, to imagine less, to dare less, to create less, to try less, to talk less, to think less. The chilling effect of digital surveillance is profound, and it touches everything.

What a small, unimaginative world we would end up with. Not entirely at first. Just a little, bit by bit. Ironically, it’s the kind of environment that would have stopped Silicon Valley before it had even gotten started.

We deserve better. You deserve better.

If we believe that freedom means an environment where great ideas can take root, where they can grow and be nurtured without fear of irrational restrictions or burdens, then it’s our duty to change course, because your generation ought to have the same freedom to shape the future as the generation that came before.

Graduates, at the very least, learn from these mistakes. If you want to take credit, first learn to take responsibility.”Tim Cook’s Stanford Commencement Address

I think one of Steve Jobs’ most powerful speeches was his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address (the one about connecting the dots), but it’s very possible this is even stronger. Steve was talking from a personal perspective - Tim is talking from a societal perspective but still manages to make it just as personal and private.

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The Cost of Lies

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What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we will mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that, if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left but to abandon even the hope of truth and content ourselves instead with stories? In these stories, it doesn’t matter who the heroes are. All we want to know is who is to blame.The Cost of Lies

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You care more about your privacy than you think

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Friction is largely underrated in user experience design. Some of the people who understand friction’s effect best, alas, are those purposely designing privacy controls to make them even just a bit harder to use, understand, or discover.
The lack of friction in the Sign In With Apple experience — especially using a device with Face ID or Touch ID — is a key part of why I expect it to be successful. It’s not just more private than signing in with Google or Facebook, it’s as good or better in terms of how few steps it takes.
Designers need to design for what people will do, not what people should, in theory, do.You care more about your privacy than you think

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Big Mood Machine

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“At Spotify we have a personal relationship with over 191 million people who show us their true colors with zero filter,” reads a current advertising deck. “That’s a lot of authentic engagement with our audience: billions of data points every day across devices! This data fuels Spotify’s streaming intelligence—our secret weapon that gives brands the edge to be relevant in real-time moments.” Another brand-facing pitch proclaims: “The most exciting part? This new research is starting to reveal the streaming generation’s offline behaviors through their streaming habits.”Big Mood Machine

I prefer Spotify over Apple Music and generally think their playlists are better curated but something about this is deeply disturbing. The notion was always that “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product” - but with Spotify we are paying so one would assume that it would be enough. Apparently not.

Apple’s bet on privacy is beginning to make more and more sense.

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Hiring a Management Consultancy for Digital Is a Mistake

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It would seem that the legacy culture of these organisations stifles new and leaner working practices. Ultimately, these companies are built on delivering large, waterfall driven change programs, rather than embrace the rapid iteration and evolution of digital best practice.Hiring a Management Consultancy for Digital Is a Mistake

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Simplicity is a war

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This post was originally titled “simplicity is a battle”, but it dawned on us that that’s not strictly true – battles can be lost, while a war can still be won. Similarly, you can win battles while still losing a war. Simplicity is a war because it’s eroded in small battles that occur daily, often faster than the blink of an eye. You can win many battles for simplicity, but still end up with a complex product or company.

Simplicity is a war. And it’s being lost with thousands of tiny battles.Simplicity is a war

Great post by James, made me think of an old post of mine that, for an unknown reason, has been getting some significant organic traffic - Why simple is hard.

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Dos and dont’s on designing for accessibility

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accessibility posters

Karwai Pun is an interaction designer currently working on Service Optimisation to make existing and new services better for our users. Karwai is part of an accessibility group at Home Office Digital, leading on autism. Together with the team, she’s created these dos and don’ts posters as a way of approaching accessibility from a design perspective.Dos and dont’s on designing for accessibility

It’s very rare that I post images on this site but for these posters I’ll happily make an exception. Karwai Pun, I lift my hat for you. You can even find them hi-res here.

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Just write: why Product Designers should write, and how to get started

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Design is about getting things out there — not perfecting them — and seeing how they do. Writing is similar. Get it out there and see how it does. Learn from that, then improve. Michelle Claessens

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How Notion Is Going After Atlassian and Why It Just Might Win

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“We focused too much on what we wanted to bring to the world. We needed to pay attention to what the world wanted from us.” Ivan Zhao, Co-founder of Notion

It’s a fascinating post about the early days of Notion, a tool I’ve started to become far more dependable on and really love it’s flexibility. I like the above quote from Ivan, however later in the post, he says something that I think is contradicting to the above statement:

“The market is huge — everyone with a computer.”Ivan Zhao, Co-founder of Notion

The market is everyone that has a need for a tool like Notion. My wife has a computer but would never use a tool like Notion, nor would my dad. The ultra corporate people all have computers, most of them will most likely never adopt a tool like Notion. To say that their market is everyone with a computer is like saying that Porsche’s market is everyone that needs to be transported from A to B.

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Good reads this week

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Instead of quoting each post separately, I wanted to try something new and see if I can manage to do a link-post each Friday with what I’ve enjoyed reading during the week.

  • Improve your UX with micro-interactions
    The best products do two things well: features and details. Features are what draw people to your product. Details are what keep them there.
  • Abstracting the Microsoft Outlook Design Process
    I love getting insight like this into how other organisations do their day-to-day work. As an industry we tend to focus so much on the results but forget to look at the process that brought us there.
  • I’m learning new tech and it’s hard
    Most of all, I falsely remember it being easy to learn HTML, CSS, and Photoshop because I wanted to learn those things. I was doing it for me, not for a job, and certainly not to keep up.
  • Taking Sunday Back
    Game of Thrones averaged two-and-a-half million viewers on average per episode in 2011, and only went up from there (the final episode had 13.6 million viewers, a far cry from something like The Big Bang Theory’s 23.4 million, but massive for a premium cable audience).
  • Hire two designers, not one
    So, here’s a crazy idea: hire two designers instead of one. Don’t start off with a single designer. Hire two at once. Don’t hire that lone person and expect them to perform miracles alone. And don’t wait until you have a years worth of budget for two people. Invest! Invest in design by kickstarting your team with two people.
  • Dear designer: Your first job
    If you are a white dude, I need you to do me a favor: If you’re in a meeting and Maria is talking and Kevin from Engineering interrupts her, I want you to turn to Kevin and say, “Shut the fuck up, Kevin. I want to hear what Maria has to say.”
  • How Data (and Some Breathtaking Soccer) Brought Liverpool to the Cusp of Glory
    Analytics has famously influenced the tactics in professional baseball and basketball in recent years. Ultimately, it may have just as great an impact on soccer, which traditionally hasn’t relied on statistics to figure out much of anything. Graham, who earned a doctorate in theoretical physics at Cambridge, built his own database to track the progress of more than 100,000 players from around the world. By recommending which of them Liverpool should try to acquire, and then how the new arrivals should be used, he has helped the club, once soccer’s most glamorous and successful, return to the cusp of glory.
  • I was wrong about the iPad Pro
    What I’ve discovered this time around is a sense of delight from the iPad that I hadn’t really seen in technology for a while. Essentially, I liked the iPad because, despite its restrictions and rigidity, it actually helps me get more work done.

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Simple is expensive

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Why do people think simple solutions are cheap? Simple is hard. Simple requires a lot of knowledge, experience and experts. Simple is expensive.@rakyll

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The next iPhone

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“Where’s the next iPhone?” they ask. That’s such a dumb question. As Dediu argues at the start of his piece, the iPhone is the most successful product of all time. What sense does it make to expect the same company to make two of the most successful products of all time within the span of 15 years? It doesn’t really make much sense to expect any other company to make a product as successful as the iPhone soon. I think there’s a good chance the iPhone is a once in a lifetime product.The Pivot

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What “intuitive” really means

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No one writes the i-word down because they are naive, or because they don’t mean good. They write it as a reminder of how important it is that, throughout the design process, the simplicity of the experience gets prioritized over less important things.

The problem with the word “intuitive” is that it means different things for different people: a product that is intuitive to me, might not be intuitive to my father.

Finding something intuitive depends on too many factors for designers to be able to standardize what the term really means: the user’s age, sex and gender, cultural background, technology savviness, past experiences with similar products — and the list goes on.What “intuitive” really means

One of the key ingredients to the iPhone’s enormous success is the fact that it’s intuitive to such a large amount of people. That said, it’s naive to expect it to be intuitive to everyone.

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Hey Google, stop trying to redefine privacy

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The CEO also makes it all sound like Google has been protecting the user’s privacy all this time, seemingly pretending that all those privacy offenses it had to deal with in recent years never happened. From the get-go, Pichai makes it sound like Apple is turning privacy into a luxury good — Apple’s name isn’t used, but it’s abundantly clear what he meant when he said that Privacy Should Not Be a Luxury Good.

Nobody said that privacy should be a luxury good, and it’s absolutely fine that Google is doing more to improve user privacy. The only reason Pichai can make that argument is because previous versions of Google products didn’t offer the cheap privacy he envisions to everyone, which is what Pichai’s Google wants to do now.

Comparatively, privacy and security have been core Apple product features for a few years now. Before that, Apple never dealt in user data. The only reason you would say Apple’s privacy is expensive is because you had no alternative from Google. Just last year, it was discovered that Google logged location data without explicit user permission, which is probably the number one reason why location privacy is now a priority for Google.Hey Google, stop trying to redefine privacy

The two reasons Google is offering this cheaper Pixel is:

  1. At the previous price point (~$1000) they did not manage to produce/sell any significant volume.
  2. More users = more data. Not necessarily to sell but surely to use.

    Anyone who thinks this is for any other reason is not thinking straight.

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There’s no crazy like soccer crazy

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In the space of 24 hours, a pair of English clubs considered dead on the mat somehow lifted themselves to improbable victories. If you did, you won’t forget them. If you merely know someone who watched them, a warning: They are never going to stop talking about them.There’s no crazy like soccer crazy

I normally don’t write about my second big passion in life, Liverpool, here but I’ll make an exception because of the amazing come back against Barcelona last Tuesday. I watched the second leg of the game in a hotel room in France. I was almost ready to tell my wife that we might as well go out to dinner, that there’s no way they’ll come back from a 3-0 defeat. But they did and it was one of the best Liverpool experiences I’ve had in a long time (anyone familiar with the club know that the last years have had their… downs).

You’ll never walk alone.

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Scapegoating User Experience Design

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It tells the story of hackers compromising Nest Cams in private homes by taking advantage of lax security on the cameras. And it pins the blame for this on technology companies’ focus on reducing “what Silicon Valley calls ‘friction’—anything that can slow down or stand in the way of someone using a product.”Scapegoating User Experience Design

To look at UX as something that simply reduces friction is one way but it’s also a very short-sighted way. UX should be long-term and a great long-term user experience can weigh in the extra seconds it takes to add a layer of security even if it’s slightly inconvenient when setting up. A great UX writer will help you describe for the user why it requires 2FA (or something else) and the user benefits.

We could chalk this up to lazy journalism but in fact the fault lies with us, with designers who have utterly failed at explaining what it is that we do to the world at large. There is little comprehension of what design does or how to define user experience, and what possibilities exist within these broad, amorphous concepts for everyday people. Scapegoating User Experience Design

This is the main reason why I’ve recently decided to describe what a UX designer does, how that role differs from a UX lead and why it pays off to create a UX strategy with your team.

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Clip sharing with Overcast

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Clip sharing of podcasts is something that’s been on my wishlist for a long long time, so I was extremely happy to read about this update from Overcast. From a user experience perspective, I really enjoyed the simple sharing process and as podcasts have started to get longer and longer (many up to two hours), it’s asking a lot of someone to say “you should listen to this episode” when most of the times, it’s a specific clip you want them to listen to.

Secondly, as actions are put in motion to limit the availability and freedom that we’ve always enjoyed from podcasts, I think this is a way in the opposite direction which I fully support. Thank you Marco.

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Why don’t we just use Material Design?

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Material Design is astronomically popular. So popular in fact that I’ve spoken to numerous designers who refer to their work as “Material Design” when they have either never read the specification, or are ignoring it entirely.

The question posed in that meeting (Why don’t we just use Material Design?) reverses the design process in a way that epitomizes the problem with any design system. The question that should have been asked was: “Would employing Material Design solve some, or all, of our problems?”

There’s an assumption that Material Design, as published by Google, is a magic bullet that addresses most, if not all, challenges in modern web design. I think that assumption probably stems from the fact that the Material Design specification is well written, and feels authoritative. I also think that assumption is false.Why don’t we just use Material Design?

I’ve heard this same question in countless meetings and even received it as a request from clients (We want you to use Material Design). It’s true that it’s a solid design system, but when even Google struggles to implement it successfully through out their suite of products, perhaps be a bit empathic to wether or not it’ll solve all of your design challenges.

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Accenture sued $32m+ over website redesign for Hertz

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Among the most mind-boggling allegations in Hertz’s filed complaint is that Accenture didn’t incorporate a responsive design, in which webpages automatically resize to accommodate the visitor’s screen size whether they are using a phone, tablet, desktop, or laptop.

That has been standard website practice for years and was even included in the contract that was signed, but the boffins at Accenture decided that only desktop and mobile versions were needed, according to Hertz. When the rental giant’s execs asked where the tablet version was, Accenture “demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional fees to deliver the promised medium-sized layout.”Accenture sued $32m+ over website redesign for Hertz

I guess this means bigger is not (by default) better then, no?

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Venture capital money kills more businesses than it helps

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“Raising a bunch of money, and raising way more than you need, it ends up stunting people’s actual growth as businesses. It destroys businesses,” Fried said on the latest episode of Recode Decode. “It’s like, look, you know, you plant a seed, it needs some water, but if you just pour a whole fucking bucket of water on it’s going to kill it.”Venture capital money kills more businesses than it helps

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The elegance of nothing

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And what is a brand? It’s not the logo, certainly. I have no idea what Everlane’s logo is. The brand is our shorthand for the feelings that an experience creates, the promises that a product or service brings with it.

If Nike announced that they were opening a hotel, you’d have a pretty good guess about what it would be like. But if Hyatt announced that they were going to start making shoes, you would have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what those shoes would be like. That’s because Nike owns a brand and Hyatt simply owns real estate.The elegance of nothing

Just perfect.

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Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa

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Two of the workers said they picked up what they believe was a sexual assault. When something like that happens, they may share the experience in the internal chat room as a way of relieving stress. Amazon says it has procedures in place for workers to follow when they hear something distressing, but two Romania-based employees said that, after requesting guidance for such cases, they were told it wasn’t Amazon’s job to interfere.Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa

What is the right thing to do?

It’s a difficult moral dilemma to attack and it’s (yet another) great example of why it’s so crucial for designers (and the rest of the team) to have a clear set of ethics.

The tools we’re building are no longer just ‘gimmicks’, they are integrated into our personal (and private) lives on a level that we’ve never seen in society before. Sure, adding things to your shopping list through voice is great but as long as the company that’s listening in is in the business of ‘personal data’, don’t be naive and think they’ll only record the shopping list.

I’m becoming increasingly terrified over the fact that there is no real debate around this on a national - and global - level. We’re just letting the big 5 continue to hoard our data and then get upset over the fact that they sell it.

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Gumroadday: Get my books at -17% discount

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The tool I use for payment processing and file delivery of my books, Gumroad, is celebrating the day they launched (April 4, 2011) by reducing their fees for all purchases to 0% for that day. Normally I pay 8.5% so this is a huge savings for me and I want to pass that on to you by matching their reduction and discounting both my books by 17% for April 4!

User Experiences that Matter is my first book about what makes a great user experience. We all know they’re important, but do we know why? And do we know how to make great user experiences? This book will tell you just that. Get it for $24!

Mastering Freelance is my second book where I outline all the mistakes and wins I’ve made throughout my 10-year long freelancing career. While there’s no golden rule for all, it comes with great advice for people just starting their career or even those who already have been at it for years. Get it for $24!

Just use the code Gumroadday when checking out to get a 17% discount and keep supporting creators!

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Meet Q: The First Genderless Voice

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Voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are women rather than men. You can change this in the settings, and choose a male speaker, of course, but the fact that the technology industry has chosen a woman to, by default, be our always-on-demand, personal assistant of choice, speaks volumes about our assumptions as a society: Women are expected to carry the psychic burden of schedules, birthdays, and phone numbers; they are the more caregiving sex, they should nurture and serve.

Now, voice assistants are often gender-specific for a reason. Companies test these computer voices on users and listen to the results of those tests. At Amazon, users preferred Alexa as a woman rather than a man. That relatively small sample set was extrapolated to represent Alexa for everyone. Research has shown, too, that men and women alike report female voices being more “welcoming” and “understanding” than male voices, and it’s easy to understand why these would be qualities any company would want in their always-listening voice assistant. But these companies and researchers only tested male and female voices. And testing a narrow set of options on a limited number of users isn’t the best way to build representational technology. Meet Q: The First Genderless Voice

I think they’ve done an amazing work on this and it’s such an important topic.

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It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

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When calm starts early, calm becomes the habit. But if you start crazy, it’ll define you. You have to keep asking yourself if the way you’re working today is the way you’d want to work in 10, 20, or 30 years. If not, now is the time to make a change, not “later”. Calm

I have two post its on my screen in my office. One says “It’s not personal” and the other one says “Be Polite & Be Fair”. I’m thinking the third one should say “Is this how I want to work”.

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How Notion pulled itself back from the brink of failure

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It was around that time we noticed Ivan in Figma. He suddenly popped to the top of our most active user list — spending upwards of 18+ hours a day in our design tool. As we’d later find out, he was designing frenetically and barely sleeping, pumping out version after version of a new app that would become Notion 1.0.How Notion pulled itself back from the brink of failure

At first I was just surprised to see Figma so openly saying they have a “list of our most active users” - and that they keep track of it. On a more general level, I’m sceptic to articles like this that celebrate Notion’s success through “working 18+ hours a day”.

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Wireframes are becoming less relevant — and that’s a good thing

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That doesn’t mean that everyone actually makes wireframes, but when someone admits they don’t it’s often in a hushed tone and without a lot of eye contact. They would like to include them. It’s just that the constraints of their organization, stakeholders, or project prevent it from always being possible. But the mindset that they are essential, and many beliefs about their advantages may be misguided. While I won’t deny that wireframes are ever useful, nowadays they’re valuable only in limited circumstances that are narrowing by the day. There are a number of shifts in industry thinking and practices that are contributing to this change and are worth examining.Wireframes are becoming less relevant — and that’s a good thing

Completely agree, it’s far less common for me to make wireframes these days and in many cases when I do, I question the reason. They can serve a purpose but just like anything else, it’s unreasonable to think they always do.

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Neurodiversity and the Digital Divide: how our neurological differences shape the way we experience the web

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Because neurodiversity can cover such a wide range of individual differences, it’s not easy to specify what that translates to in terms of design standards, for example. If we got ten autistic people in a room and asked them about what makes for a good user experience, we’d probably get ten very different perspectives, just like you would if you asked ten non-autistic people.

But to provide an example: if you’re looking at an ecommerce site where the goal is to make a purchase, there is a lot of whizzbangery going on. There are various banners, links, and buttons moving around. We probably all get a bit irritated by it, but when someone with, say, some cognitive load issues is trying to navigate that experience they may get easily sidetracked. So if the point of a site is to encourage completing a transaction, there may be self-defeating aspects in the design, because the person ends up being too distracted to buy anything.

There is a lot of potential for essential services – such as banking or grocery shopping for example – to provide easier, more accessible and inclusive experiences online.Neurodiversity and the Digital Divide: how our neurological differences shape the way we experience the web

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Accessibility, a powerful design tool

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When given the choice between an accessible bathroom or a non-accessible one, many people would pick the accessible one: there’s more space, it’s more comfortable, it’s a no-brainer. Digital products are the same. When given the choice, people naturally prefer what’s easier for them to use, to read, or to understand.

But designers tend to be reluctant to follow accessibility standards — the design practices that help people with visual, motor, auditory, cognitive, or other disabilities make the most of a digital product. Accessibility is a complicated subject, and sticking to those standards is often perceived as a creativity inhibitor.

But accessible design helps everyone. It improves experiences not just for people with disabilities, but for people in temporary situations where their usual way of interacting with your product won’t work — say, if they’re outside and can’t see their screen well or if their mouse runs out of battery and they can only use their keyboard. Accessibility is not a constraint: It is a design philosophy that encourages you to make better choices for your users, and helps you focus on what really matters. Simplicity will always be the most difficult target to reach in a design, and accessibility can be one of the best tools to get you there.Accessibility, a powerful design tool

From Hubert Florin, a designer at Slack. One of the best and comprehendible explanations and motivations for accessibility that I’ve ever seen. Accessibility is not a constraint, it’s a tool to reach simplicity. And simplicity is what’s best for everyone.

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Leadership or management

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When I was young I thought management was about distribution/delegation of responsibilities. I now realize it is truly about the maintenance of morale and motivation. Morale and motivation are moving targets that require consistent and proactive effort to maintain. @mwseibel

Full article over at Medium.

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Top 10 Application-Design Mistakes

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Apps that keep quiet leave users guessing. Often, they guess wrong. Top 10 Application-Design Mistakes

This entire piece is one of the best articles and summaries I’ve read it a very long time and a piece I already know I will refer back to several times going forward.

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Everyone should own a dog

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I interviewed business leaders like GM CEO Mary Barra and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and on-screen celebrities like Lena Waithe and Lena Dunham, along with astrophysicists, comedians, economists, activists, artists, and more. I asked each of these women the same set of questions, including this crucial fill-in-the-blank line: “Everyone should own…”

Some women offered philosophical appeals (“Everyone should own a soul,” said MoMA curator Paola Antonelli). Others praised quirky objects (“Everyone should own an Italian espresso maker, the ones with the top that screws on,” said relationship therapist Esther Perel). But what I didn’t expect was the overwhelming, interdisciplinary, and completely shameless advocacy for owning a dog.

Of the 50 Visionaries, seven responded “Everyone should own a dog.” Other than that, no two women gave the same answer to this question. Powerful women told me getting a dog is the key to success. They were right

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Silence is gold

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We’re seeing a dramatic escalation in the rate at which people disconnect, unsubscribe and opt out to stem the barrage of content and messages that clutter daily life. As consumers, we’ve come to realize that it’s no longer simply a lifestyle choice, but a serious mental health issue. As we put up more barriers between ourselves and digital technologies, organizations must learn how to offer value to users who crave quiet in a noisy world. Silence is gold

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Cameras that understand

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One of the desire paths of the smartphone camera is that since we have it with us all the time and we can take unlimited pictures for free, and have them instantly, we don’t just take more pictures of our children and dogs but also pictures of things that we’d never have taken pictures of before. We take pictures of posters and books and things we might want to buy - we take pictures of recipes, catalogues, conference schedules, train timetables (Americans, ask a foreigner) and fliers. The smartphone image sensor has become a notebook. (Something similar has happened with smartphone screenshots, another desire path that no-one thought would become a normal consumer behavior.)

Machine learning means that the computer will be able to unlock a lot of this. If there’s a date in this picture, what might that mean? Does this look like a recipe? Is there a book in this photo and can we match it to an Amazon listing? Can we match the handbag to Net a Porter? And so you can imagine a suggestion from your phone: “do you want to add the date in this photo to your diary?” in much the same way that today email programs extract flights or meetings or contact details from emails. Ben Evans: Cameras that understand

The above excerpt is just a tiny fraction and the entire post is great reading and thinking by Ben. I’ve been thinking about voice controlled systems lately too, expect a longer post on that topic on Monday!

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Humans, not users

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User experience design has led us to use a certain vocabulary: Instead of seeing human beings with goals and attitudes, we see users. We use words like subscribers, subs, visitors, spenders, whales or even just “traffic” or “installs” to refer to them. We assign a role to them. UX design dehumanizes people.



How do you create Human Experiences, instead of User Experiences? Humans, not users

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Keeping AI Honest

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Life-changing decisions are happening in the dark. Machine-learning algorithms now help make decisions from loan applications to cancer diagnoses. In France, they place children in schools. In the US, they can set credit scores and insurance rates, and decide the fate of job candidates and university applicants.

But these programs are often unaccountable. To arrive at their decisions, machine-learning algorithms automatically build complex models based on big data sets, so that even the people using them may not be able to explain why or how a conclusion is reached. They’re a black box. Wired: Keeping AI Honest (not online)

Again, design ethics are the most important thing we are facing right now.

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Imagine a world without ads targeted by personal information

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Elephants wouldn’t be killed for their tusks if there wasn’t a demand for ivory. We can do all sorts of things to discourage poachers, but as long as the market is there, the killings will continue.

Likewise, the flood of privacy scandals involving Facebook, ad exchanges, and other privacy poachers all tie back to the same root cause: Personal information is valuable because we use it to target ads.

But what if you couldn’t do that? Then the personal information would cease to have value, and the flood of privacy scandals would stop (or at least greatly diminish).

The world of commerce spun around just fine in the era before ads could be targeted by personal information. When ad buyers would place their spots based on context. Got a new car to sell? Put an ad on a website that talks about cars. Maybe it wasn’t as efficient, or maybe it was. Either way: The societal price we pay for allowing ads to be targeted is far too high. Imagine a world without ads targeted by personal information

Not mentioning the fact that even these ‘targeted’ ads more often than not are poorly executed and irrelevant. After searching for headphones online, I’m bombarded with headphone ads weeks after I already bought a pair (when it’s very unlikely I’m in the market for a second pair).

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Right to privacy

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“In 2019, it’s time to stand up for the right to privacy—yours, mine, all of ours. Consumers shouldn’t have to tolerate another year of companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives.

This problem is solvable—it isn’t too big, too challenging or too late. Innovation, breakthrough ideas and great features can go hand in hand with user privacy—and they must. Realizing technology’s potential depends on it.

That’s why I and others are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation—a landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer. Last year, before a global body of privacy regulators, I laid out four principles that I believe should guide legislation:

First, the right to have personal data minimized. Companies should challenge themselves to strip identifying information from customer data or avoid collecting it in the first place. Second, the right to knowledge—to know what data is being collected and why. Third, the right to access. Companies should make it easy for you to access, correct and delete your personal data. And fourth, the right to data security, without which trust is impossible.”Tim Cook: You Deserve Privacy Online. Here’s How You Could Actually Get It

Finally, Cook calls for the “power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily, and online, once and for all.” It’s interesting how technically easy (well, sort of) this would actually be and how obvious it sounds that, yeah of course this is how it should be. Yet it’s unlikely that it’s a world we’ll ever live in.

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Why we need to slow time and scale down

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Happy New Years!

One of the first posts I read this year was a brilliant post by Om Malik, Why we need to slow time and scale down, a topic that returning readers of this blog is something I think about a lot - and something that many of do especially at the beginning of a new year. The basis of the post is from Tariq Krim’s post 3 years later.

Shift focus from quantity to quality: For example, unfollow news outlets — they are all playing the attention-grabbing game and all it does is causes stress, even without knowing the facts. Instead, follow people who can analyze and contextualize the news cycle. For me, The Economist is a good option for world business stories. Others like Barry Ritholtz are a good follow for me. For those interested in technology news, again look for people who add context and analysis. Also, read and follow science publications. By making smart choices, you are declaring intellectual independence.

This was one of the biggest changes I made to my media consumption in 2018. I hardly ever visit news outlets (and when I do, it’s mostly for ultra-local news). Instead I enjoy the analysis from people like Neil Cybart, Owen Williams, Ben Thompson as well as curated readings like UXdesign.cc. Turns out, all truly important events seem to get across to me sooner or later anyway.

Go analog: In this digital age, it makes sense for us to be analog. It allows us to control the pace of time and allows us to create an environment that helps bring sanity, quality and relative ease on a daily basis. For example, go to museums, find places to have coffee or dine, where they know your name.

I’m not entirely sure about the phrasing but I agree with the general idea. One of the things I truly enjoy living in a small town is the environment - nature of course but also the closeness to people, a community.

Unscale your life: This is actually a very big idea, because as Tariq rightfully points out that scale is no longer the force of good. Amazon, Facebook and Google are three examples of scale gone wrong. AT&T, Comcast and others are examples of scale-gone-wild. How to fight the scale-goonies? Well, how about favoring independents — stores, services and people. In other words, get off the platforms as much as you can. After quitting Facebook a while ago, I am looking to wean myself off Instagram and for 2019, I want to shop less on Amazon — Prime isn’t as much of a convenience as it seems to be.

I deleted Facebook in 2018 too and it was extremely rewarding in terms of physical well-being. I’m thinking of quitting Instagram too (but until I do, I’ve heavily filtered out people from my following list).

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Design Ethics

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Remember, we are user experience designers. We’re here to try to make the world a better place for the people who consume the products we design. And where those things aren’t happening or where your company’s values are in conflict with your own personal values – you have to be mindful of all these dynamics. Take some time to articulate an opinion and make that opinion count. Have uncomfortable conversations, if you have to, with the people that you’re working with and the people that you’re working around. If you have to hand the work off, and if you’re uncomfortable with where it’s going, create an artifact to represent your opinion that can travel with the work. Stand up and have a voice.What We Talk About When We Talk About Design Ethics

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If you like what we build, pay us. Otherwise, do not.

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Gosh, I love when the customer transaction is a simple, “If you like what we build, pay us. Otherwise, do not.”How It’s Worked So Far

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The State of UX in 2019

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UX is not only about the times when people are using our products, but also about the times when they are not. In the era of ever-vibrating smartphones and increasingly demanding apps, there is no better user experience than peace of mind.The State of UX in 2019

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We need the right kind of growth

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We need the right kind of growth. Growth is not necessarily about stepping on the gas pedal, it can also be about steering in the right direction. William Nordhaus

I was watching the Nobel Award Ceremony and this quote from William Nordhaus really struck out to me. We’re so busy of thinking of growth as something two-dimensional and linear but what if it’s three-dimensional?

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Why scrap scrappy?

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I’ve seen a number of small companies jump into big sophisticated content management, inventory management, e-commerce management platforms. Buying into something the big guys use helps a small company feel like they’ve arrived. Now they’re ready to scale! But now all the sudden they can no longer do the things they need to do. Trying a quick idea they used to be able to just whip up becomes a wrestling match with the new system that prefers you do things the more complicated way. Now “let’s just try that” becomes “when can we schedule a time to figure out how we can try that?

The other thing that’s lost in transition from small to big are instincts. I’ve seen companies paralyzed by ideas they can’t seem to implement anymore. They could still do things they same way they used to, but they can’t think that way anymore. For example, a small company that would have just spent a couple hours sending out 50 hand-written emails to test a personalized selling campaign, is stuck for days or weeks trying to figure out how to get their new e-commerce platform to automate the same thing. They could still just pick the customers and write the emails by hand, but they’re forgotten how to think about doing it that way. Why scrap scrappy?

I read this as I was thinking about importing client email addresses into a Mailchimp list of it’s own. I have had, perhaps, 10 or 20 clients during this year. Surely I can write each and one of them a personal email and wish them a happy holiday.

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The Most Important Survival Skill for the Next 50 Years Isn’t What You Think

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Some people imagine that it will be like this one time, big revolution, that—I don’t know—in 2025, 60% of the jobs are taken over. And then we have a couple of rough years in which people have to retrain, and new jobs appear, and some people don’t find new jobs and you have a large problem of unemployment. But then eventually things settle down into some new equilibrium, and we enter a new kind of economy.

The problem with this scenario is that it assumes that AI will kind of reach its maximum capacity by 2025, which is extremely far from the truth. We’re not even approaching the full capacity of AI. It’s going to just accelerate. So yes, we will have these huge changes by 2025—but then we’ll have even bigger changes in 2035, and even bigger changes in 2045, and people who have to repeatedly re-adjust to these things.

As individuals, what we can do is quite limited. If you are very rich and successful, then of course you have all the resources in the world to cushion yourself against these kinds of upheavals. But if you’re an average person then you will need a lot of help. I think the most important thing is to invest in emotional intelligence and mental balance, because the hardest challenges will be psychological. Even if there is a new job, and even if you get support from the government to kind of retrain yourself, you need a lot of mental flexibility to manage these transitions. Teenagers or 20-somethings, they are quite good with change. But beyond a certain age—when you get to 40, 50—change is stressful. And a weapon you will have [is] the psychological flexibility to go through this transition at age 30, and 40, and 50, and 60. The most important investment that people can make is not to learn a particular skill—”I’ll learn how to code computers,” or “I will learn Chinese,” or something like that. No, the most important investment is really in building this more flexible mind or personality. The Most Important Survival Skill for the Next 50 Years Isn’t What You Think

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Why do we feel so busy? It’s all our hidden ‘shadow work’

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Automation was always supposed to take care of the tedious jobs, so we could enjoy more leisure time. In reality, it’s taken paid work away from humans, while also increasing their burden of shadow work, by transferring tasks from employees to consumers.

These days, we serve not only as our own supermarket clerks, but our own travel agents and airport check-in staff, our own secretaries and petrol station attendants, and our own providers of journalism and entertainment, insofar as we spend hours creating content for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. (Near me, there’s even a “self-service dog wash”, though I always think that’s asking a lot of a dog.)

There can be benefits to shadow work – saved time, increased autonomy – but as Lambert points out, one huge downside is that it’s socially isolating. That’s obvious in the case of the elderly person who’d struggle to book a trip online or collect train tickets from a touchscreen machine but it affects us all: every exchange between a shopper and a checkout worker, a bank teller and a bank customer, “help[s] glue a neighbourhood, or a town, together”.Why do we feel so busy? It’s all our hidden ‘shadow work’

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Smartphones are our ever-present computers

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Phones are the most important computer in most people’s lives. They’re the only computer in many people’s lives. Nobody says it’s crazy to spend up to $1,500 on a laptop — but most people use and care about their phone more than they do their laptop. That’s why phone displays are getting bigger. We’ve been corrupted by thinking of them as “phones” in the pre-2007 sense of the word.

A cell phone used to be just a wireless telephone. No longer. They are our ever-present personal computers. They are also our most important cameras (and often our only cameras). A decade ago, point-and-shoot cameras ran $200-400, easily. It’s your watch, it’s your alarm clock, it’s your Walkman, it’s your map and GPS. It’s your wallet full of photos of your family and friends. It’s also, increasingly, your actual wallet.

If you took an iPhone XR back to 2006 people would be amazed. If you told them they could buy one for $750 they’d think you were lying.iPhone XR Review Roundup

I love those two final sentences.

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Time travel through words with Merriam-Webster

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This fascinating tool from Merriam Webster, let’s you see when a word was first used in print.

1981 (when I was born) includes words like: graphical user interface, LAN, screen saver, uninstall and unsubscribe but also autocorrect which I would have assumed was only used far later.

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Morgan Knutson on Working as a Designer on Google+

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If your team, say on Gmail or Android, was to integrate Google+’s features then your team would be awarded a 1.5-3x multiplier on top of your yearly bonus. Your bonus was already something like 15% of your salary.

You read that correctly. A fuck ton of money to ruin the product you were building with bloated garbage that no one wanted. No one really liked this. People drank the kool-aid though, but mostly because it was green and made of paper.Morgan Knutson on Working as a Designer on Google+

The entire thread is just an insane look into how one of the world’s most powerful companies is managed.

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Organized for browsing

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In the traditional world, most things are organized so you can find them when you’re looking for them. That’s why you keep your tools in your tool chest and the forks in the silverware drawer. That’s why books are stored in alphabetical order, by author.

But in the digital world, finding is easy. Type what you want in the search bar.

What we’re still exploring, and not very successfully, is how to organize things for browsing. How do you bump into the thing you didn’t know you were looking for? How do you decide what your next home improvement project should be, or the next movie you should see?Organized for browsing

As a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to go into a record store and browse. I could buy perhaps buy one CD (or cassette in my early teens) per month so I’d have to make the correct pick. This was the album I was going to listen to non-stop for the next month at least. Same thing with going to video store (kids: think of it as a physical Netflix); the browsing was fun because it had meaning, you could only pick one. With digital streaming tool browsing is not fun because there’s no pressure to pick the right item, if you don’t like it you’ll just pick something else.

One of the reasons I love magazines and books is because I still have to make concious choices.

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Tim Cook talks to VICE News Tonight about privacy

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We’re at a stage now where more information is available about you online and on your phone than there is in your house.Apple CEO Tim Cook: The VICE News Tonight Interview

Another great quote: “Technology itself doesn’t want to be good. It doesn’t want to be bad. It doesn’t want anything. It’s up to the creator.”. Creators - and users.

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Tesla, software and disruption

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When Nokia people looked at the first iPhone, they saw a not-great phone with some cool features that they were going to build too, being produced at a small fraction of the volumes they were selling. They shrugged. “No 3G, and just look at the camera!”

When many car company people look at a Tesla, they see a not-great car with some cool features that they’re going to build too, being produced at a small fraction of the volumes they’re selling. “Look at the fit and finish, and the panel gaps, and the tent!”

The Nokia people were terribly, terribly wrong. Are the car people wrong? We hear that a Tesla is ‘the new iPhone’ - what would that mean? Tesla, software and disruption{:target=”_blank”}

I can’t wrap my head around this at all.

  1. The success of the iPhone is largely because of the Apple eco-system. Without the AppStore, the iPhone would surely not have reached the masses in the same way. So while the iPhone is great, it’s also things like the AppStore (and exclusive apps), Macs, iPads and even how the iPod’s track record that made the iPhone a success. Tesla has none of these things. They have the charging stations, but as far as I’m aware, they are not exclusive to Tesla’s and even for Tesla owners, they don’t offer free (unlimited) charging anymore.
  2. Nokia’s fall was largely due to the fact that they were too late to bet on an operating system - and when they finally placed a bet, they picked the wrong one (Symbian). Had they had the knowledge to create their own iOS years ahead of Apple, who knows where we’d be today? Nearly all other phone makers adopted Android but wanted to put their own version of it on their phones making it a mess for users to use. In fact, this is the problem many non-Apple phones still struggle with.
  3. One of the worst customer experiences I’ve ever had was at a Tesla showroom. Some of the best experiences I’ve had has been in Apple Stores. Now consider that Tesla sells a product for hundreds of thousands of dollars and Apple for a thousand dollars.
  4. What can Tesla do that no other car company can’t copy?

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Forget the new iPhones - Apple’s best product is now privacy

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I now believe the best product Apple offers is intangible, yet far more valuable than a flagship smartphone. The best product Apple has–and the single biggest reason that consumers should choose an Apple device over competing devices–is privacy.Forget the new iPhones - Apple’s best product is now privacy{:target=”_blank”}

We spend months, sometimes years, iterating features that we believe will turn into great products. This sentence captures something that’s been in the back of my head for some time, that great features and products all begin with our values. Privacy is a core value at Apple and they apply it to every aspect of their features.

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The iPhone Franchise

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The strategy is, dare I say, bordering on over-confidence. Apple is raising prices on its best product even as that product’s relative differentiation to the company’s next best model is the smallest it has ever been.

Here, though, I thought the keynote’s “Mission: Impossible”-themed opening really hit the mark: the reason why franchises rule Hollywood is their dependability. Sure, they cost a fortune to make and to market, but they are known quantities that sell all over the world — $735 million-to-date for the latest Tom Cruise thriller, to take a pertinent example.

That is the iPhone: it is a franchise, the closest thing to a hardware annuity stream tech has ever seen. Some people buy an iPhone every year; some are on a two-year cycle; others wait for screens to crack, batteries to die, or apps to slow. Nearly all, though, buy another iPhone, making the purpose of yesterday’s keynote less an exercise in selling a device and more a matter of informing self-selected segments which device they will ultimately buy, and for what price.The iPhone Franchise

This analysis from Ben Thompson was one of the most well-put pieces I’ve read in a long time. It was almost impossible to decide on what segment to include here but I think the closer is too good to miss.

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The Long Goodbye (To Facebook)

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I took a Facebook vacation about a year ago. It became a long break. And now it is a permanent vacation. Why? Because I don’t need it and don’t miss it. I left, not because of the company’s dodgy approach to privacy, data accumulation or its continued denial of its impact on shaping modern society. I left because it was making me someone I am not — someone who lives life through the eyes of others. There is a hard edge in Facebook life. People are always fronting — putting their best life forward. Just like startup life these days.The Long Goodbye (To Facebook){:target=”_blank”}

No single decision I’ve made in the last year has had a more positive effect on my life than deleting my Facebook account. I’m down to checking in on Instagram every 2 or 3 days and I think before the end of the year I will have deleted the app from my phone (I’ve already moved it off my home screen).

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Automation, Unemployment, and Universal Income

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Only 20% of the job loss in manufacturing is due to outsourcing and globalization. The other 80% is automation. And it’s not just manufacturing jobs. There are many, many white-collar jobs that are also prone to automation — bookkeeping, accounting, being a lawyer, and medical fields like radiology and pharmacy. Journalism and content creation are increasingly threatened by automation. Advertising used to be about developing a brilliant ad campaign or slogan or tagline. Now a lot of it is just an algorithm getting products in front of the right people. Even things that you think of as sacrosanct, like being an artist or a musician, artificial intelligence can often create in a way that’s indistinguishable from work done by humans. So the impact of technology is going to be much broader than many people believe.

The reality is that, as jobs are going away, they are not being replaced.Dumb Questions for Smart People: Automation, Unemployment, and Universal Income{:target=”_blank”}

This is topic that I’m struggling to wrap my head around. Will jobs disappear? Will new jobs appear? I hear new statistics on a daily basis and I think we’ll have to accept the fact that it’s very similar to the stock market. No one really knows what’s going to happen. The faster we accept that we don’t know, the quicker we can adapt.

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Yuval Noah Harari on what the year 2050 has in store for humankind

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Technology can help you a lot, but if technology gains too much power over your life, you might become a hostage to its agenda. Thousands of years ago, humans invented agriculture, but this technology enriched just a tiny elite, while enslaving the majority of humans. Most people found themselves working from sunrise till sunset plucking weeds, carrying water buckets and harvesting corn under a blazing sun. It can happen to you too.

Technology isn’t bad. If you know what you want in life, technology can help you get it. But if you don’t know what you want in life, it will be all too easy for technology to shape your aims for you and take control of your life. Especially as technology gets better at understanding humans, you might increasingly find yourself serving it, instead of it serving you.Yuval Noah Harari on what the year 2050 has in store for humankind{:target=”_blank”}

I’m a huge fan of both Sapiens and Homo Deus and from this article, Yuval Noah Harari’s next book seems like another hit.

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Living among baby robots

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“The real problem is that the car is too safe, they have to learn to be aggressive in the right amount.” Even more difficult, they must understand the complex, local culture of driving in each location.How I kicked my email compulsion{:target=”_blank”}

Even most humans have trouble understanding and adapting to local culture of driving. Driving in Sweden is very different from driving in just Italy or France. The Middle East or even the US is something entirely different too. Thinking that driving patterns for a self-driving car could be linear is as naive as thinking that every user of your product thinks and acts in the same way.

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How I kicked my email compulsion

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I’ve been checking my personal emails 3 times a day or less for the last 2 months, and it’s had a noticeable effect on my mood, happiness and self-esteem.

Your compulsion of choice might be Twitter, Instagram, or Reddit. Whatever it is, you might be a bit happier if you used it a bit less, so here are the habits and thought patterns that helped me with my emails.

[…]

Between 2013 and a few months ago, I had an email-hungry gorilla on my back. She was always demanding to know whether any long-lost friends, reporters (it happened once, it could happen again), or well-wishers had gotten in touch during the last few minutes. I also had a vague and mounting sense of wanting to check my emails less. Every time I did open my inbox I felt like I had failed at something, and had given in to my cravings and my gorilla. Whenever I even considered checking my emails I felt a duty to try to resist. Then I either spent some willpower, which we’re assuming is a finite resource, or gave in and felt like a gross loser.How I kicked my email compulsion{:target=”_blank”}

I can relate to this on a number of levels. I once got an email from the design/HR team at Apple and since then, deep down inside, I’m expecting something similar to happen again. Also, I feel ashamed when I sometimes check my email on my phone and before it moves into “Checking email…”, I have time to read “Last updated: 4 mins ago”.

🤦🏻‍♂️

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Facebook's struggle to moderate itself

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Facebook is trying to solve this problem on their own, and I don’t know if it can. It’s one thing to try and own the problem, but I’m of the belief that Facebook simply can’t solely decide what stays on the platform as more than 2 billion people, with differing world views use it every day.Facebook’s struggle to moderate itself{:target=”_blank”}

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The Secret to Ant Efficiency Is Idleness

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Ants are efficient because they know when to take a break. The insects exit a worksite when it gets too crowded, leaving 30% of the colony to do 70% of the work.The Secret to Ant Efficiency Is Idleness{:target=”_blank”}

Fascinating!

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Google Employees Are Organizing To Protest the Company’s Secret Search Engine

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Google employees are demanding greater transparency from their employer and confronting management with their ethical concerns about a project named Dragonfly, a controversial censored search app for the Chinese market.

Employees are circulating a list of demands for the company in a letter obtained by BuzzFeed News (posted in full, below), calling for an ethics review structure with rank-and-file employee representatives, the appointment of ombudspeople, and an ethical assessment of Google projects including Dragonfly and Maven, Google’s contract with the Pentagon to build AI-assisted drone technology.

“Many of us believe that Dragonfly poses a threat to freedom of expression and political dissent globally, and violates our AI principles,” two employees wrote in an email distributing the demand list.Google Employees Are Organizing To Protest The Company’s Secret, Censored Search Engine For China{:target=”_blank”}

It’s almost as if designers are starting to care deeply about ethics and the moral implications of our apps{:target=“_blank}. Time to think about AI Ethics 😊

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Why Small Teams Win

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Ringelmann’s experiment consisted in letting twenty students alone and in groups on a five-meter rope, the other end of which led to a dynamometer. When two people pulled together on the rope, each of them performed on average only 93% of what he had before achieved alone. In three people it was still 85%, at four 77%, until in a group of eight people everyone provided an average of 50% of his most performance.Why Small Teams Win And Bigger Ones Fail

Six people made the original Legend of Zelda. Just five people made the original Super Mario Bros which is still one of the best video games ever made. Small teams, big things.

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The Bullshit Web

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The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we’re simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff. Some of this stuff is amazing.

…But a lot of the stuff we’re seeing is a pile-up of garbage on seemingly every major website that does nothing to make visitors happier — if anything, much of this stuff is deeply irritating and morally indefensible.The Bullshit Web

This entire piece from Nick Heer is just brilliant.

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Nikhil Sonnad on the banal evil of Facebook

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“The imperative to ‘connect people’ lacks the one ingredient essential for being a good citizen: Treating individual human beings as sacrosanct. To Facebook, the world is not made up of individuals, but of connections between them… There are certain things you do not in good conscience do to humans. To data, you can do whatever you like.” Nikhil Sonnad - Nikhil Sonnad on the banal evil of Facebook

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Just keep at it

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I still vividly remember my early days spent blogging, literally alone in my apartment. Some posts had just one or two readers (it’s not a joke to insert “hi mom” here, it’s the truth). Some even had none. None! Imagine the humiliation of putting yourself out there and zero people caring because zero people saw it. I know a lot of people feel this way when they start doing something with regard to content on the internet — I applied it to blogging, but I imagine it’s the exact same story with recording videos for YouTube, starting a podcast, etc. Just keep at it.

And so again, the advice is simply to keep at it. Even if the next post gets zero readers too. And the next one. Eventually, zero turns to one and then one to two and then you’re off to the races. M.G. Siegler - Just keep at it

I can relate to this on so many levels. I’ve been blogging more or less frequently for a bit more than two years and I think things are (finally) starting to take off. I’ve been a frequent Twitter user for more than 11 years and I’m still at around 1500 followers. Building an audience takes an enormous amount of time and effort and even then, it’s not guaranteed to succeed.

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High Fives, AI, and Connecting the Dots: MailChimp’s VP of Design on What Business can Learn from Design

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Your polar star should always be the mindset of the user. “The goal is to get rid of everything that doesn’t add to what the user is trying to do,” says Lee. Trim the fat of storytelling that doesn’t relate to the ultimate goal. You can always go back and add more high fives later. High Fives, AI, and Connecting the Dots: MailChimp’s VP of Design on What Business can Learn from Design

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Yes, Alan, There Is An ROI For UX Design

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The obvious place designers go when trying to calculate the bottom line is to ask the question, If I change the design, how much more income could we generate? But there’s another way design can help: reducing the costs.

A much-overlooked portion of design’s value is that poor design is very costly to an organization. Poor design generates costly support calls. It causes lost sales or dropped subscriptions. Poor design can increase development costs through rework and waste.

When we start looking for where poor design hurts our organization, we can talk about how much money we’d save. We make it easier to calculate the return to our investment for making better design decisions. Yes, Alan, There Is An ROI For UX Design

Love every single bit of this.

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Rands Information Practises

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Your most precious asset is your time. You can start and adopt the following set of habits right now to give yourself hours of your life back.
Make a copy of your bookmarks somewhere safe. Now delete all your current bookmarks. Wiggle uncomfortably in your chair a bit. Breathe deeply. Start rebuilding your bookmarks from memory a bit at a time. No hurry. Links to your web-based tools and critical documents belong in your browser bar. News, blogs, and other daily consumables belong in your feed reader because a browser is designed to browse, not read. Rands Information Practises

I love this entire list from Rands and I deleted all of my bookmarks this morning. I’ve added three so far.

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The Race to a Trillion

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Historically, there has been diversification among the largest public companies. For decades, the top five companies have included representatives from different segments of the economy such as the tech, industrial, energy, and financial sectors. Many have looked at today’s giants and concluded such diversification has disappeared. However, upon closer examination, a different picture comes into focus. There is still diversity at the top:

  • Apple is a design company selling tools that empower people.
  • Amazon is a retailer intently focused on offering the best retail experience imaginable.
  • Microsoft is an enterprise-focused services company focused on helping people get work done.
  • Google is a services company aimed at delivering data-capturing tools to as many people as possible.
  • Facebook is a services company providing curated versions of the web (Facebook and Instagram). The Race to a Trillion

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Cheap Shower Curtains

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The unskilled cost accountant might suggest you outfit your new hotel with cheap shower curtains. After all, if you save $50 a room and have 200 rooms, pretty soon, we’re talking real money.

On the other hand, experience will demonstrate that cheap shower curtains let the water out, causing a minor flood, every day, room after room. And they wear out faster. Cheap shower curtains aren’t actually cheap.

Productivity pays for itself.

Once you start looking for metaphorical cheap shower curtains, they’re everywhere. Cheap Shower Curtains

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What Elon Musk Should Learn From the Thailand Cave Rescue

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Silicon Valley moguls seem to believe they can fix most anything, and they appear befuddled when their attempts to do so aren’t met with unbridled enthusiasm.

He directed his engineers to build a miniature “submarine” (basically a sophisticated metal cylinder) that he hoped could be used for the rescue. He shared videos of the submarine with his 22 million followers on Twitter. And he received widespread media coverage and encouragement from his many fans.

Mr. Musk’s desire to help was commendable. But when the head of the rescue operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, declared that Mr. Musk’s contraption was impractical for the task at hand — a task that had been completed, at that point, by some of the world’s top cave divers — Mr. Musk responded with irritation. He insisted on Twitter that leaders of the operation had in fact welcomed his assistance and that Mr. Narongsak was not the “subject matter expert.” He also expressed frustration that he was being criticized while trying to help. Instead of venting, Mr. Musk — indeed, Silicon Valley as a whole — can perhaps see the Thai operation as a lesson. This was a most improbable rescue against the longest odds. Safely navigating 12 kids and one adult, many of whom were not swimmers, through a dangerous cave relied on a model of innovation that Silicon Valley can and should learn from.

The Silicon Valley model for doing things is a mix of can-do optimism, a faith that expertise in one domain can be transferred seamlessly to another and a preference for rapid, flashy, high-profile action. But what got the kids and their coach out of the cave was a different model: a slower, more methodical, more narrowly specialized approach to problems, one that has turned many risky enterprises into safe endeavors — commercial airline travel, for example, or rock climbing, both of which have extensive protocols and safety procedures that have taken years to develop.

This “safety culture” model is neither stilted nor uncreative. On the contrary, deep expertise, lengthy training and the ability to learn from experience (and to incorporate the lessons of those experiences into future practices) is a valuable form of ingenuity. What Elon Musk Should Learn From the Thailand Cave Rescue

Elon Musk went on by calling one of the divers “pedo guy”.

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Rise of the machines: has technology evolved beyond our control?

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Or perhaps the flash crash in reality looks exactly like everything we are experiencing right now: rising economic inequality, the breakdown of the nation-state and the militarisation of borders, totalising global surveillance and the curtailment of individual freedoms, the triumph of transnational corporations and neurocognitive capitalism, the rise of far-right groups and nativist ideologies, and the degradation of the natural environment. None of these are the direct result of novel technologies, but all of them are the product of a general inability to perceive the wider, networked effects of individual and corporate actions accelerated by opaque, technologically augmented complexity.Rise of the machines: has technology evolved beyond our control?

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Good product writing is conversational

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Good product writing is conversational. So use words people would actually say to each other in a conversation. Imagine you’re talking to a neighbor or friend you admire. How would you describe this feature to them? Think out loud to them as you write, and read your work aloud to review it. Keep editing and refining the language until everything is clear, friendly, and useful.Good product writing is conversational

The entire article is a great piece but the above quote from Nicole Fenton stands out as one of the best pieces of ‘great UX’ that I’ve come across in a very long time. I’ve previously discussed why I think it’s important for designers to write.

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Retail is Not Dying, But it Has to Evolve

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Looking to the future of retail in general, Ahrendts mentioned numbers from an analytic firm that suggest while the majority of shopping will move online, many customers will still venture out to physical locations to finalize a purchase. This means that shoppers will use apps and online websites to research products and items, and perhaps reserve them for in-store pickup, much like Apple already does today.
You have your instincts and you use a lot of smart outside guys, and the smart outside guys they don’t say retail is dying. They say digital is gonna grow at three times the rate of physical, but in the next five years… 75 percent of people will shop online, shop to learn [about what they want to buy], but 75 percent of business will still be done in physical stores.Retail is Not Dying, But it Has to Evolve

Pretty much in line with my thoughts from the beginning of this year.

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The Netflix Binge Factory

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Mysterious though it may seem, Netflix operates by a simple logic, long understood by such tech behemoths as Facebook and Amazon: Growth begets more growth begets more growth. When Netflix adds more content, it lures new subscribers and gets existing ones to watch more hours of Netflix. As they spend more time watching, the company can collect more data on their viewing habits, allowing it to refine its bets about future programming. ‘More shows, more watching; more watching, more subs; more subs, more revenue; more revenue, more content,’ explains Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer.The Netflix Binge Factory

I love Netflix - I think they provide a great service and have produced some of the best shows as of lately. But this is exactly the kind of thinking I’m becoming increasingly tired of seeing and reading about in this industry; it’s all just more, more, more.

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We are all trapped in the “Feed”

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No matter where I go on the Internet, I feel like I am trapped in the “feed,” held down by algorithms that are like axes trying to make bespoke shirts out of silk. And no one illustrates it better than Facebook and Twitter, two more services that should know better, but they don’t. Fake news, unintelligent information and radically dumb statements are getting more attention than what matters. The likes, retweets, re-posts are nothing more than steroids for noise. Even when you are sarcastic in your retweets or re-shares, the system has the understanding of a one-year-old monkey baby: it is a vote on popularity.We are all trapped in the “Feed”

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From the Drawing Board to the Board Room

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I don’t think that any CEO in the world is smarter than their employees. For this to work, you have to make people understand the full complexity of an issue. If you only give halfway — if you only tell people on the surface that they can contribute — it’s a bigger risk because they’re acting without full information.Lisa Lindström - From the Drawing Board to the Board Room

Lisa is a powerhouse. It’s clear how the practises the founders of Doberman were taught at Hyper Island are reflected in how they choose to run Doberman. Transparency, honesty and trust. When trust is honest, it leads to success. This applies to both companies as well as products/apps.

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Turn off your push notifications. All of them.

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Over the last few years, there’s been an increasingly loud call for a re-evaluation of the relationship between humans and smartphones. For all the good that phones do, their grip on our eyes, ears, and thoughts creates real and serious problems. “I know when I take [technology] away from my kids what happens,” Tony Fadell said in a recent interview. “They literally feel like you’re tearing a piece of their person away from them. They get emotional about it, very emotional. They go through withdrawal for two to three days.”Turn off your push notifications. All of them.

The single decision that has improved my life quality the most during the past year was to turn off almost all notifications (radical transparency; it was my wife who made me do it). I only get notifications from phone calls (but I always keep my phone on silent), messages, the SAS app (for flight changes and boarding passes) and a private Slack group with two of my closest friends. I have badges for Twitter, Linkedin and the App Store.

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Stop “feeding” your users

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But the longer I’ve spent working on Shopify Home, the more I’ve realized that feeds create user experience problems too. Machine learning is evolving and becoming more powerful everyday, but the way we design machine learning interfaces is stuck in 2006 — the year Facebook first launched News Feed.Stop “feeding” your users

I love this approach and Gillian’s critical thinking. Feeds are, in most cases, broken experiences. Companies throw money and resources at developing the “perfect algorithm” and most users (Instagram, Twitter to name a few) just want their ordered, chronological order back.

This overload means it now makes little sense to ask for the ‘chronological feed’ back. If you have 1,500 or 3,000 items a day, then the chronological feed is actually just the items you can be bothered to scroll through before giving up, which can only be 10% or 20% of what’s actually there. This will be sorted by no logical order at all except whether your friends happened to post them within the last hour. It’s not so much chronological in any useful sense as a random sample, where the randomizer is simply whatever time you yourself happen to open the app. ’What did any of the 300 people that I friended in the last 5 years post between 16:32 and 17:03?’ Meanwhile, giving us detailed manual controls and filters makes little more sense - the entire history of the tech industry tells us that actual normal people would never use them, even if they worked. People don’t file.The death of the newsfeed

I’ve taken a different approach on Instagram and to some extent Twitter (though I think their feed is the best of the three) - I simply unfriend people that clog up my feed. I have some people (even family members) that post so much content that it clogs my feed. Whenever I want to find out what they’ve been up to, I simply search for their name and have a look at their latest posts (note that this is only possible if they have an open account).

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Think inclusively at every step

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Ethics are not just an afterthought, add-on, or checklist to fill out at the end of a project. In all development and use of technology, we will consider the broader social context of our products and services, and make this consideration part of our ethos. This means not only thinking about diversity of race, gender, and class, but also taking into account environmental, social, and psychological impacts. Thinking inclusively is creatively cross-disciplinary; it involves not just the sciences but also the arts.Think inclusively at every step

Speaking of ethics… The Canadian tech community is leading the way with an open declaration for using technology for good. I love this!

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No classes, no professors: the alternative to business school

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Hyper Island’s teaching methods are unconventional. Hyper Island does not employ academic teaching staff and there are no lectures. Instead students are given live briefs from industry experts, then set deadlines for written work.No classes, no professors: the alternative to business school

Great article about Hyper Island in Financial Times. So proud of this place where I’ve not just studied, taught and invested in—but perhaps more importantly, met my wife and some of my closest friends.

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Conversion optimization with A/B tests

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I’ve been thinking a bit about conversions and A/B tests lately. I’ve recently worked with a client on helping them pick imagery for their new website. In the end, we ended up with two different hero images that we all seemed to agree aligned with the company’s values and what we think will speak to potential customers.

The decision was then to A/B tests the two images to see which one converts better. While this is great, I’m wondering how one could create a third option. In order to create an A/B test, you need to run an additional script on your site (so 50% sees images A and 50% sees image B). That script - like any script - adds additional loading time. Ideally I’d like to A/B test two images, but I’d also like to A/B test two versions - one with the script and one without the script.

To understand how much time scripts add to a loading time, try visiting USA Today’s new “European Union Expierence” (e.g. without scripts and tracking).

Booking.com A/B tests everything. If something cannot be A/B tested, Booking.com won’t do it. There’s more than 1,000 A/B tests running at any time.Living a Testing Culture

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Netlify now shows your deploy status on its favicon

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The colorized indicator overlay solved some of the problems we had with the colorized logos, but a large issue remained. Color blind and vision impaired individuals may have trouble distinguishing the red, yellow and green colors of the dots if they lack any distinguishing features independent of color.

When working with a fraction of 16x16 and 32x32 pixel icons, it may seem like it’s hardly worth including distinct status shapes, but it actually provides important distinguishing features to anyone who can’t easily distinguish colors.

First, we removed a lot of the “noise” from our logo by reducing it to its simplest shape. This helped ensure it looked sharp as a small 16x16 pixel icon and afforded visual room for the increased detail around the status icon.Netlify now shows your deploy status on its favicon

These are the lengths you go when “good enough” isn’t enough and when you truly care about your customers. I’ve said this before but Netlify is becoming one of my favorite services on the Internet. It’s one of those rare services that I can’t believe it’s FREE and I feel like I want to give them money.

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Let them eat cake

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The tech industry embraced that kind of progress by turning it into a narrative of quality for commercial products and branded it “beta.”

Because there’s always an update waiting round the corner, we’ve all begun to salivate in anticipation of the next model. For innovation it’s brilliant. But when dealing with democratic institutions and its problems, it promotes laziness.Let them eat cake

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Netflix Culture

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Our vacation policy is “take vacation.” We don’t have any rules or forms around how many weeks per year. Frankly, we intermix work and personal time quite a bit, doing email at odd hours, taking off weekday afternoons for kids’ games, etc. Our leaders make sure they set good examples by taking vacations, often coming back with fresh ideas, and encourage the rest of the team to do the same.

You might think that such freedom would lead to chaos. But we also don’t have a clothing policy, yet no one has come to work naked. The lesson is you don’t need policies for everything. Most people understand the benefit of wearing clothes at work.Netflix Culture

After browsing the original Netflix Culture slidedeck and reading the updated Netflix Culture page on their site, Netflix entered one of the few companies that could inspire me to take on a full time position. I love it!

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Skype

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Microsoft argued that the “criticism is overblown and reflects, in part, people’s grumpiness with software updates.” They say that now the focus is the corporate market. But that doesn’t deny the fact that it is a terrible interface, inhuman and difficult to use. It lacks any imagination — a fact that is repeatedly reinforced on social media every time you bring up Skype and its user experience.Skype interrupted

I agree with Om Malik 100% in this post. I used to love Skype and it was one of the online experiences that felt like magic the first time I experienced it. Now? It’s usable at best. Every update introduces one new annoying feature (the latest being the uptempo beats playing when a call is connecting) and it’s the one software I try and not to update for as long as possible knowing that nothing good will come out of it.

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The New Google Assistant

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I can’t imagine someone I know (like my hairdresser) receiving an incoming call from me and instead end up talking with my digital voice assistant. It’s a great example of how from a technology standpoint, it may seem like the best thing ever. However, from a human perspective, it’s downright insulting to the person on the other end who realizes that you can’t even spare the 30 seconds it takes to call them yourself to make an appointment. This feature would make much more sense if the small business that you were calling had its own automated response capability. However, at that point, one has to ask why a phone call would even be needed in the first place.Above Avalon Daily Newsletter 2018-05-09

One of the core differences between Apple and Google is that while Apple is driven out of human needs, Google is driven out of technical capabilities. When you’re trying to create human services, it needs to take the human element into account far more.

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Who would you trust more with your data, Apple or the government?

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The theory is that one highly-protected database could be safer than having our personal data scattered throughout thousands of different databases.

The question is who could be trusted to be the central repository for personal data? The piece suggests that governments, Google, Amazon and Apple could all be candidates.Who would you trust more with your data, Apple or the government?

It’s an interesting topic and one that I think we should have a more open and serious discussion about. Given that the poll is on 9to5Apple, a website that mainly attracts Apple supporters, the results are biased but it’s still interesting that Apple scores 87% of the votes while the government is below 3%, ahead of Google (1.6%) and Amazon (0.5%). I’m not even sure the people that voted for Amazon are serious, if they are I would love to hear their argument.

I have no doubts that neither Apple nor the government would ever sell my data so for me it’s merely a case of who I think would have better security measurements in place. iCloud was hacked years ago but so has most governments. With Google and Amazon, I’m 100% confident that they would sell the data, or at least misuse it.

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What Happened to Apple’s Whimsy?

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I’m not sure that I would like to see too more of that goofiness, though. It’s not that I hate fun; rather, I think that Apple’s increasingly austere take on industrial design has made them better at shipping products that feel almost invisible. I appreciate that. It reduces the hardware to a tool, but not an appliance, yet I think Apple’s products feel even more approachable than they used to because so much of what they make is entirely straightforward. They don’t need to mask the complexity of the software with a layer of gumdrop plastic; in many ways, the software has become simple enough that the hardware can reflect that.What Happened to Apple’s Whimsy?

Nick Heer at PixelEnvy is becoming one of my favorite bloggers.

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Unfoundered

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So we take on huge sums of money to churn out yet another platform, website or app that’s only slightly different from an existing one. We ignore the fact that there is a lack of entrepreneurial talent entering politics, healthcare, science and local services, where we know new ideas could lead to the change we urgently need. Unfoundered

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Microcontent: A Few Small Words Have a Mega Impact on Business

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Microcontent is a type of UX copywriting in the form of short text fragments or phrases, often presented with no additional contextual support. Microcontent usually communicates key messages in a concise form: it can be used to describe an article or long blog post, add clarity to an interface, or encourage a desired behavior.Microcontent: A Few Small Words Have a Mega Impact on Business

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GDPR is ruining my life

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And if you do just one thing?

It’s no longer ok to have just one tick box when someone makes a purchase for accepting the terms of purchase and for consent to marketing. This is not considered specific consent for marketing.”GDPR is ruining my life

I’ve been looking into what a small one-man company like myself actually have to do to comply with GDPR regulations. While I doubt they’ll come chasing down companies like mine, I think companies regardless of size should comply with these laws as they’re actually for our, the users, the public’s, benefit.

This is a great rundown by Kate Jackson.

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What’s in a pattern name

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But perhaps even more than that, they knew they needed to talk about their design patterns more consistently. As they started creating an inventory of all their existing patterns, they found one team used “atoms” to refer to each of its components, whereas another team used “atoms” and “organisms” interchangeably, regardless of how complex a given pattern might be; one team might refer to a specific kind of design pattern as a banner, while another might call a near-identical pattern featured hero; and so on.What’s in a pattern name

I can highly relate to what Ethan Marcotte is describing. I’ve worked with teams that refer to visual design as ‘wireframes’. I’m especially intrigued by the final part of his piece:

But in addition to that, these workshop teams gradually realize the primary benefit to creating a pattern library isn’t the patterns themselves. Don’t get me wrong: identifying strong, sustainable patterns is, y’know, why we do this work. But rather, they understand the language used to name, organize, and find their patterns is what allows them to use those patterns effectively—and that is what creates more consistent designs.

Would love to run something like this with clients.

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Requests for Personal Data From Apple, Google, and Facebook Compared

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The zip file I eventually received from Apple was tiny, only 9 megabytes, compared to 243 MB from Google and 881 MB from Facebook. And there’s not much there, because Apple says the information is primarily kept on your device, not its servers.USA Today: Apple took 8 days to give me the data it had collected on me. It was eye opening.

It’s evident how much of your activity that Facebook logs when their file is 3x the size of Google’s and almost 100x the size of Apple’s.

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Twitter logged all user’s passwords in plain text

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Pre-context: Twitter admitted they had found a bug that showed all passwords in plain text rather than masked and encrypted. Their CTO Parag Agrawal commented:

We are sharing this information to help people make an informed decision about their account security. We didn’t have to, but believe it’s the right thing to do.Parag Agrawal

Just the mention of “didn’t have to” makes you question their views on integrity and privacy. I’m interested in how the GDPR would view this scenario as there technically isn’t a breach (under the GDPR, the company is legally obliged to notify users within 72 hours), it’s a breach waiting to happen. It’s like the bank left all of their customers money in the lobby.

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Apple Should Make an Instagram Clone

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Instagram is one of the last social networks I use these days, which I actually enjoy visiting. But I always get a little twitchy using it because it’s owned by Facebook (which I’m really not a fan of). And the ads are getting pretty annoying these days.

So wouldn’t it be awesome if Apple made a privacy focused clone of it? I know Apple doesn’t really do well when it comes to social services, but I’m wondering if a simple photo sharing site might not be impossible for them to do well. From the outside, it looks like it’s just a scaling problem. You’ve got photos, comments, and a list of folks to watch. It can’t be that hard.Apple Should Make an Instagram Clone

I think this is a pretty great idea to be honest. Apple themselves are actually decent at posting stuff to Instagram as they have a strong focus on the camera possibilities of the iPhone combined with, you know, ‘creativity’. I’ve quit Facebook and have my concerns about Instagram too. I guess the only question is - if it’s not ad-based, what’s in it for Apple?

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A Modest Guide to Productivity

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A person is not a brain driving a meat robot; it all runs together. If work is stymied, ask: are you eating clean? Getting enough sleep? Did your heart pump more than a sloth today? Start with your body, not your work methods. Trust me.A Modest Guide to Productivity

This is a great variation of what I was aiming for in ‘New Tools Don’t Always Equal Productivity’. Frank, one of my favorite designers/writers, really hits the head of the nail here. Whenever I’m stressed out or can’t seem to be able to do good work I occasionally believe it’s because I don’t have a great to-do list app or missing a Sketch plugin. Most of the time, a workout, a Headspace session, a walk with my dog or a good meal takes care of it. We should learn to turn to these things more often.

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Google Debuts a Standalone To-Do App, Google Tasks

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According to their announcement of Product Sans and their new logo, the typeface was supposed to be used in promotional materials and lockups, but there’s no mention of it being used for product UIs. In fact, the only other product I can find that has this same inconsistent mix is the new Gmail.com, also previewed today.

It isn’t just about what these typefaces look like, either, but how they’re used. For example, when entering a new task, the name of the task is set in Product Sans; when it is added to the list, it becomes Roboto. Tapping on the task takes you to a details view where, now, the name of the task is in Product Sans. There are three options to add more information: if you want to add details, you’ll do it in Roboto, but adding a due date will be in Product Sans. The “add subtasks” button — well, text in the same grey as everything else except other buttons that are blue — is set in Product Sans, but the tasks are set in Roboto.PixelEnvy: Google Debuts a Standalone To-Do App, Google Tasks

I haven’t bothered trying Google’s todo-app because, well mainly, you know, it’s just another tool but I did try the new Gmail. After using it for less than 5 minutes, I can only pray that a) Google lets users keep the old version for a long time and b) that a new version of Apple Mail is on the horizon. Because the new Gmail is terrible and by the sound of it, so is Google Tasks.

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Tech is not Neutral

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Choices that software developers make about design, technical architecture or business model can have profound impacts on our privacy, security and even civil rights as users. When software encourages us to take photos that are square instead of rectangular, or to put an always-on microphone in our living rooms, or to be reachable by our bosses at any moment, it changes our behaviors, and it changes our lives.12Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech

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Facebook to exclude North American users from some privacy enhancements

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There’s no way to sugarcoat this message: Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg believes North America users of his platform deserve a lower data protection standard than people everywhere else in the world.

In a phone interview with Reuters yesterday Mark Zuckerberg declined to commit to universally implementing changes to the platform that are necessary to comply with the European Union’s incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Rather, he said the company was working on a version of the law that would bring some European privacy guarantees worldwide — declining to specify to the reporter which parts of the law would not extend worldwide.

“We’re still nailing down details on this, but it should directionally be, in spirit, the whole thing,” Reuters quotes Zuckerberg on the GDPR question. Facebook to exclude North American users from some privacy enhancements

“Directionally be, in spirit, the whole thing” sounds to me like it’ll be very far from the whole thing which is unfortunate for North American (or really anyone outside Europe) users. It would be far easier and faster for Facebook to just implement GDPR for everyone. If there was ever any doubt, this should be the final evidence. Facebook will not change it’s behaviour.

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Sen. Blumenthal: “Your business model is to maximize profit over privacy.”

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We’ve seen the apology tours before. You have refused to acknowledge even an ethical obligation to have reported this violation of the FTC consent decree, and we have letters, we’ve had contacts with Facebook employees…that indicates not only a lack of resources but lack of attention to privacy. And so, my reservation about your testimony today is that I don’t see how you can change your business model unless there are specific rules of the road. Your business model is to monetize user information, to maximize profit over privacy, and unless there are specific rules and requirements — enforced by an outside agency — I have no assurance that these kinds of vague commitments are going to produce action.Sen. Richard Blumenthal

As Upton Sinclair put it: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

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Netflix has to "produce great content, market it well, serve it up beautifully."

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Netflix has to “produce great content, market it well, serve it up beautifully.” If not successful in that pursuit, Netflix will be “run over, just like anybody else.”Reed Hastings - Netflix Earnings call

The Netflix saga is one of it’s kind and Wall Street seems to love $NFLX - it’s up over 70% YTD and more than 400% in just three years. It’s refreshing how Reed Hastings (CEO Netflix) puts their task at hand though. It’s all about providing content that the users want, market it and serve it up beautifully. Without any of the three, they’ll be ‘run over’.

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My #1 Piece of Advice to Freelancers: Lean Into The Moment

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I worked longer than an 8-hour day on Monday because I felt it. I had a lot of work and I wanted to work. I wanted to crank it out and get a ton done. And when Tuesday came around, even though I had planned to work, something pulled me elsewhere. Instead, I leaned into that. And that Tuesday afternoon? I still got everything done I wanted to do in that day.

See, when you’re a freelancer, you don’t have to set daily goals. You have the luxury of setting weekly goals because you control your schedule. When you get those goals done during the week is up to you. It doesn’t have to happen Monday-Friday, 9–5. You have the ability to lean into the rest of your life, on your time, unlike “full-time” workers.My #1 Piece of Advice to Freelancers: Lean Into The Moment

If it’s one thing I want to work on and become better at it’s precisely this. I’m great at getting a ton done but I always get this feeling on insecurity when I do something else besides working (especially if it’s like 2pm on a Wednesday).

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Productivity

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It doesn’t matter how fast you move if it’s in a worthless direction. Picking the right thing to work on is the most important element of productivity and usually almost ignored. So think about it more! Independent thought is hard but it’s something you can get better at with practice.Sam Altman - Productivity

I should get this framed and hang it over my desk.

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Tim Cook - We care about the user experience

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The truth is we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer. If our customer was our product, we could make a ton of money. We’ve elected not to do that.

Our products are iPhones and iPads and Macs and HomePods and the Watch, et cetera, and if we can convince you to buy one, we’ll make a little bit of money, right? But you are not our product.

You are our customer. You are a jewel, and we care about the user experience. And we’re not going to traffic in your personal life. I think it’s an evasion of privacy. I think it’s – privacy to us is a human right.Tim Cook - We care about the user experience

There’s been a lot of complaints about the lack of features in Siri compared to it’s counter parts primarily Alexa and Google Assistant. The big difference is of course that while Amazon and Google make their profits of it’s users (and hence need the data you provide), Apple is not in that game. Long term, I think it’s becoming clear to us that the path that Apple has chosen, is the one that’s going to last. And like Tim mentions in the final seconds of the clip: “This is not something we just started doing because we saw something last week. We’ve been doing this for years.”

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Europe’s tough new data-protection law

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The GDPR is prescriptive about what organisations have to do to comply. They have to appoint a “data-protection officer” (DPO), an ombudsman who reports directly to top management and cannot be penalised for doing his job. They also have to draw up detailed “data-protection impact assessments”, describing how personal data are processed. And they have to put well-defined processes in place to govern the protection of personal data and to notify authorities within 72 hours if there is a breach. Companies that persistently ignore these rules face stiff fines of up to €20m ($25m) or 4% of global annual sales, whichever is greater.The Economist - The Real Technology Problem

It’ll be interesting to see how the GDPR will work in reality but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The latest Facebook / Cambridge Analytica breach is a great example of something that would have been avoided with a set of rules and regulation in place.

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The Real Technology Problem

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But when you go out to dinner with a group of friends and the subject of the internet comes up, the focus isn’t on social media’s invasion of privacy. No one is getting a little buzzed and saying, “My profile is being unethically shared to target me with ads that purport to know what I want. Now give me another drink.”The Real Technology Problem

This post hits home with me on so many levels. The problem isn’t Facebook—it’s us. We’re so addicted to technology that privacy has become an afterthought.

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Whose risk?

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We cannot be part of a discussion on what risks a certain technology has without asking whose risks. It makes an awful lot of difference. …It’s quite pointless to talk about risk-benefit without saying, “Are those who are at risk also getting the benefits, or are those who are getting the benefits very far removed from risk?”

This is particularly the case if you look at development in the Third World, for example, where women are often in the end more disadvantaged than they were before. The questions to ask are “Whose benefits? Whose risks?” rather than “What benefits? What risks?”Seven into seven.

While this great post by Ethan Marcotte originally discussed the topic of Google AMP, it’s just as relevant today regarding Facebook. It’s clear now that the users are taking the risk while Facebook themselves are getting the benefits.

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Why Small Teams Win

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Research shows that as teams grow in size, individual contributions and effort start to decline. This was most famously shown in a study by French Professor Maximilian Ringelmann. In a simple experiment, participants had to pull on a rope. When it was just one participant, he or she would give a 100%, but as the number of participants increased, individual effort declined significantly. At eight people, individual effort was as low as 50%.Why Small Teams Win

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Phone Bored

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Phone boredom occurs when you’re technically “on your phone,” but you’re still bored out of your mind. It’s that feeling when you’re mindlessly clicking around, opening and closing apps, looking for something to do digitally and finding the options uninteresting.

Whereas previous generations may have scrolled through channels on the radio, wandered into different rooms in their house, or flicked through countless TV channels, today’s teens say they’ll sometimes open and close up to 20-30 apps, hoping that something, anything, will catch their attention.Generation Z Is Already Bored by the Internet

Although not technically GenZ, I can relate to being phone bored. Wishful thinking would be that my mind is still young, refusing to grow old but Om Malik states a great case to why this might be to due to lack of great apps.

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Karim Rashid

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Humans touch an average of 600 objects a day and the potential for them to help us or bring us joy is huge! The big challenge of design is to create something that, although accessible to all consumers, touches people’s lives and gives them some sense of elevated experience and pleasure and is original. Designers have the power to shape a better, smarter world, to simplify yet inspire every individual, to make well-made and beautiful products accessible to all.Minimalissimo Meets Karim Rashid

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Creative Class is open

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I believe freelancing is the ultimate way to take control of my life, my finances and my daily happiness. I don’t freelance as an interim step until I build a huge company. This is a long-term, long-lasting career that’s now more stable than any corporate job. I freelance because I love being a freelancer.

It gives me the ability to chart my own path in life, not to mention working in my underwear (with my clients being none-the-wiser). I choose who I work with, when I work, and most importantly, when I don’t need to work.Paul Jarvis pjrvs.com

One of the freelancers I always seem to quote is Paul Jarvis. He has the gift to create his own amazing products and the determination to follow through. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Paul on several occasions and he’s a genuinely nice guy (and we share the same love of cars).You may know Paul’s name from my books as I’ve interviewed him for both of my books or from the great ChimpEssentials.

I’m excited that this week Paul together with Kaleigh - another freelance superstar, are relaunching their Creative Class. This is by far one of the best online classes I’ve ever purchased. Because Paul and Kaleigh are such nice people, they’ll give you $20 off if you use the code ‘ANTONSE’ when signing up. Sign up here.

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Dieter Rams

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Dieter Rams’ ability to bring form to a product so that it clearly, concisely and immediately communicates its meaning is remarkable… He remains utterly alone in producing a body of work so consistently beautiful, so right, and so accessible.Jony Ive

Undeniably one of the greatest designers of the last century. Thrilled about this upcoming movie by Gary Hustwit, who also directed Helvetica and Objectified.

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Being cash-free puts us at risk of attack: Swedes turn against cashlessness

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When you have a fully digital system you have no weapon to defend yourself if someone turns it off, he says.

If Putin invades Gotland [Sweden’s largest island] it will be enough for him to turn off the payments system. No other country would even think about taking these sorts of risks, they would demand some sort of analogue system.Being cash-free puts us at risk of attack: Swedes turn against cashlessness

First of all, if Putin were to invade Sweden, not being to be able to pay for things would be the least of our problems. Secondly, to hack our digital systems, he surely wouldn’t need to invade Sweden first. Thirdly, if he were to hack us, I’m pretty sure he would take down electricity, water supply and other crucial things before going after our payments.

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Bleeding Out

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It wasn’t until things had calmed down a bit and the medics asked her about whether I’d been drinking, and if I was taking any medication, that she walked off for a moment to go inside the house.
In an instant, she was hurrying back towards us with a determined look in her eye and a large plastic bag in her hands.

“This is what he’s taking,” she said, holding out the bag filled with prescription bottles.

Everyone looked down at all the different medications in there, and then just kind of remained silent for a second.
“Which one?” someone asked, finally. “Which of these has he taken today.”

And Joanie, she just looked at the guy for a moment, and then she pointed into the bag.
“Everything,” she said. “Everything in here. This whole bag.”Bleeding Out

First this and now yet another brilliant piece from The Players Tribune on mental health.

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Fake News is spam

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My argument was that Facebook (and Mark Zuckerberg) were shying away from what was their responsibility as platform owners. My contention was that fake news was like spam on email platforms, and it was the responsibility of Facebook to fix their platform.Fake News is spam

When your inbox is full of spam, we blame Gmail/Google or whatever provider we use. Facebook needs to face the music.

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Don't use the F word (freelancer)

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This is a matter of both self-and-public perception. I’ve found that saying, “I’m a freelancer” translates to some as, “I’m struggling and will take whatever crumbs you throw my way.” In other words, it sounds and feels desperate and poor. Instead, try identifying as a business owner, or an independent service, or a consultant. What term feels powerful to you?

However, if people ask me, “Are you freelance?” I don’t say, “No.” Instead I answer, “I have my own business, yes.” Or, “I’m a free agent — and yes, I’m available for projects.”Don’t use the F word (Freelancer)

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Conversational Design

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In 2015, the Pew Research Center found that 64% of American adults owned a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in 2011. We still refer to these personal, pocket-sized computers as phones, but “Phone” is now just one of many communication apps we neglect in favor of texting. Texting is the most widely used mobile data service in America. And in the wider world, four billion people have mobile phones, so 4 billion people have access to SMS or other messaging apps. For some, dictating messages into a wristwatch offers an appealing alternative to placing a call.Conversational Design

🙋🏻‍♂️

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Dropbox

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I wrote Dropbox their first investment check on June 26, 2007. What strikes me as I look at a copy of the check is that Drew and Arash must have been fairly effective at getting all their incorporation paperwork completed. I often had to chase startups well into July.

Little did I know back then what a momentous check this one would be: that 11 years later, Dropbox would be the first Y Combinator company to go public.Congrats Dropbox

While I don’t think that Y Combinator’s agenda is to make money or take companies public, this is a great example that playing the long game is what pays off in the end. If this is the first of many to come, Y Combinator is in for a very prosperous future.

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How Tech Giants Design For Transgender Users–Or Don’t

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At best, it was inconvenient to explain the situation to potential guests. At worst, potential guests might have suspected some kind of scheme. By design, Airbnb mines your history to build your profile, and that’s incredibly problematic for transgender people who’ve established a new life. In this sense, it’s a perfect example of what happens when design isn’t inclusive by default–when a decent solution for 98% of the population can be extremely ostracizing for the remaining 2%.How Tech Giants Design For Transgender Users–Or Don’t

Changing your name on a profile might be problematic and occasionally impossible. Changing your gender could possibly just be a dropdown but to have it reflect that change on the entire site takes commitment. Well done Airbnb.

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Everyone Is Going Through Something

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I know I could have really benefited from having someone to talk to over the years. But I didn’t share — not to my family, not to my best friends, not in public. Today, I’ve realized I need to change that. I want to share some of my thoughts about my panic attack and what’s happened since. If you’re suffering silently like I was, then you know how it can feel like nobody really gets it. Partly, I want to do it for me, but mostly, I want to do it because people don’t talk about mental health enough. And men and boys are probably the farthest behind.Everyone Is Going Through Something

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It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

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Out of the 60, 70, 80 hours a week many are expected to pour into work, how many of those hours are really spent on the work itself? And how many are tossed away in meetings, lost to distraction, and withered away by inefficient business practices? The bulk.

The answer isn’t more hours, it’s less bullshit. Less waste, not more production. And far fewer things that induce distraction, always-on anxiety, and stress.

Stress is an infection passed down from organization to employee, from employee to employee, and then from employee to customer. And it’s becoming resistant to traditional treatments. The same old medicine is only making it worse.

And remember, stress can not be contained. It never stops at the edge of work. It always bleeds into life. It infects your relationships with your friends, your family, your kids.

If it’s constantly crazy at work, we have two words for you: Fuck that. And two more: Enough already.It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Very excited about the upcoming book from 37Signals - It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.

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Flight Crews Don’t Decide Where To Fly

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On most flights, this crew is working together for the first time. A given flight’s crew usually didn’t train together. Often, they don’t see the exact plane they need to operate until they step aboard. How does a group of people who have never met fly 100 people in a 600-metric-ton metal tube across the world so safely?
My best guess: Nobody has to decide where to fly.

To work productively, make sure you don’t have to decide where to go. Work with stakeholders to set missions, KPIs, OKRs, milestones, or just plain old goals before the team steps foot onto the proverbial plane. In-flight, try to avoid re-evaluating the goal. Land the plane safely with a solid report-out and retrospective, before asking where to go next. Try to make switching teams between projects seamless.

The above advice works for big initiatives, 2-week sprints, and 30-minute meetings — especially 30-minute meetings.Flight Crews Don’t Decide Where To Fly

Brilliant piece by Matthew Ström that I’m likely to reference and return to many times over the next years.

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Bye bye Facebook

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Both the Times and the Guardian describe this as a “data breach”, but I don’t think that’s entirely descriptive of what went on here. When I hear “data breach”, I think that a password got stolen or a system was hacked into. But Facebook VP Andrew Bosworth tweeted that there was nothing that was stolen — users willingly gave their information to an app, which went behind their backs to use the information in a somewhat sketchy way that users did not expect.

Facebook is more than happy to collect the world’s information, but it is clear to me that they have no intention for taking full responsibility for what that entails.Fifty Million Facebook Profiles Harvested for Cambridge Analytica

The data that Facebook leaked to Cambridge Analytica is the same data Facebook retains on everyone and sells targeting services around. The problem is not shady Russian researchers; it’s Facebook’s core business model of collect, store, analyze, exploit.Maciej Cegłowski

I just deleted my Facebook account. I’ve never been particularly opinionated about privacy but I can’t continue supporting their business model.

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Cuba

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Cuba has one of the lowest rates of internet usage in the Western Hemisphere, and access to media is strictly restricted—but that doesn’t stop Cubans from watching Game of Thrones. Their secret is El Paquete Semanal (“The Weekly Packet”), a clandestine in-person file-sharing network that distributes hard drives and flash drives full of media.

Nobody quite knows how El Paquete, which has thrived since the mid-2000s, is created or how it makes its way across the country every week. But Cubans have come to rely on the pervasive distribution of music, TV, and movies—not to mention pirated software and e-commerce platforms.El Paquete

The Cuban broadband internet penetration is 0.007% (8,157 connections for 11 million people) and the cost of an hour of Wi-Fi access is around $2, roughly 10% of the average monthly salary. This is why we do user research because what we consider normal is utopia for others.

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The seat at the table

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The only thing I would and to expand on is the question of “the seat at the table.” Yes, there are many organizations that still, to this day, do not see the value of creative & design work. But.

The reality that we are not prepared nor educated to take leadership roles. To be accountable for our work. We have no freaking idea how to do this and we are the first ones to duck out when offered those opportunities.
Too many creatives refuse to talk to stakeholders.
Too many designers refuse to spend time educating a client.
And too many creative leaders are quick to deem all the business aspects that underpins those discussions as “not creative enough”.

Breaking news: If you can’t sell, educate or execute, your ideas are worth shit, y’all.

So now it’s time to educate ourselves, if we don’t want to be as irrelevant as some of the people we are critiquing ourselves. More than ever, learn business and tech or die.Zelia Sakhi

Zélia is one of the brightest people I’ve ever had the honour of working with. For years, one of my strengths have been my understanding and interest of business and not just ‘design’. I’ve been a long believer of that the question of wether or not designers should learn to code is inferior to wether designers should learn business.

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Why Can Everyone Spot Fake News But YouTube, Facebook And Google?

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The companies ask that we take them at their word: We’re trying, but this is hard — we can’t fix this overnight. OK, we get it. But if the tech giants aren’t finding the same misinformation that observers armed with nothing more sophisticated than access to a search bar are in the aftermath of these events, there’s really only one explanation for it: If they can’t see it, they aren’t truly looking.

How hard would it be, for example, to have a team in place reserved exclusively for large-scale breaking news events to do what outside observers have been doing: scan and monitor for clearly misleading conspiratorial content inside its top searches and trending modules?

It’s not a foolproof solution. But it’s something.Why Can Everyone Spot Fake News But YouTube, Facebook And Google?

YouTube claims it’s impossible for them to being able to identify and pull right-wing content - even of convicted Nazi’s. Somehow it’s pretty great at quickly identifying porn, licensed movies and music videos though.

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Why I hate your fake redesign

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UI/UX work is not just about creating a beautiful picture. It’s about addressing your clients’ needs by providing new experiences for users and inspiring them to take action. It’s vital to do your research, discuss ideas with product managers, understand business needs, and check your assumptions. Only after all of that can you begin drawing.Why I hate your fake redesign

While I might consider ‘hate’ a far too strong word (or HATE all caps as the original title is) - I’ve always found these ‘concepts’ to be problematic. They are not beneficial for our industry as they remove all of the work that we seem to have to convince clients the most about their importance. Things like research and user testing are almost always the first things to get erased from a project plan if there’s a need for a smaller budget or a slimmer timeline. And why not, I just saw this guy on dribbble that had made this great concept without any research!

We can’t continue blaming clients for being poor clients if this is the way we educate them.

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Your competitors don’t matter

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By signing up for your competitor’s product, all you get is feature parity.

By reading your competitor’s marketing, all your marketing starts to sound the same.

By reading about your competitor’s latest fundraise, all you get is anxiety that they’ll have more money to “out execute” you.

Sorry to throw Samsung under the bus, but what you get is a Samsung phone rather than the iPhone by spending any time at all looking at your competitors.Spencer Fry - Your competitors don’t matter

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Diversity in the design industry

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I’ve been working as a designer in some fashion for more than two decades—as an employee and as an entrepreneur, in small studios and in large agencies, and at tiny startups and late-stage enterprises. What I’ve seen is that as an industry, we are teeming with progressive-leaning professionals, most of whom would avidly applaud the idea of greater diversity and inclusion in design workplaces.

But if I’m honest, I can only count a handful of times that I’ve worked with an African American, Hispanic, or Native American designer at any level. The reality of the design industry is that we’re homogenous—overwhelmingly white.Creative careers elude people of color - Khoi Vinh

My experiences from a career that span over the same amount of time are very similar to Khoi’s. Although Sweden’s immigration policies have been generous over the years, I can count the times I’ve worked with people from the Middle East or former Yugoslavia on one hand.

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Givenchy

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Givenchy

Hubert de Givenchy, the man behind the fashion house Givenchy passed away earlier this week at the age of 91. This timeless quote stays true for both career and life in general. Found via Om Malik

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Apple’s "Sound on the Go" Strategy

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It’s easy to look at Apple’s headphone strategy as nothing more than the company expanding its iPhone accessories. However, there is much more value found with wireless headphones, and it comes back to controlling sound on the go.

It is not unreasonable to assume Apple will have at least 25M people wearing wireless Apple-branded headphones (containing a Wx chip) by the end of the year. Add in Beats, and the number is even higher. By the end of 2019, the number may exceed 50M people. Given the very high customer satisfaction levels found with the initial version of AirPods, one can assume current AirPods users are likely to buy updated versions of the product down the road.

Instead of just thinking of this as 50M people wearing Apple wireless headphones, we are looking at Apple building a user base for products capable of delivering a digital voice assistant and intelligent sound on the go. That is a very powerful value proposition.Above Avalon daily email (subscribers only), March 12

This is a great piece by Neil Cybart over at Above Avalon. When Siri actually begin to provide real value to users, they’ll already have not just tens of millions - but hundreds (counting Apple Watch, iPhones, Macs) touch points already in users hands.

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The Most Important Design Skill For An AI-Dominated World

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Algorithms are based on historical data, which is often flawed and biased against people who aren’t white or male. When those algorithms use biased, discriminatory datasets to find patterns–and make decisions based on those patterns–they will ignore large swaths of the population.

“When you are inclusive, there’s a huge design opportunity to make better products, which leads to more successful business.”The Most Important Design Skill For An AI-Dominated World

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Love letters to trees

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“As I was leaving St. Mary’s College today I was struck, not by a branch, but by your radiant beauty. You must get these messages all the time. You’re such an attractive tree.”When You Give a Tree an Email Address

It seems like we’re drowned with reports on how digital technology is making us less empathetic, more stressed and more filled with hate. This article comes as a breath of fresh air in that sense. The city of Melbourne assigned each tree a unique email address so it’s citizens could report problems. Instead, people used the email addresses to send love letters to their favorite trees. ❤️ conquers all.

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Amazon has a fix for Alexa’s creepy laughs

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Over the past few days, users with Alexa-enabled devices have reported hearing strange, unprompted laughter. Amazon responded to the creepiness in a statement to The Verge, saying, “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.”

As noted in media reports and a trending Twitter moment, Alexa laughs without being prompted to wake. People on Twitter and Reddit reported that they thought it was an actual person laughing near them, which can be scary when you’re home alone. Many responded to the cackling sounds by unplugging their Alexa-enabled devices. - Amazon has a fix for Alexa’s creepy laughs

Let’s add that to the list of things that Alexa can do that the HomePod can’t. I’ve read reports from people investing into this even further and none of the laughs you can trigger (Alexa, can you laugh?), triggers this evil grinning laugh. If I’ve had an Alexa that would do this I would definitely unplug it (and never plug it back in). What if your smart assistant did this? You would send them for a psychical checkup.

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You have to make sure that you’re focused on the thing that matters.

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There is more noise in the world than change. One of my roles is to try to block the noise from the people who are really doing the work. That’s tougher and tougher in this environment. The priorities are about saying no to a bunch of great ideas. We can do more things than we used to do because we’re a bit bigger. But in the scheme of things versus our revenue, we’re doing very few things. I mean, you could put every product we’re making on this table, to put it in perspective. I doubt anybody that is anywhere near our revenue could say that. You have to make sure that you’re focused on the thing that matters. And we do that fair­­ly well. I worked at a company a while back, many years ago, where every hallway you go in, you would see their stock price being monitored. You will not find that here. And not because you can get it on your iPhone.Tim Cook - Why Apple is the World’s Most Innovate Company

“We can do more things than we used to do because we’re a bit bigger. But in the scheme of things versus our revenue, we’re doing very few things. I mean, you could put every product we’re making on this table, to put it in perspective. I doubt anybody that is anywhere near our revenue could say that.” This has been a long term motto for Apple and something that Steve Jobs often referenced as well. What people tend to forget though, is just how much bigger Apple is today than it was 7 years ago.

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Pricing Philisophy

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Business is creative. You can do things any way you want. There’s no need to adhere to norms. Norms are for businesses without personality.Pricing Philisophy

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Specialize

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My number one tip for marketers seeking to grow their career opportunities is this: specialize. Specialize deeply. I don’t mean “SEO” or “Email marketing,” I mean specialization like “I’m the best link-focused SEO for the mobile gaming world.” Expanding from a specialization (if you so choose) is vastly easier, in my experience, than becoming known for a broad practice. This is equally true for companies as for individuals. Five tidbits of advice

This follow the same advice that Dan Mall lays out in Mastering Freelance - while being a Javascript developer is great, being a Javascript developer for travel sites is far better. It’s all about how easily a potential client can determine if you’re a good fit or not.

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AMP for email is a terrible idea

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Google just announced a plan to “modernize” email with its Accelerated Mobile Pages platform, allowing “engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences.” Does that sound like a terrible idea to anyone else? It sure sounds like a terrible idea to me, and not only that, but an idea borne out of competitive pressure and existing leverage rather than user needs. Not good, Google. Send to trash.

See, email belongs to a special class. Nobody really likes it, but it’s the way nobody really likes sidewalks, or electrical outlets, or forks. It not that there’s something wrong with them. It’s that they’re mature, useful items that do exactly what they need to do. AMP for email is a terrible idea

I’m a big fan of email and the protocol and I can’t think of anything worse than Google force pressing their technology on the one thing of the web that still feels ‘open’. Makes me think of this old post; Stop Saying Email is Broken.

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Is this Finnish school the perfect design?

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Ms Grahn-Laasonen said: “Schools can choose a theme like climate change and you can look at it from very different perspectives, from very different subjects like mathematics … It’s giving our children skills to think about subjects like climate change from different perspectives.”
Proponents of PBL say it helps to equip students with the critical thinking skills they need to flourish today. Kirsti Lonka, a professor of educational psychology at Helsinki University, told the BBC: “When it comes to real life, our brain is not sliced into disciplines … we are thinking in a very holistic way. And when you think about the problems in the world – global crises, migration, the economy, the post-truth era – we really haven’t given our children the tools to deal with this inter-cultural world.”Is this Finnish school the perfect design?

Design thinking applied to a topic like education is extremely inspiring. Go 🇫🇮!

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The #1 reason Facebook won’t ever change

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Google’s core DNA is search and engineering, though some would say engineering that is driven by the economics of search, which makes it hard for the company to see the world through any other lens. Apple’s lens is that of product, design, and experience. This allows it to make great phones and to put emphasis on privacy, but makes it hard for them to build data-informed services.

Facebook’s DNA is that of a social platform addicted to growth and engagement. At its very core, every policy, every decision, every strategy is based on growth (at any cost) and engagement (at any cost). More growth and more engagement means more data — which means the company can make more advertising dollars, which gives it a nosebleed valuation on the stock market, which in turn allows it to remain competitive and stay ahead of its rivals.Om Malik - The #1 reason Facebook won’t ever change

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A Year of Learning and Leading UX at Google

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Everyone says “People at Google are so smart.” True, but I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of smart people over the course of my career. When I joined I learned that many of my colleagues have worked here for 10 years or more. Not only have they stayed on and built careers, they’re still incredibly passionate about their work. They really care! So while smarts are great, smarts and passion are the really powerful combination.A Year of Learning and Leading UX at Google

Goes without saying that this goes for any company. I’ve worked with a lot of smart people in my career too but the people that stand out after 2 decades are the people that were passionate (and in most cases, really smart too).

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C.A.R.E - A simple framework for user onboarding

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All too often, onboarding is a finite project that’s owned by a single team (probably product or growth) and has a due date. It’s shipped, checked off the roadmap and everyone moves on to the next project. This is absolutely the wrong way to treat your onboarding.

Onboarding must be a continual process for your business. That’s because onboarding is not a project or a feature – it needs to be an ongoing concern, a mission, a mindset, a strategy that needs to adapt over time as your product and business evolve. It must be a continual process for your business and your customers.

As your business grows and gets different types of customers, your onboarding will need to adapt. You’ll never be “finished” working on onboarding. And even your most loyal and active customers need to be continually onboarded to new areas of your product.

Great piece by Intercom on the importance of continously adapting your onboarding process. As long as your product evolves, so should your onboarding.

C - Convert trialists to paying customers
A - Activate newly paying customers
R - Retain paying customers
E - Expand their usage

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Inside Facebook´s Hellish Two Years

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It appears that Facebook did not, however, carefully think through the implications of becoming the dominant force in the news industry. Everyone in management cared about quality and accuracy, and they had set up rules, for example, to eliminate pornography and protect copyright. But Facebook hired few journalists and spent little time discussing the big questions that bedevil the media industry. What is fair? What is a fact? How do you signal the difference between news, analysis, satire, and opinion? Facebook has long seemed to think it has immunity from those debates because it is just a technology company - one that has built “a platform for all ideas”.

One of the biggest impact on my personal mental health for the past year was to cut down my Facebook usage to a minimum. I don’t have the app installed on my phone and I logout of the browser session every time I’ve visited (making it more of a hassle to log back in). Whenever I visit, I’m reminded of all the passive (not to mention active) hate that flows through Facebook.

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Everything Easy is Hard Again

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See, the rabbit doesn’t lose because he gets tired. He loses because he gets confused about which direction to go. Did you notice how it stops in the middle and stares blankly as everyone around it yells loudly about things it doesn’t understand? That’s me on Twitter.

As someone who has decades of experience on the web, I hate to compare myself to the tortoise, but hey, if it fits, it fits. Let’s be more like that tortoise: diligent, direct, and purposeful. The web needs pockets of slowness and thoughtfulness as its reach and power continues to increase. What we depend upon must be properly built and intelligently formed. We need to create space for complexity’s important sibling: nuance. Spaces without nuance tend to gravitate towards stupidity. And as an American, I can tell you, there are no limits to the amount of damage that can be inflicted by that dangerous cocktail of fast-moving-stupid.

There’s so much reason and value in Frank’s post that resonates on deeply with me. I coded my first webpage around the same time as him - 20 years ago - using HTML. Geocities and Angelfire. If I need to try something today, I’ll still use old-school HTML with tables. CSS, that surfaced a couple of years later offered so many new opportunities I became the rabbit. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

When I redesigned my website and moved away from Wordpress, I had this idea that without a database and a CMS, things would be simpler. I don’t require much, just text and images, static pages and a blog feed. But with Jekyll, I had to learn Github. I had to learn how to ‘build’ in the Terminal. And I had to learn Markdown.

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Personas

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I’ve never been a big believer in personas. They’re artificial, abstract, and fictitious. I don’t think you can build a great product for a person that doesn’t exist. And I definitely don’t think you can build a great product based on a composite sketch of 10 different people all rolled into one (or two or three).

On countless projects over the years, agencies (especially) have supplied me with personas. To be honest, I’ve completely never understood the use of them.

Like most things, we’ll make our beliefs fit into whatever contexts suits us. So if we want to build feature X, we’ll use personas to motivate the decision. “Clearly, this is a feature that George would love!“.

Whenever people ask me for directions on how to become a better user experience designer, I tell them to think of things that annoy them and try fixing them. It can be a really small feature of an otherwise great product - or it can be a product that doesn’t yet exist. As long as it solves a problem that you’re experiencing, chances are someone else is going to feel annoyed by the same problem.

So if you can’t design something for yourself, design something for someone you know. Get that person or people involved in your project early on. Basing your decisions on a matrix of personality traits isn’t what I’d recommend if you really want to build a great product.

Ask 37Signals: Personas

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The iPhone X is Apple’s underrated masterpiece

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The reason why the iPhone X is broadly underrated and questioned by those who haven’t used it is that they’re treating it like just another phone. But the people who buy an iPhone aren’t really buying just another phone, they’re buying the iPhone experience. They’re buying connectivity to all of their friends and family already on iMessage. They’re getting the familiar relationship of trust with Apple that means they’ll have regular software updates and a generous device repair and replacement program should they encounter an issue. Apple’s holistic approach to selling a phone is fundamental to the deep loyalty it enjoys from existing users, and it’s the thing that makes those of us on Android devices look on in envy.

The iPhone X is Apple’s underrated masterpiece

Brilliant piece from Vlad Savov over at The Verge. Because Apple cares to their user’s entire experience rather than “just the device”, they sold more than 77 million iPhones in the last quarter.

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Make me think

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Fortunately, UX (User eXperience) designers have found ways to design beautiful interfaces that are easy to use. Their process can resemble a philosophical enquiry, where they constantly asks questions such as: What is this really about? How do we perceive this? What is our mental model?

Today, as a result of their efforts, we interact with wonderfully designed interfaces. Designers have been taming complexity for us. They make extremely sophisticated technology appear simple and easy to use.

But we don’t see — let alone understand — what is going on behind the scenes, behind the simple appearance. We are kept in the dark.



We fail to appreciate and to empathise because we don’t understand what is going on.

Make me think

I gave this a solid 50 👏🏼 on Medium. You should too.

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No Cutting Corners on the iPhone X

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When the iPhone X launched, a lot of designers were put off about the screen shape. Those complaints have mostly died down, but I haven’t seen much design-nerd talk about cool corner treatment details. Fortunately, deep nerd shit is my specialty.

No Cutting Corners on the iPhone X

What an absolutely lovely (but yes, deeply nerdy) post.

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Hawaii Missile Alert

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Around 8:05 a.m., the Hawaii emergency employee initiated the internal test, according to a timeline released by the state. From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.” He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert.
Hawaii missile alert: How one employee ‘pushed the wrong button’

Oh. My. God.

If anyone needed proof that UX-writing and UX-design are important for the best of our society, this surely sets the mark.

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Has Apple lost its design mojo?

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For many Apple critics, the story ends right here. Siri’s not great, the Touch Bar’s kind of a mess, the operating systems are pretty but somewhat confusing, and the reassuring Home button has been killed … the list goes on. Apple’s far from perfect. Point made.

But here’s the thing: Pick just about any time in Apple’s history, and you’ll find a similar set of worrying choices and seeming failures — even during those halcyon days of Steve Jobs’ triumphant second tenure at the company. 1998: that beautiful, bulbous, Bondi Blue iMac is actually an underpowered computer with an unreliable mouse and a CD slot that few consumers could use productively. 2000: The Power Mac G4 Cube, so gorgeous it becomes part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, doesn’t deliver the power and features heavy users demand. 2001: The first iPod is released, but it’s not really ready for primetime, since the scroll wheel is clunky and the device works only with Macs, which account for just 2.6% of worldwide PC sales. 2005: Apple’s in the phone business! With something called the Rokr, a kludgy music player/cell phone that the company developed with Motorola. 2007: The iPhone is introduced, with few applications and poor connectivity. 2011: The iPad is introduced, and, as my brother-in-law Mark told me at the time, “I can’t imagine anyone ever using this for anything interesting.” (He’s bought four since then.)

Has Apple Lost Its Design Mojo?

I’ve recently sold my MacBook Pro 13” TouchBar but it wasn’t really because of the Touch Bar. Sure Apple makes choices that sometimes doesn’t make sense, just like the removing TouchID and the headphone jack but almost all companies do. Successful companies are barely the ones that make more good choices than bad ones.

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Why Design Systems fail

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To have a successful design system, you need to make a continuous effort to invest resources into it. I like to compare this to working out.

You can work out intensely for 3 months and see some gains, but once you stop working out, those will slowly fade away. If you continue to work out, even if its less often than the initial investment, you’ll see yourself maintaining your fitness level at a much higher rate than if you stopped completely.

If you invest once in a design system (say, 3 months of overhauling it) but neglect to keep it up, you’ll face the same situation. You’ll see immediate impact, but that impact will fade as it gets out of sync with new designs and you’ll end up with strange, floating bits of code that nobody is using. Your engineers will stop using it as the patterns become outdated, and then you’ll find yourself in for another round of large investment (while dreading going through the process since its fallen so far out of shape).

Why Design Systems Fail

Great post from Una on what it takes to build a successful (and lasting) design system. I’m in the process of planning a big design system that I’ll be working on the coming next months so this article was a goldmine for me.

There are a bunch of posts out there that are talking about all the benefits of having a design system (and they are all right of course). But just like Una’s analogy with working out - working out is great for you, there’s no arguing that. The hard part is maintaining that fitness, sorry design system.

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What You Build

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It’s easy to get into a heated discussion about frameworks, what type of class names make the most sense, which optimization techniques are most important, or what part of your code base is should be responsible for styling. Those are great discussions that guide our industry.

But what is more important? The naming convention you chose or if your user can actually book a flight? Which state store library you picked or if you actually had the scarf your user was looking for? Which command line tool pulled your dependencies or whether someone was able to find and read the instructions to send in their court appeal?

What you build

This is something I can relate to from several projects. Some projects even begin by discussing tools and frame works rather than the desired outcomes! Especially e-commerce sites seem to focus on what system should be used rather than what the outcomes of the redesign should be. Increased sales is fine but it’s not a metric that’s as defined as it should be.

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Cindy Gallop - The Most Provocative Woman in the World

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“There is a formula for success in business, and it goes like this: You set out to find the very best talent in the marketplace, and then give them a compelling and inspirational vision of what you want them to achieve for you and the company. Then you empower them to achieve those goals using their own skills and talents in any way they choose. If, at the same time, you demonstrate how enormously you value them, not just through compensation, but also verbally, every single day, and if you enable that talent to share in the profit that they help create for you, you’ll be successful. It’s so simple, and virtually nobody does it, because it requires a high-trust working environment, and most business environments are low-trust. In order to own the future of your business, you have to design it around trust.”

– Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop - The Most Provocative Woman in the World

I remember meeting Cindy at Hyper Island sometime in 2001. Even back then she was a force of power and nearly 20 years later she’s still going strong.

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Checkout for Winners

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Great notes from Luke W from Andrey Lipattsev’s talk Checkout for Winners.

Bullet points that stuck out to me:

  • The Web is better than ever before. You can build fast, rich, app-like experiences but many companies opt to route people to native experiences instead of optimizing the Web experiences. That needs to change.
  • On mobile, 54% of people quit checkout if they are asked to sign-up. 92% will give up if they don’t remember a password or user name.
  • AliExpress had a 41% higher sign-in rate, 85% fewer sign-in failures, and 11% better conversion rate when they added One tap.
  • The Guardian gained 44% more cross-platform signed-in users with One tap.
  • We still buy things online by filling in Web forms. This introduces a lot of friction at a critical point.
  • 2-5minutes is the average for checkout times on the Web. The PaymentRequest API reduces this effort to 30seconds.

Reducing friction is critical in every user experience and interaction. I’m delighted everytime I need to sign into an app or a page and I see the small 1Password icon in the signup fields. Anything that’s reducing the boring tasks (like manually entering data into fields) makes for a better experience.

Reducing checkout time from 2-5 minutes to 30 seconds is insane and there’s no wonder that the conversions are up. If anything, I’m surprised they’re not up by more.

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Living a Testing Culture

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Great notes from Luke W from Max van der Heijden’s lessons learnt from the A/B testing culture at Booking.com.

Bullet points that stuck out to me:

  • Booking.com books 1.5 million room nights per day. That’s a lot of opportunity to learn and optimize. More than 40% of all Booking.com sales happen on mobile.
  • Booking.com A/B tests everything. If something cannot be A/B tested, Booking.com won’t do it. There’s more than 1,000 A/B tests running at any time.
  • Teams are made for testing a hypothesis. They’re assembled based on what resources they need to vet a hypothesis. They are autonomous, small, multi-disciplinary (designers, developers, product owners, copywriters, etc.) and have 100% access to as much data as possible.
  • Booking.com’s experiment tool allows everyone to see all current experiments to avoid overlaps and conflicts between testing.
  • Failure is OK. Most of your learnings come from tests that don’t work. 9/10 tests at Booking.com fail.
  • Everyone needs to to live the testing culture. Ideas can come from anywhere and go all of them go through the same testing process. Everyone is part of this.
  • Data only tells you what is happening. User research tells you why. These two efforts work together to define what experiments to run next and then test them.
  • What worked before might not work now. Always challenge your assumptions.
  • You can innovate through small steps.
  • Delighting customers doesn’t necessarily mean more profit. Short term gains may not align with long term value. You’ll need to find a balance.

It’s evident that in order to make a testing culture work it needs to be implemented at all levels (designers, developers, product owners, copywriters) and everyone needs to learn from each other in order to not make the same mistakes over and over. One of the reasons for their success is to allow mistakes (90%) but to learn from them and share insights within the entire organisation.

Not everything needs to be big steps. Refining the copy of a button can make as much different as redesigning the entire page.

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Creative Class

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It isn’t a surprise to anyone following me that two of the things I love the most - football aside - are being a freelancer and running a business like a pro. One of the people I really look up to is Paul Jarvis. He has the gift to create his own amazing products and the determination to follow through. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Paul on several occasions and he’s a genuinely nice guy (and we share the same love of cars).You may know Paul’s name from my books as I’ve interviewed him for both of my books or from the great ChimpEssentials.

I’m excited that this week Paul is relaunching his class Creative Class. I attended the first run of the Creative Class and let me tell you first hand - if you’re a freelancer or in any way running a business - this is money extremely well spent.

Learn the business of freelancing

To sweeten the deal even more, it’s not just Paul this time. He’s teamed up with another one of my favorite freelancers and writers, Kaleigh Moore. Seriously, her newsletter is great and everyone should subscribe to it.

Let’s turn over to Paul and Kaleigh to find out what’s new: Who should sign up for the Creative Class? Is it for all freelancers or just for the creative ones? 😉

Paul: The course is setup for anyone who runs a freelance business and wants it to run better (better being: more revenue, good clients, less revisions, and less stress). It’s primarily designed for: designers, developers and writers. But everyone from life coaches to yoga teachers take it.

Kaleigh: Creative Class is for all types of freelancers who are trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of how to make the biz side of things work. When Paul and I were doing the podcast, we found that even though we do two very different types of work, we’d faced a lot of the same issues—which is kind of a testament to its versatility.

What’s the biggest take-away from the first run of the Creative Class - and what has changed for the second run? (Apart from Kaleigh)

Kaleigh: The new version is much more thorough and there are templates you can put to work right away. Plus, it’s updated to reflect the new ideas we’ve both learned over the past 2-3 years since V1 came out.

Paul: Freelancing is a business. you have to treat it as such. The biggest change, other than Kaleigh’s awesome insights, is that the flow from lesson to lesson is easier and quicker. That was my main reason for redesigning it from scratch. All decisions were based on 2,000+ students taking it the first time :)

I want to find out more, what can I do?

Both: Go to the CC website, listen to the podcast, sign up to learn more :)

Still not convinced?

Here comes the deal breaker, use the code ‘anton20’ and you’ll get $20 off from the course price!

Do your future self a favor and sign up for the Creative Class.

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Tobias Ahlin: Where´d all the feelings go?

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Great talk by Tobias Ahlin at Nordic Design. Love this quote: “I forgot that simple and easy to use is not in conflicting with expressive and engaging.

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How To Predict Your Future

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What you do today does impact your future.
Do you eat junk food? I’ll tell you this: In 10 years you’ll be fatter and unhealthier.
Do you complain? I’ll tell you this: Your life’s situation will be exactly the same in 10 years.
Do you lounge in your office chair all day and watch YouTube videos instead of doing hard things? I’ll tell you this: You’ll be stuck at that same job. Or worse, you’ll get fired.
Do you spend more than you earn? I’ll tell you this: In 10 years, you’ll worry about money every single day.
Obviously, I’m not a fortune teller. But this predicting is easy. Anyone with a little common sense can do it. And it works like a charm.

Great post from Darius Foroux. Same common sense goes for building a great business.

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Github

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“Now is the time to come clean: GitHub is confusing, Git is confusinger, pretty much everything in a modern web stack no longer makes sense to me, and no one explains it well, because they assume I know some fundamental piece of information that everyone takes for granted and no one documented, almost as if it were a secret that spread around to most everyone sometime in 2012, yet I somehow missed, because—you know—life was happening to me, so I’ve given up on trying to understand, even the parts where I try to comprehend what everyone else is working on that warrants that kind of complexity, and now I fear that this makes me irrelevant, so I nestle close to my story that my value is my “ideas” and capability to “make sense of things,” even though I can’t make sense of any of the above—but really, maybe I’m doing okay, since it’s all too much to know. Let the kids have it.”

Sums up my experience trying to understand Github, pull requests, repositories and ‘forking’ (wtf?). Luckily, David Demaree wrote Git for Humans.

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Medium

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Medium - before and after

This change is somewhat perplexing because — regardless of whether you liked the old green, isometric monogram or not — it had become easy and quick to recognize and effectively signaled when you had landed on Medium if you found yourself clicking around the internet. After two years of building on that green “M” now they have to start all over again with a design that’s on the complete opposite end of the spectrum and… why? So that they can throw it away in another two years? Sure, the internet — perhaps, especially, publishing on the internet — is a constant battle of How-the-Fuck-do-we-Monetize-this-Shit that makes services appear, disappear, or change but it’s random shifts like this that add to the situation.

Brilliant review that encapsulates my thoughts far better than I ever could have. And also, did you know that I post most of my blog posts on Medium too?

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What Would Augment Reality?

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Great piece of thinking on what AR would mean for ordinary people in a not too distant future (say, October 2017?) by Luke Wroblewski.

What would AR

I drafted a series of illustrations on “what would augment reality?“. For each illustration I assumed audio input control and gaze path/eye-tracking for object identification. Due to these assumptions, I specifically tried to apply a principle of maximum information yet minimum obstruction (MIMO) to the user interface design.

My high-level goal, however, was to literally “augment” reality. That is, to give people abilities they wouldn’t otherwise have through the inclusion of digital information and actions in the physical world.

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Being Freelance Podcast: Episode 100

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Hey, how are you doing? I’m Steve Folland. Thanks for listening! This time, let’s find out what it’s like being freelance for UX designer Anton Sten!

So yes, this week’s guest is Anton Sten. Not just any guest, but our one-hundredth guest. This is the one-hundredth conversation put out as a podcast as Being Freelance. No, I’m not going to get emotional, but seriously thank you so much for listening and for sharing the podcast with people you know, and leaving a review if you’ve left a review, checking out the vlog as Being Freelance had evolved. And I just really appreciate you listening. I love having these conversations but I also love the fact that you get something out of it, too. One hundred episodes! Which, to be fair, I would have got to sooner if I put it out every single week. But, hey! Anyway, I’m kind of proud of it. One hundred episodes.

And if you’ve not signed up to the newsletter yet, please do! It’s at beingfreelance.com for a weekly bit of inspiration there. And also on @beingfreelance. It’s nice to kind of…yeah, join in conversations on there as well.

Right now though, let’s go to Sweden to freelance UX designer Anton Sten. Hey, Anton!

Hey! How are you?

I am well! Thanks for doing this.

Thank you.

What was the place you’re from? It’s near Malmö, isn’t it?

It is. It’s called Lomma. It’s a really small town. It’s about 20,000 people, perhaps, living here.

Cool, and Malmö’s the one in The Bridge?

It is.

If you’re listening to this and you’ve never seen The Bridge…or, what do you guys call it? You don’t call it The Bridge, do you?

We call it Bron, which is just the Swedish translation for “The Bridge”.


Bron…Such a good show. Right! So let’s hear how you got started being freelance? How have you ended up where you are?

I guess the short story is that I’ve been working as a designer of digital things for the past almost twenty years. And I started working for agencies for the first ten years. And then when we moved down here, actually I just felt that I wanted to try something new. I also wanted to have better control of time, primarily. And, just freelancing felt like it was something that I always had wanted to try, and always—when I was working for agencies, always felt like: I could do this better. I could do this in a way that would suit me better. So finally I just…jumped, I guess. And I’ve been freelancing for almost ten years now.

Nice one. So when you say you moved out here…was that moving quite a long way out from where you’ve lived before?

That was from Stockholm.

Right, ok, so quite a distance. So, how did you go about finding those first clients? Actual clients of your own?

Well, when we first moved down I worked in Copenhagen for almost a year. And I got to know some people here. Also, I had quite a good network from my time working in agencies in Stockholm, so my first years of freelancing was primarily working for other agencies. But then as time went on, and I got to know more people, and I got some sort of a reputation…I hardly do any agency work at all these days. I just work for my own clients.


Nice. So when you said from all that time in agencies that you could do it better, what did you set out to do differently?

I started, actually, with the idea or perception that I would eventually build an agency as well. But then as time went by I just realized that I’m not really interested in hiring anyone. And I guess that whoever I would hire first would sort of really set the tone for what kind of agency it would become. So, both in terms of culture but also in terms of work we would do. So if I would hire a WordPress developer, we would basically have to do just WordPress sites. If I had hired an IOS developer, we would just do iPhone apps. And I wouldn’t want to limit myself in that sense. Because the work I do now is pretty broad. But also with just being ten years younger and being naive on how easy everything is, in terms of admin stuff, but also I guess just making things work…So I wouldn’t say that today I’m as confident that I can make everything better, but at least I could find a way that works better for me.

Yeah, definitely. So did you come close to hiring somebody?

Not really, no. I do have a couple of people still that I buy chunks of time from, so they’re not hired. But I have people that I’ve worked with for years, but they’re also freelancers. So that’s a set-up that works far better for me at least.

Yeah. So you can choose the people who suit the project, rather than having to take projects because of the people.

Exactly!


So you said there about the admin…was it the admin that you hadn’t necessarily seen behind the scenes at the agencies that suddenly crept up on you?

Oh, definitely. There’s stuff that you see, like expense reporting and stuff like that. And you think: “How hard can this actually be to just pay out something?” But there’s also just so much stuff that you just never see, especially as a designer in a fairly large agency. There’s just so much stuff that you never see, that when start freelancing you’re just going to have to take care of yourself or find someone that can help you with it.

What was it in particular, and how did you get past that?

I’ve actually gotten help for most of the admin stuff now. So everything like taxes, and paying out salaries, and stuff like that. Because that’s just something…I found that it’s not the best option for me to spend my time doing that. And I think that’s something that I would have wanted to realize sooner. That the things that you’re not particularly good at, or things that you don’t want to handle—just get help. And focus on the stuff that you want to do and the things that you’re good at because you’ll end up making more money that way. And with less stress.

Yeah, I find that with the finances side of it. Even having hired an accountant, I’m still…the actual bookkeeping side of it…ugh.

Yeah, exactly.


Something you said as you went through the past ten years, is you realized your reputation grew and work was coming to you, and so on…How did you go about building your reputation? Was it just organically or was it particular things you did?

I would say it was primarily organically. I would also say that it’s just something that takes time. One thing, I guess, I thought when I started was that everything would happen faster. Whereas I realize that it just takes time. And I still get phone calls from people that, maybe I met five years ago, and we haven’t had the chance to work together, but somehow they just remembered my name and eventually they’ll call me back. But it can take a lot of time. Whereas when I started I had the idea that if you meet someone you either get a project straight away or it’s never going to happen.

But I would say that the biggest marketing strategy—I’m not sure if it’s actually a marketing strategy, but word-of-mouth has definitely been the biggest client-driving activity for me. Even though it’s not something that I’m doing, it’s more that I just try to be easy to work with, and then people will spread the word.


And have you narrowed down a niche, over the years? Twenty years ago—or even ten years ago—were you doing what you do now?

No, not at all. And I would say that probably goes for anyone who’s calling themselves a UX designer today: that ten years ago you didn’t really discuss UX design in the sense that we’re having the discussion today, at least.

And I guess as a field is emerging, that gives you an opportunity to really position yourself as…I don’t know, somebody who maybe pushes boundaries or is a—I hate using the word “thought leader”, but an expert in that. Is that something that you did?

Absolutely. And it’s something that I’m still trying to do. As you said, this part of the industry is growing quite quickly, and it’s evolving in a sense that no one could understand just a couple of years ago: how UX design has grown during the last years. And now we’re seeing all of these voice-controlled assistants that will open up a pretty new field for UX design as well. So yeah, definitely there’s the opportunity to position yourself, and that’s something that I’ve been trying to do and will continue to roll with, obviously.


And how have you gone about that, other than doing great work?

The past, I would say, two years I started blogging more and more. I started blogging with the sense that it would position myself better, but what I found is that it actually helps me think about the stuff that I’m doing more—both in a critical way, but also in a philosophical way, I guess—than just writing the blog post and having a mailing list helps me position myself. But also I’ve written two books over the past two years. One of the reasons for writing those books has been to help position myself.

So with your mail-out, with your newsletter…that’s an extension of your blog is it? How did you go about growing that? Putting it out there?

It started pretty basically. And I would say that it’s the same thing with the newsletter as with everything else. That it really takes time to create something that’s viable. If it’s a business, or if it’s a newsletter, it doesn’t really make a difference. It’s going to take time. And I think any of these blog posts that want to tell you how to build a business that makes a six-figure revenue in six months or build a mailing list of tens of thousands of subscribers in month…it’s not viable in the long end. So building something that’s strong and that will last takes time. So I would say for that for the first almost year, I think, my mailing list had a hundred people. And it started with just fifteen friends who then told some of their friends, and who told some of their friends…and occasionally I had some blog posts that got some pretty good viral spread, so people signed up from those. And that’s the way…to just continue doing the work.


And how often would you say you blog or put out your newsletter?

I started with having two posts every month. So bi-weekly. I’m now pushing myself to do it weekly, but I’m finding that it’s hard to find the time to set aside a couple of hours every week just for writing a blog post. But we’ll see. It’s also helping me a lot as a designer to just spend some time to think about what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it, and what kind of problems I’m trying to solve, basically.

Yeah, you mentioned earlier. It’s an interesting bi-product isn’t it? Of blogging, and writing…something I didn’t expect. I don’t blog enough about video, marketing, and things like that. But when I do I find myself analyzing: why did something work? And then trying to explain it to people…really makes you look at something differently. And even doing the freelance vlog that I do, that has made me analyze what I do as a freelancer. It’s not just documenting it.

Exactly. That was part of the reason. So the second book I wrote was about freelancing and not user experience. And part of the reason for writing that was to take a step back and think about why I’m freelancing, and what kind of things am I doing that I haven’t really thought of why I’m doing them, and are there other ways to do some of the things that I’m doing, and stuff like that.

What’s your second book called?

It’s called Mastering Freelance.

And very good it is too. I’ve read it, and we will put a link at beingfreelance.com. I really recommend it. It’s nice and bite-sized chapters that you can easily read. It’s not a huge tome, it’s like reading lots of nice blog posts.

The first book I wrote was actually a selection of blog posts that I then re-wrote to be able to fit the language and fit them together. But the second book, Mastering Freelance, was just written as a book. Obviously, with my background in writing blog posts, it’s the language that I’m confident with writing. And I agree completely, I wanted to keep it short. I think that there’s this misconception, sometimes, that a longer book equals a better book. Which I don’t think necessarily is true.

So your first book…that was about user experience?

Yes. So the first book is called User Experiences That Matter.

Do you feel like writing that first book had an impact on your work?

Oh absolutely. And I think if we want to go back to that discussion about positioning yourself as a “thought leader”…I think that book was really good in the sense that if I’m talking to a potential client, for instance about helping them with UX design, and then being able to say: “Oh, I’ve also written this book about UX design, and I’m going to send you a free copy.” It really puts the trust in that conversation for them to say: “Ok, this is someone who’s obviously pretty serious about UX design.”


Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s really powerful, isn’t it? And has that led to—or maybe you don’t want to, but has that been speaking about the topic as well?

I haven’t yet. I did a lot of speaking engagements a couple of years ago before I started writing. Primarily in schools and universities, with some corporate gigs as well. I have now started thinking about getting back into that whole scene. So let’s reconnect in a year and see then…

And then the second book obviously concentrates on mastering freelancing, as we’ve mentioned. And when you said you were writing that, you were exploring how you were working as a freelancer. Was there anything that sprung out at you, that maybe you hadn’t thought about before? What was the key takeaway for you from writing that?

I think the key takeaway was to be reminded about all the things that I do know, but I’m not necessarily so good at doing. So for instance, not working all the time. Or making sure that I do exercise, and sleeping eight hours a night, and stuff like that. It’s all stuff that all of us know that is incredibly important for our work, but somehow we all—or at least I—seem to forget it or just not do it on occasion.


What would you say—have you been mostly guilty of doing a lot of that whole “working all the time” thing, at times?

Yeah, I would say working all the time—that’s definitely the drawback of being freelance. So one of the reasons I wanted to go into freelancing was that when I was working for an agency, I always felt that I couldn’t understand why I would work overtime since I was getting paid the same amount anyway. Like, I was getting the same monthly salary if I worked six hours a day, if I worked eight hours a day, or if I worked ten hours a day. It didn’t make any sense that regardless of the effort I put in, I would get the same end result. Whereas with freelancing—obviously depending on how you charge your clients and stuff like that—but more or less, the more you put in, the more you get. So I would say that I’m better at not working overtime.

I would say that my biggest thing that I need to remind myself of is all of the possibilities that I do have as a freelancer. Like, if I want to go away during the day, or if I want to sleep in, or whatever, I’m the only one that can make those decisions. But I am not good at allowing myself to do that. I end up doing the same kind of hours that I would do in an agency. Which is fine but is also good on occasion to remind yourself about the luxury we have as freelancers.


Have you ever struggled with taking on too much work?

Absolutely. I think all freelancers have. Especially when I have a couple of bigger proposals out, I’m anxious that…what if they all accept and I’m not going to be able to finish them all? But you can send them one at a time because it won’t make sense time-wise. But in the end, it always somehow works out. Projects almost always get pushed forward, or something needs to be done earlier, or worst case scenario I have to work a couple of weekends. But in the end, it always works out.

Has your website…you know if people go to look at your website antonsten.com now, has that evolved much since you’ve been a freelancer?

Yeah, definitely. In the beginning, I was also positioning myself as a company more. Whereas now I’m more positioning myself as a person. I think that was also one of the things about positioning is that it’s just me. So either you like my thinking about design, or you don’t. But it’s Anton you’re going to get, it’s not some company name. But in the beginning, especially, it was not using “I” but always talking about “we”.


And did you have an actual company name that you were using?

I did. And I still have the same company name, it’s just not something that I promote. So the company name is Le Petit Garçon—“The Little Boy” in French. People seem to remember the name and talk about the name, but it was a pretty bad name when you’re on the phone with someone and you want to spell out your email address.

And so you chose that name…I mean, you did say when you started out as a freelancer you envisaged you were going to build an agency, so is that why you went with a name?

Yes. I guess I just had this idea that it would seem more professional. But I’m not sure if that’s actually the case.

So over time you just phased out…if you invoice it’s still on there, but otherwise, it’s just Anton Sten.

Exactly.


How have you coped with the financial side of being freelance?

So especially when I started, that was a real stress for me. Coming from the agency side, I had a pretty good salary. And I was able to put some money aside. But what I did that helped me get started, was that my first freelancing job was…I was sort of part-time hired for a client. In the beginning, I worked three days a week for them, so I could freelance two days and work for them three days. And over time we made it two days, then one day a week, and then in the end I was just freelancing. So that was a pretty nice transition into freelancing.

But during the first years I definitely had some stress about the financial side. I did try to put away as much money as I could. And it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I realized that I could probably continue living the same way and not get any work for a year and I would still manage. And I don’t see it happening that I wouldn’t get any work for an entire year. So let’s just try to skip the cash stress. But it is stressful.

But on the other hand, I think we also have a society with this wrong image of the securities a full-time position would mean. People get fired from full-time positions too, and that could put them potentially at even greater risk. So it’s not like freelancing is this hatchet game, whereas full-time positions are the most secure thing you can have. But obviously, you need to plan ahead.


And how about the way you work? I presume you work from home?

I do have an office actually. I used to have an office in Malmö. So that was a fifteen-minute commute. But I just recently got an office, not at home, but just a short walk from home. I do need to have a very separate space. And I found that it’s good for me to have a space that’s outside of home. Even if it’s just slightly better, it’s still better to be able to separate.

And do you work with other people in those spaces?

I used to. I don’t anymore. So that’s my biggest challenge now is finding ways of staying social. I do have my dog with me, so that’s the social company I have in my office now.

They’re great until it comes to making coffee. That’s the only thing.

Exactly.


Now, I always do this thing where I ask for three facts about yourself. Make two true and one a lie, and let me figure out the lie. What have you got for me?

Ok. When I was a child, I climbed up a shelf and the shelf fell over, and I fell on a coin that stood on its head, so I have a scar on my cheek from that coin.

Tell you what, if that’s a lie, that’s such a convoluted lie! But I love it. Ok, number two?

Ok. So this is pretty hysterical, since you mentioned The Bridge, and in the next upcoming season of The Bridge, I’m playing an extra as a Liverpool supporter.

As a Liverpool supporter?! Ok, yeah?

And the third one: I have all the music theory education needed to become a music teacher.

Oh, these are amazing facts. So you could, in theory, be a music teacher? What’s your chosen instruments?

I played the guitar. And I went to a high school that had a music focus. So one part of that was to get all of the music theory needed.

Hmm, but you’ve never called up on it? You’ve never had to teach it?

No. And I’m not sure I would pass all the tests today. But I did twenty years ago.

You were in The Bridge…now, I love that show, as we’ve mentioned. So what did you have to do as a Liverpool—a Liverpool supporter is weird! So, Liverpool are playing in Malmö or something, are they? In the scene?

I don’t know the scene actually, I’m just…so the thing is, I am a Liverpool supporter and I’m part of the Swedish Liverpool Fan Club, and they sent out an email saying that they’ve been approached by the production company and they would like some Liverpool supporters to…we’re just basically walking past a cafe, but it was…I’m not sure why because I don’t have the full story, but it was important that we were all dressed in Liverpool shirts and scarves.

Oh, God that feels so true as well! And when you were a child you climbed a shelf, fell off the shelf, landing on a coin that was standing up that scarred you?

Yes, I’m not sure if the coin was in a jar on the shelf as well. But I landed on it and now on my—righthand side?…right cheek? There’s a scar on my cheekbone.

Have you ever made up a different story as to how you got the scar to impress a girl?

I haven’t, no. I should though, I guess.

These are…we’ve not had a good scar story, I done think, since Harry Roberts, very early on in this one, where he looks a bit like Harry Potter. Ok…shelf, Liv…these all sound…you see, the one that sounds the least true…well it sounds true, but I love the other two more. So I’m going to say…you’re not qualified to be a music teacher.

I am!

Oh man! So what’s the lie?

It’s the Liverpool supporter.

Ugh…God, that was so convincing!

I’m not in the show, but there might be something about Liverpool in the next season.

Well, I’m glad that the coin story’s true, mate, because that’s excellent.

It would be weird to make that up.


It would be really weird. Which would also be awesome. Now, if you could tell your younger self one thing—other than, please don’t climb the shelf—if you could tell your younger self one thing about being freelance, what would that be?

Yeah, I was thinking about this, and I think that one thing I would have liked to tell my younger self—and that I would like to tell myself every day today, as well—is something that Steve Jobs said in his commencement speech. And it was: “that you can only connect the dots looking back”.

I think, for freelancers, we’re thinking that we can predict everything—how things are going to go, and what’s going to happen, but we really can’t. And in the end, everything will make sense, but it might take years. But sooner or later everything will just add up somehow.


Very nice indeed. Make sure you go to beingfreelance.com, follow the links through to Anton’s site, check out his book…thoroughly recommend it: Mastering Freelance. Which also—you do a version with comes with loads of templates and stuff as well, don’t you? Like, is it contracts, and…?

I do! Yes, exactly. A bunch of templates—it’s my invoicing template, a proposal template, stuff like that. But also a list of all of the software I use, along with some discount codes.

Nice idea!

So especially if you’re just starting freelancing, that’s a good deal.

And Anton is kind enough as well to give 20% off…Go take a look, and you’d put in the code “BEINGFREELANCE”, right? So put in the code “BEINGFREELANCE”…20% off the book, it’s a bargain. Or you can get the book and the templates and stuff that we just mentioned as well. So follow the link at beingfreelance.com. And Anton, thank you so much. I forgot to mention—thank you for being our one-hundredth guest as well.

Oh! What an honor!

I feel like there should be balloons or streamers…I’ve got nothing. I’ve not even got a coffee to hand.

Huh…next time then. Let’s make it “guest a thousand”, Steve.

But, yeah, a hundred guests. And it’s a great story to have as the one-hundredth story as well, and some fine advice in there as well, so thank you very much. Yep, beingfreelance.com, and don’t forget to share the podcast with freelancers that you know as well. Anton, thank you and all the best being freelance!

Thank you, Steve!

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Design quotes

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Loved this one especially from Joshua Porter:

“Don’t make something unless it’s both necessary and useful. But if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.” 

› Inspiring quotes in UX to give you the hope you’ve been looking for

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Enough

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The longest lived businesses in the world aren’t the ones that were biggest in their day. Many of them are family firms, or small to mid-sized enterprises content with steady evolvement of their niche. Content with enough.

Enough by DHH.

Related old post: I am Professional Because I am Personal

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Why?

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Who do you think of when you hear the word “successful”? “The first answer to any question isn’t much fun because it’s just automatic. What’s the first painting that comes to mind? Mona Lisa. Name a genius. Einstein. Who’s a composer? Mozart. “This is the subject of the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. There’s the instant, unconscious, automatic thinking and then there’s the slower, conscious, rational, deliberate thinking. I’m really, really into the slower thinking, breaking my automatic responses to the things in my life and slowly thinking through a more deliberate response instead. Then for the things in life where an automatic response is useful, I can create a new one consciously.

Derek Sivers in Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. Tim continues; “This is genius. Ricardo Semler, CEO and majority owner of the Brazil-based Semco Partners, practices asking “Why?” three times. This is true when questioning his own motives, or when tackling big projects. The rationale is identical to Derek’s.”

Jony Ive, in a rare public speaking engagement; Jony’s design inspiration comes from thinking about the world and asking, “Why?” a lot. Frustration and the desire to make things better end up being the factors that can turn all of the questions and “whys” into tangible products.

Asking ‘Why’ is essential for all designers, perhaps especially UX-Designers.

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Groundwork for Creating Great User Experiences

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“But the skilled and ethical sales person, now they know that a potential user doesn’t care about you as much as he cares about what this means for him. The good sales person knows you don’t care about technical details or even features. You care about what those features mean to you. The good sales person knows it isn’t even about benefits, but about the benefits you care about.”

Or what I would call the groundwork for creating great user experiences. Read the entire piece here.

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4 Reasons Why Your Body Text Should be Bigger

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Great piece on why minimal body text is hurting our user experience.

The entire article is well worth a read but here is the outline:

  1. It’s easier to read

Readability is a big deal. Why would you design a website that is difficult for a user to read?

  1. It Makes the Design More Intuitive

The size of text contributes to the overall usability of a website design. If all text is scaled proportionately, larger body copy also helps bump of the size of other user interface elements such as navigation links or button text. It can help contribute to overall flow.

  1. It Reduces Fatigue

Most people look at screens all day long, from glancing at phones to playing games to tablets to working on computers or watching television. Larger text sizes can help decrease some of this screen fatigue.

  1. It Increases Visual Impact

The unintended consequence of using larger body type is that most everything else in your design will likely enlarge as well. This is most likely the case with space. Larger type will help you create room for more space in the design. More space often creates a more comfortable user experience and adds an element of contrast that helps draw users to the occupied parts of the design.

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No Share Buttons on Mobile Sites

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Only 2 out of every 1000 mobile web users ever tap a custom share button—like even once—according to a Moovweb study. We found similarly tiny numbers during our research designing Philly.com and verticals for About.com. That means people are over 11 times more likely to tap a mobile advertisement than a mobile share button for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

Excellent piece by Josh Clark over at Bigmedium on share buttons on mobile sites. I wrote about my thoughts on share buttons in general a couple of years ago; What’s the cost of sharing? and Increase conversions by removing social media buttons.

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ARKit

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“ARKit exists because ARKit is going to be useful and fun on iPhones and iPads today. If it weren’t useful and fun on iPhones and iPads, Apple would not add it to iOS.”

Read more over at Daring Fireball

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The Why before the Why

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Before someone goes buying, there’s a reason they go shopping.

There are usually a few events that lead to the desire — or demand — to shop. Something happens that trips the initial thought. There’s a spark. This is often when passive looking begins. You aren’t feeling the internal pressure to buy yet, but you’re starting to get curious. Then a second event happens. It could be soon after the first, or months later, but this one’s more serious. It lights a fire. You need to make progress. Now you’re actively shopping.

Read the full post over at Medium

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10 Reasons Why All Designers Should Start Writing More

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Great list from Alana Brajdic, especially fond of this:

Writing will give you a reason to talk to someone that you might otherwise feel uncomfortable to approach. It could be a lead from a different department or even someone on twitter.

Not only does writing make us better designers, it makes us better humans.

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Vox Media Accessibility Guidelines

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“Making work accessible creates a better experience across the board. Use this checklist to help build accessibility into your process no matter your role or stage in a project.”

I love every single bit of this list. It’s a goldmine. I especially love how it goes across the entire team (designers, developers, product manager, q&a and content creators) – it’s everyone’s responsibility – to create accessible content.

http://accessibility.voxmedia.com

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Writing for UX: some practical tips

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Anjana Menon with some great practical tips on how to write for better UX:

Consistent: condition your users

…don’t use ‘Reserve a Table’ in one place and ‘Book a Table’ in another. While they might mean the same thing, labels and CTA buttons condition the user, while they learn how to navigate through your website/app…

I get annoyed when companies mix ’email’ with ‘e-mail’. This is, again, why I think it’s important that designers write.

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How to attract top recruiting talent

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Lem Diaz from GV in How to attract top recruiting talent

A technical recruiter should be able to explain at a high level what a distributed system is, or the difference between a native mobile app and a web mobile app.

If that’s the level of tech that’s required (or worse, what’s aimed for) by Silicon Valley, I’m worried. I’m by no means a technical person, yet I could easily answer both of those questions to a recruiter – which a) means I could work as a tech recruiter and b) land a job a tech job in Silicon Valley. Nice to know there’s a backup plan I guess.

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You are the Alfred to Batman

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Alfred to Batman

You, your product, service or brand are NOT the heroes. Your users, customers or the human beings you serve are. You are the enabler, the helper, the sidekick. You are the Alfred to Batman and not the other way around. You are here to serve and help your user achieve a goal and get shit done, even if it is only about creating joy and pleasure!”

6 Storytelling Principles to Improve Your UX

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How better onboarding cut our drop-off rate dramatically

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Rob McWhirter in a great piece on how they worked with Twine’s onboarding to dramatically improve their onboarding:

Reviewing our stats in January, we knew that our onboarding was letting us down. We were experiencing a big dropout between signup and trial (around 65%) and this was hurting our monthly revenue. We refused to believe it was the fault of the product —hey, we were getting great feedback from current users.

A bit of user testing and some interviews confirmed that our onboarding was contributing to this dropout: people were signing up, but being dumped into the trial and left to work it out for themselves. When they couldn’t work it out, they would leave and never come back.{{page.title}}

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New isn’t always better, but it makes the old feel worse

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Yesterday, while I was having the tires changed on my car, I had to borrow one to get me around. I took this opportunity to borrow the newest version of the car I currently have and experience the differences – like trying an iPhone 6S when you are used to an iPhone 6 – even though the look identical. When I first took this brand new car for a drive, I wasn’t overwhelmed. Sure the technology was newer and better and they have surely been working to catch up with the user experience of forefront brands like Tesla. It was good, but it wasn’t a totally new experience.

The big aha-moment rather came moments ago when I picked up my car. It felt so stiff and old! The technology was ancient! The interiors were clumsy and inferior! And although I had only had the newer version for 24 hours, I had already gotten used to a keyless experience and almost forgot the keys in my car when I had parked it…

This got me thinking about how we experience much of the same phenomenon with technology and websites. It’s often not the initial experience that’s the one we remember, but rather the bad experience that truly makes us cherish the great one! My iPhone 7+ felt pretty large when I got it but it wasn’t something out of the ordinary. Now, when I pickup a normal sized iPhone, it feels so tiny! We don’t think about the ease of TouchID until we have an experience where it doesn’t work (or worse, isn’t available!).

So while first impressions do last, perhaps we don’t always truly benefit from them until we’ve put them into perspective?

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Designing for Mobile

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I recently started up a couple of bigger projects and it’s got me thinking about my processes. You see, for years I have been telling my clients about how crucial mobile is. Mobile traffic will very soon outrank desktop traffic if it hasn’t already. It’s your number one opportunity for more sales and reaching higher conversion rates. The mobile experience is often the first experience a customer has with your brand. Clients are beginning to realize this and are eager to adopt it.

The problem?… I haven’t.

While I do understand the key role mobile plays, I find myself thinking about – and designing for – desktop first. It’s not strange if you think about it, I have been designing for desktop browsers for nearly 20 years.

So here’s my challenge to myself: start with designing for mobile on these projects and see what happens. I’ll make sure to report back to you on my experience! I’d also love to get your wisdom on this – especially designers (product, UX, UI) – what your experience was when you made this transition.

Designing for mobile - iPhone - what now?

Notes on the subject from Ani Mohan in his Next Generation Web presentation at Google Conversions 2017 in Dublin via Luke Wroblekski

  • The Web has been around for about 25 years. In 1996, we had 360M people using it on desktop computers. Today it is at 3.6B, mostly on smartphones. This is the largest platform that’s ever been built.
  • Discovery on the Web starts with a link, so loading speed matters for creating a great first impression. 53% of users will abandon a mobile page if it takes more then 3 seconds to load. 7% reduction in conversions for every 1-second delay in loading times.
  • AMP is an open-source simplified version of landing pages that optimizes for fast initial load times. AMP pages are 4x faster, have < 1 sec median load times, and use 10x less data than typical Web landing pages.
  • There’s more than quick landing pages needed for the Web. To increase engagement: Add to home screen (easy way to launch a site), push notifications (to tell people when to come back & why), reliable performance (pages need to work regardless of connectivity).
  • Poor connectivity on mobile can cause Web pages to fail. Service Workers can cache content and when people are offline, you can use local content instead of going to server for content.
  • Mobile Web conversions are 66% lower than the desktop. Many reasons for this, but one is typing is hard. One-tap checkout helps solve this. The browser stores payment info and sites can ask for it at the moment of checkout.
  • Housing.com saw a 38% conversion increase when Web pages were boosted 30% in page speed.

In case you missed it (it’s nearly two years old), I recommend you reading ‘What’s the cost of sharing’.

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Atomic Design: where science and design collide

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Some people say design is like science and I think they’re on to something. You see, these past weeks I’ve been working a lot with defining design systems and I couldn’t help but see the resemblance.

Years ago, we defined the scope of projects by how many pages the site had. The more pages, the bigger the project. Now while that makes sense in theory, it doesn’t make sense in reality. A designed webpage is actually made up out of different sets of “bricks”. Think: Subway sandwich pieces that you can combine into different delicious combinations.

Brad Frost wrote a book on the subject last year called Atomic Design and the gist of it is this:

Atomic design is a methodology composed of five distinct stages working together to create interface design systems in a more deliberate and hierarchical manner.

Brad Frost

The stages that Brad outline are:

  • Atoms are the basic building blocks of it all – they include things like buttons, form labels, inputs, and other similar elements.
  • Molecules are simple groups of UI elements functioning as a unit – think of a search form that consists of a button, a form label, and an input field.
  • Organisms are bigger UI components combining both atoms and molecules. This could be the header of a webpage that consists of a logotype, a navigation, and a search form.
  • Templates combines different organisms into a functioning whole – think of a wireframe. It has all the organisms in place, but there’s no actual content there yet. This is the blueprint or skeleton of a page.
  • Pages are the final stage – they shows what the template looks like with real representative content in place.

While I’m currently working on two projects that are very different in terms of pages (one is nearly 10,000 pages and the other is less than 5 pages), they both require a solid design system to make sure we’ve got all the stages covered from the start.

If you’re interested in learning more about design systems, feel free to e-mail and I’ll be sure to answer!

Here’s some great further reading on the topic:

Atomic Design by Brad Frost

http://atomicdesign.bradfrost.com

Cooking with Design Systems by Dan Mall

http://danmall.me/articles/cooking-with-design-systems/

Setup a design system by Marco Lopes

https://blog.prototypr.io/design-system-ac88c6740f53#.bvym62je5

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Product or Sales? Chicken or Egg?

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Which comes first: the chicken or the egg? A company I’m working with is facing a choice that most startups share. Should we focus on making the product go from good to great – or – should we focus on sales and user growth?

The chicken response would be for a making great product. If we don’t have a great product, we won’t be able to grow the user base and have paying customers. If the product doesn’t live up to it’s promise, the customer’s perception may be permanently damaged. An app that doesn’t provide value in the first 10 seconds can count on being deleted and never downloaded again. Create a product that users love and they will be loyal.

The egg response would be to focus on user growth. A product can be on the edge of being shut down if it doesn’t reach it’s goals and KPI’s. Without focus on the user first, there may not be enough time or money to develop an even mildly good product. This is the bitter truth about business – even VC funded ones – is that in the end, there are goals that need to be met and evaluated. Exceed those goals and your product is in a better position for the future.

Chicken or egg? Product or Sales?

What will you do when you reach this crossroads? Will it be the chicken… or the egg?

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Failure, Reflect, Renew

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This past week I interviewed Paul Jarvis for my upcoming book, Mastering Freelance. Paul, for those who don’t know his work, is a guy best described as a freelancing superstar – selling books, digital courses, software, and a creative class. He was just featured in the latest copy of Offscreen and it’s definitely worth the read.

My whole plan was to interview Paul on a Skype video call, record it, and feature it as an add-on for the book. I thought that I should bundle several interviews like this together into one happy package. This is a pretty common practice when selling digital books and it worked out pretty well for my first book, User Experiences that Matter. I thought it was the right choice, until…

I fucked up…

I tried the setup several times before the interview. I made sure everything worked perfectly. The interview with Paul went very well and he delivered some great insights into his idea of freelancing, pricing, and building your own products. After I finished the interview, I looked at the video and only then did I notice it… there was barely any sound from Paul! My voice was loud and clear, but Paul sounded thousands of miles away (which he literally was, but he shouldn’t SOUND like it). No matter how much I wanted to re-do it, I knew Paul was far too busy of a guy to have time for that.

Clearly, I had fucked up…

Reflect, reassess

Not knowing what to do next, I did what I always do in stressful situations – walk the dog and clear my mind. While walking, I started reflecting on why I needed the video interview. I knew my original thought was to have content to package with the book, but why did I need that? Turns out, I couldn’t answer my own question. It’s what I thought was right. The Internet had told me it was the right thing to do. It’s what other successful people were doing, so I should too, right? I realized I was so focused on what I could bundle together, I had lost track of why I was writing the book. How was bundling going to help me share my experiences about freelancing and teach others how to be awesome at it?

Going even deeper, I discovered that the book wasn’t the only area where I had lost focus. Over the past year, I’ve been playing around a lot with e-mail sequences, finishing my first book, starting my second, and many other things that wasn’t client work. Don’t get me wrong, playing around is sometimes great. Amazing things come from playing around. But, as physics teaches us, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Has this playing around helped me achieve my promise – to be the most appreciated and respected UX-Designer out there?

These countless blog posts on “How to grow your list to 1000 people in 7 days!” (the term ‘grow your email list’ results in more than 42 million blog posts…) surely won’t help me deliver on my promise. You see, I’m not in the business of serving thousands. I don’t outsource my work and I have the same amount of hours in the day as all of you. So, what I really need is a couple of clients that respect my work, have decent budgets, and dedicate to working with me long-term.

New, and old, direction

This autumn, I’m bringing focus back to the core product of my company – consulting in UX and giving my customers the best user experience possible. As a freelancer, it’s OK to change your niche and it’s just as OK to change it back again. In fact, it can help us grow and be stronger and more diverse in what we do. Think about it… Tesla and Nissan both sell cars, but the user experience of owning them are totally different. An iPhone and a Blackberry are both phones, but they have very different purposes. One isn’t necessarily better than the other – they’re just… different. I am choosing to focus on being the best UX-Designer possible.

My Promise:
I promise that my clients will always get an agency-quality delivery while keeping communications positive and open-minded. I will work every day to be counted among the best freelance UX Designers and I will make sure my clients experience this.

I want you to know that I am still writing the book, but much like my commitment to being the best UX-Designer, I will focus solely on creating the book, not bundles. This single-minded focus allows me to write an insanely awesome book to help freelancers achieve like never before. You will discover new ways of running your business. You will find the confidence to improve as a “one-man show”. You will learn how to give your clients the best experience possible. By the end, you will know how to create a healthier, more successful business. That is my promise to you.

Take a minute to sign up below. I want you to be the first notified when the book launches so you can start to benefit from the content as soon as possible. I’ll even throw in a good discount! 🙂

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User Experiences that Matter 2:nd Edition

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It’s a simple truth, I love using products that offer great user experiences. I think about user experiences… a lot. So much so that I’ve dedicated nearly 20 years of my life learning what techniques work and how to stir up emotions in users that get great outcomes. I’ve worked with companies like IKEA, Spotify, and Mercedes-Benz to craft amazing experiences for their clients and customers. I count myself as blessed that I get to work with these open-minded companies who keep their users as their number one focus. Now I’m at the point where I have learned so much that I can’t help but share it with you all.

A year ago I decided to share what I know with you in my first book, User Experiences that Matter. This was the first product I created myself and it was terrifying. I’d never launched a product that was so personal before and putting yourself out there that far is never a comfortable experience. Sales were well above my expectations (I didn’t expect too many), but as with all products they eventually levelled out.

So, being focused on creating great user experiences, I couldn’t help but take a closer look at the book and the launch. I spent time considering all the feedback I got and making the changes that could improve the entire experience. I suppose you could say that I’m practicing what I preach. Mostly what I heard was that people wished there was more. I was more than happy to provide!

In a couple of weeks there will be a HUGE update to the book. I have added additional chapters talking about everything from emotion driven design to how to build a product that lasts. I took time to sit down with more leaders in industry and get their take on building amazing user experiences. I want for you to think of this as a second edition release because not only will it feature tons of new content, but it has been completely redesigned from the ground up.

User Experiences that Matter

Whether you’re a professional supplying services to clients, building a new product, or marketing the next great solution, this book is for you. A great user experience can give your product a boost to that next level of success. Let this new and revised User Experiences that Matter be your guide!

Sign up here and I’ll let you know the minute it launches!

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What is a Great User Experience?

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When working on my soon to be released book, User Experiences that Matter, I felt it was important to get people thinking about what defines a great user experience. It really is a tough concept to understand because it is so multi-layered. To help clear it up, I decided to include interviews with three super smart people to get their opinions on what makes great user experienced, great.

…I now realize that I should probably add my voice to the question as well.

How *I* Define Great UX

One of my mottos when working with (digital) user experiences is to always consider the bigger picture. I must confess that my background is primarily in design and it’s my go to, my bread and butter. However, I’ve learned that design can’t – by itself – create a great user experience. As users, we are often misguided into thinking that it’s design creating that experience. It’s much more. I think I put it simply when I talk about user experiences on my homepage:

“The value of your product isn’t measured in its function and design, but in how your customers value the experience of using it.”

I’ve had this same line on my website for years, but it was the other day when I really started to think about how this applies to my own life. What products/services would I label as having a really great user experience? Like I previously discussed in the Values article – it’s all about our expectations, what we’re being promised, and what the product actually delivers.

While my new iPhone 6s is a beautifully designed device packed with great features – the user experience isn’t really different from it’s predecessor. It is faster. It has a better camera. Do any of these things improve my life in a significant way? Not really. Similarly, Dropbox might sync files faster than Google Drive, but that isn’t something that is critical for me as a user – they both sync fast enough.

When we are creating user experiences, we can’t look solely at what we are offering – we also have to understand the user’s situation. Switching to an iPhone 6s from a Nokia 5110 would be a HUGE leap for the user and they simply won’t do it. They will be far more comfortable upgrading incrementally on the platform – Android or iOS – they are familiar with. Taking the user’s situation into consideration FIRST can help you weigh what you’re adding with the needs of the user.

So what product has improved my life in a substantial way recently?

When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Since I’ve been diabetic for most of my life, it’s part of my everyday experience. I have been lucky enough to live in Sweden (and previously Finland) and am assured great medical care and access to free medicine which is critical for me. However, I was always disappointed at how slow technology has evolved for diabetics. We’ve seen amazing apps, devices, and supplies come to market, but very few of these innovations have been focused on easing the struggle of people like me.

Treating diabetes consists primarily of two important steps: taking insulin and monitoring your glucose. While insulin pumps have become more and more common, it’s not something I’ve ever felt the need to have. You have to continually check to see if it’s working – which can be a confusing process – and you still need to keep an insulin pen with you at all times. Monitoring your glucose usually consists of placing a small drop of blood on a sensor connected to a fairly small device. With advancement in technology, we no longer have to wait 2 minutes for a result and some devices can give a reading in just a few seconds. Even with all these advancements, the procedure has not really changed for the past 30 years.

A couple of months ago, I was introduced to the FreeStyle Libre. With this amazing device attached to my arm (usually for two weeks at a time) I can wirelessly check my glucose levels at any time. I just swipe a meter and it displays my blood sugar. I am no longer bound to the process of constantly washing my hands, finding somewhere to sit, pulling out the different supplies, and actually doing the test.

Diabetes tech

The meter itself is surprisingly similar to what I’ve had for the past 30 years. Sure, it may now have a color touchscreen display and a better battery that is simple to charge (micro-USB), but what makes the user experience great is the difference in how I can use the product.

Due to it constantly monitoring my blood sugar, I am able to quickly see what my levels have been for the past 8 hours, giving me insight into how to manage my condition. The people at FreeStyle Libre didn’t just create an app, change the interface, or improve the device – they rethought the whole process of monitoring your glucose. They focused on living WITH diabetes. They’ve identified my pain points and acted on them.

Emil Ovemar from Toca Boca shared his thoughts on what creates a great user experience:

“…it’s about a getting that personal connection – that the person that created this product created it with me in mind.”

(read the full interview in User Experiences that Matter)

In order to create truly great user experiences, we need to rethink entire processes of our industry. Uber didn’t just launch a more user friendly taxi app, they disrupted the entire industry. That’s what made Uber a success – the simplicity and design of their app is just a result of that initial disruption.

So, instead of doing yet another redesign, think about how you can RETHINK your industry.

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Coming soon: User Experiences that Matter e-book

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The book is released! Get it here!

——–

I’ve just released something out in the wild that honestly scares me shitless. I’m releasing my first book! It’s titled “User Experiences that Matter”.

Why would I write a book?

I’ve never defined myself as a writer or even a man of many words (you probably already suspect this because of my Finnish roots). However, I’ve found in order to grow as a designer, it’s critical to be able to communicate your thoughts and all the reasoning behind your design decisions. I had set a goal for myself (one newsletter every two weeks) and found that putting my thoughts out there has allowed me to grow in ways I didn’t expect. I began thinking about the challenges to solving practical design problems – visual design challenges if you will – and then focused my writing on sharing how I have come to solve these challenges when creating digital products. As my writing evolved, it became obvious that these pieces together would work really well in a book!

What is User Experiences that Matter about?

The book is an easy-to-understand book that covers the essentials of creating great digital user experiences. It features everything you need to take your product from an idea liked by you to one LOVED by your users.

User Experiences that Matter will teach you everything from what UX design really is (and what it isn’t!) to exactly how you can create the perfect experiences for your products without having to draw those black and white wireframes.

It’s not a magic formula (if you know one, email me!), but rather a guide with processes, assignments, and strategy that I’ve found to work.

Who is it for?

Do you want to create digital user experiences that not only perform up to your expectations, but make your users fall in love with your product? Do you want to create a product that drives conversion, but stays true to your brand? Do you think the user experience of a product is absolutely essential to success, but don’t know how to get it there? If you’re nodding your head at all then this is the book for you!

This book will help you:

  • Get started in the digital space and grow
  • Understand how UX works and why
  • Build the next great digital product
  • Learn there is still room to improve as a senior designer

Do we need a book about user experiences?

While there are tons of great resources out there that cover everything from psychological, philosophical, economic, and practical aspects of UX design, I’ve yet to find a book that covers the basics of creating great digital experiences.

For example, the first iPhone was launched without an AppStore. Mind blowing, I know. Our first experience with this product was with it’s core functionality. A lot of products we see released today would benefit from starting more basic and really think about how they’ll provide their users with a great experience. However, many developers make the mistake of equating more features with making the product more successful. Often it just makes it more difficult for new users to understand the basics of the product and hurts conversion.

I’ve geared the book towards helping designers/developers/product manager/companies adjust how they view their users and craft amazing experiences with their product. After all, isn’t what the user feels about the product just as important as what they do with it? Some label this as branding, but let’s be honest, that’s just one piece of the entire user experience cake. Big picture thinking like that creates strong products.

I am eager to share my experiences with all of you. I have made mistakes, grown as a designer, and taken the time to organize how I overcame challenges in a way that can be presented to you. I hope this book serves you all and help you to find amazing success creating brilliant user experiences!

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Increase conversions by removing social sharing buttons

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Just like I outlined in a previous popular post, “What’s the cost of ‘sharing’?” – conversions might actually benefit from not having social sharing buttons.

Turns out by a test ran by Visual Website Optimizer that when Taloon removed their social sharing buttons, their add-to-cart increased by nearly 12%.

“According to Jani Uusi-Pantti, the number of shares on most of his product pages were zero. While high number of shares and likes act as a positive reinforcement, low number of shares breed distrust in the mind of the customer about both the company and the quality of the product.”

People want to share content, not products. Even if you’re IKEA, Amazon or Target – you’re not going to have thousands of people sharing a product. And while it might work for a hugely popular product like an iPhone, it’s not going to work for the extra USB-cord, the charger or a bumper case.

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Time vs. Attention: Which is More Valuable?

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tl:dr For those who’ve used up their attention for the day: Design for your users attention span more than their time, it’s what really matters.

A couple of weeks ago was huge for Malmö. In fact, it’s so big that they label it THE WEEK. Every year, the highlight is The Conference and I’ve loved attending this event. However, this year, I decided not to go. No, it has nothing to do with the speakers, the topics, or because my calendar is full of client work. It’s because I’ve come to a revelation. I simply can’t concentrate for an entire day – and I bet you can’t either.

Jason Fried recently wrote for Signal v. Noise:

I recently realized that if I’m too busy to take something on, I shouldn’t say “I don’t have the time”. In fact, I often do have the time. It’s not that hard to squeeze in some extra time for someone.

What I don’t have – and what I can’t squeeze in – is more attention. Attention is a far more limited resource than time. So what I should say is “I don’t have the attention”. I may have 8 hours a day for work, but I probably have 4 hours a day for attention.

That final line is what got me thinking. While I may have the TIME for more projects, conferences, and other random stuff – I don’t have the ATTENTION for it. Other projects or my personal life would suffer from borrowing attention from them. I’m less and less willing to make that sacrifice.

Our everyday experiences have a cost.

That conference, meeting, or app requires effort. In terms of time, there’s no problem squeezing in 7 meetings in one day, but our attention only will allow 3 or 4 of those to be productive.

This is particularly important when creating an event like a conference or workshop. Organizers often focus more on how much content they can pack into a day than if they can hold the attention of the audience. Hyper Island does a spectacular job of this when they have their Master Classes (which are quite intense!). Between sessions they offer things they call Energizers. These aren’t energy bars or sugary treats; these are short exercises that help you to refocus. My favorite? The Shouting Game is always a win!

How does this translate to the user experience?

You need to look at your product – a conference, app, or a store – and be able to understand the attention span it requires. I can keep my attention focused at a conference for around 4 hours, but I don’t even last an hour browsing Facebook. Just as it is important to align your Values, understanding the attention span of your users could help you find success. Most product owners can only measure their success as “time spent on site”, but we are still trying to understand what the real goal is. Is longer better? Does that really mean they love browsing our site? Or are having a hard time finding what they’re looking for?

So here’s an exercise for you:

Think about your day’s attention span. How much time do you have and how will you invest it?

Office Life

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MVP: Is Your Product Really Minimum AND Viable?

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Our tech community loves the term MVP (minimum viable product) to describe the first version of their product. Unfortunately, many ambitious product launches show that they are neither viable or minimum. They prove to be far too complicated to really connect to the user. Staying true to the core functionality of a product may be difficult, but it is necessary to finding success.

While we were preparing to launch Dispatch, we understood that the main goal of the app was to provide effortless, private communications to the users. However, during the development process, we had many intense conversations about features we couldn’t live without. This process of over-complication threatened to derail the product before version 1 (or .01!) had even shipped. We had even taken time to build wireframes and designs for several features that we thought would be rolled out soon after launch, but hadn’t covered basics like profile management! Features like a to-do feature, geo-tagged videos, and a heat map were put on the back burner to ensure a successful launch.

We did what every team does when creating new products. We tried to think of everything. But until you’ve launched, you need to slow down and consider the user and how they will use it. Here are some tips to make it easier for you to launch your product and keep MVP in mind.

1. Build an MVP

Focus on which feature(s) is the true core of your product. For example, Twitter’s core is the ability to post updates to your followers. Had Twitter focused on direct messages, hashtags, images, and videos would they have found the success that they enjoy today? Those features add value to the end product, but if the user doesn’t fully understand the core use, what good is it? So I recommend you focus on the true purpose of the product and can clearly communicate it to others. Hint: You should be able to to say this in once sentence.

2. Execute it

Put your product in the hands of your users, let them experience it, and listen to them talk about it. Their real life scenarios will give you a deep understanding of what value it brings to them so that you can understand where it succeeds and where it fails. Use a diverse group of users to give you the best view of how it would be used in the wild.

3. Learn and Iterate

Using the information you’ve collected, you now know if your product performs as designed and what additional functionality your users want. Now you can correct any mistakes and begin adding features (like direct messages on Twitter) to round out that experience!

I know how exciting it can be when you think of all the features you could implement. Make sure to staying reasonable and anticipate the needs of your user. Keep a close eye on development times and the associated costs for each of these features to see if it is really worth it in the long run.

“Is this enough? Maybe if we add and we’ll attract a larger user base. Right?”

Staying true to your initial product is difficult and can be frightening. Letting these doubts drive your product development may harm your product in the end. I sincerely believe it’s better to be loved by a few than liked by many.

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How designers can earn a seat at the table

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Spot on from Marc Hemeon in this AMA on how designers can earn a seat at the table and gain more influence. I thought all of his answers were really good but this stood out to me.

Hello Noam!!! Damn. Excellent question!

For context here folks, Noam is an incredible human, founder who exited to YouTube, where he became the Director of Product for YouTube and was responsible for many consumer facing parts of YouTube.

As you know, I have always struggled with wanting to have more influence in a company as a designer, at YouTube I always felt the PMs had much more power than the designers and I would get frustrated more designers werent mentioned in the press when a redesign would roll out or a new feature would be talked about – I always wanted a list of designers and engineers names attached to these articles as well. For example this Wired article has a photo of you, Kurt, Nundu and AJ only 🙁 http://www.wired.com/2012/08/500-million-youtube-channels/ When that article came out it bruised my ego a bit – I felt I had a ton of influence on the YouTube leanback experience and wanted some accolades. I realize now how immature and wrong my attitude was.

I now have a massive appreciation for the amount of work it takes in an organization to create new products and features, especially at large companies like YouTube and Google. Heck, even at small companies like North (just 5 full time people) – we can’t do anything without each other. There really is no room for entitled credit hogs who are just in it for their own ego and increase in social capital.

Designers can earn and maintain a seat at the table a few ways: 1. Be easy to work with and listen to everyones feedback (no matter how whacky it is). Don’t raise a ton of objections when you listen, take notes and truly listen.

Have an opinion. Never criticize a product or UX feature without at least having an alternative to present and share. No one likes a complainer

Present design ideas in the way your stakeholders need to hear them. Do you need to do a 1:1? through it in a keynote presentation? Get buy in from your UX Director first before sharing with others? Do you need to print everything out? Do you need to make a prototype? Every company culture is a bit different and all humans learn differently – I have seen a ton of good designs get looked over because they were communicated poorly. Take the time to flex your communication style in a way others can understand.

Actually solve the problem – don’t just make it look pretty, solve the darn UX problem! I’ve found everyone can get behind a smart UX solution. Designers tend to try to solve design problems with shiny UI and not UX

Give others credit – No designer creates in a vacuum, they are influenced by everyone on the team – nothing worse than someone standing up saying “I solved our sharing UX with this new feature” – better to say – I’ve been working closely with Kevin, Caleb, Jonathan and Ryan on a better way to share articles”

Always follow up and hit your deadlines – if you tell someone you are going to mock up an idea then mock it up! even forgetting to follow through one time hurts your credibility.

Get behind company style guides and existing heuristics – soooo many designers, when they first get to a company want to just redesign everything – chill the F out and take it all in first and understand why things are the way they are – being careful of course not to fall for group think as expressed with the monkey and banana story (read more here: http://johnstepper.com/2013/10/26/the-five-monkeys-experiment-with-a-new-lesson/)

Drink Water

Not sure if I fully answered the question – hahahhahaha

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The days are long but the decades are short

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Over and over my mind wanders back to this great post by Sam Altman. It’s a while since I turned 30 but I can honestly say that I wasn’t as clear thinking and had as much perspective as Sam seems to have.

Here are a couple of my favorite highlights:

On work: it’s difficult to do a great job on work you don’t care about. And it’s hard to be totally happy/fulfilled in life if you don’t like what you do for your work. Work very hard—a surprising number of people will be offended that you choose to work hard—but not so hard that the rest of your life passes you by. Aim to be the best in the world at whatever you do professionally. Even if you miss, you’ll probably end up in a pretty good place.

I always thought that it was mainly in Sweden people were offended by hard-working people (because of Jante) – but apparently it’s the same in the US. It’s fascinating and disturbing how much energy people can put into this.

On money: Whether or not money can buy happiness, it can buy freedom, and that’s a big deal. Also, lack of money is very stressful. In almost all ways, having enough money so that you don’t stress about paying rent does more to change your wellbeing than having enough money to buy your own jet. Making money is often more fun than spending it, though I personally have never regretted money I’ve spent on friends, new experiences, saving time, travel, and causes I believe in.

Love making money and love spoiling my wife.

Remember how intensely you loved your boyfriend/girlfriend when you were a teenager? Love him/her that intensely now. Remember how excited and happy you got about stuff as a kid? Get that excited and happy now.

This seems to be so obvious, yet it’s so hard to live by day-to-day.

Be grateful and keep problems in perspective. Don’t complain too much. Don’t hate other people’s success (but remember that some people will hate your success, and you have to learn to ignore it).

See above.

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Growth

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Although I quite recently touched the subject of staying small, I thought this blog post from Offscreen was too great not to mention.

Here’s a great excerpt but you should really head over and read the entire thing:

I love going back to an essay in issue No7 titled “Human Scale”, written by fellow Australian and Icelab co-founder Michael Honey. He writes:

‘It doesn’t scale’ is a criticism levelled at many new ideas. (…) But how many things which are good when small get better by becoming bigger? (…) Humans are good at family, middling at community, dysfunctional as nations, and self-destructive as a planet. What doesn’t scale is our ability to relate to each other as human beings instead of target markets — as eyeballs to monetise.

And then there is this recent interview with Jeff Sheldon of Ugmonk fame in which he talks about being proud of staying small:

“We’re not growing a hockey-stick growth, but we’re growing enough. We’re building that fan base and are in it for the long haul, so I’m able to keep it really small and handle every part of the business or almost every part of the business, which does limit me on the creative side sometimes. I can’t release a hundred products every year. I can’t speak at dozens of conferences. I have to limit everything I do. (…) But I’m okay with all those things right now. I choose to keep it small, to keep it lean, to keep this business profitable where it is. (…) I’m much more focused on building that tribe of core followers that cares about what I do, than having ten thousand, one hundred thousand, or one million people that kind of like the cool shirt today, and then they totally forget about it tomorrow.”

So here I am, working long days (and sometimes sleepless nights) to make a thing with a growth trajectory slightly more optimistic than the mom-and-pop shop down the road. And I’m finally ok with it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind growing, but I do mind growing for growth’s sake, which is what seems to happen a lot with tech companies these days.

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The path of a successful app

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Thought this was a great post from Benjamin Burger on how to build great user experiences.

While the entire post is read-worthy for anyone even remotely interested in building digital experiences, there’s one passage where I think Benjamin really nails it:

The best way for it to be downloaded, is to be shared;
The best way for it to be shared, is to be used;
The best way for it to be used is to have a proper onboarding, explaining clearly how to use it and why I will use it.

It’s so often that we focus on the wrong things, assuming that the user is overly interested in our product and willing to spend minutes just “trying” our app out when in reality we’ll be happy to get a more than 10 seconds. With a complicated sign up/sign in process, we won’t even get that much.

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Working with me

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A couple of weeks ago I sent a small survey to selected clients. I wanted a quick and easy way for them to be able to tell me what they think of working with me and the work I deliver. Each client could leave a comment and decide if they wanted to leave their name or not.

There was one specific comment that made me extra happy. It’s short, just two sentences but it captures so much of what I think is important when working with me.

Are you ready for it? Here goes:

“What impresses me most is the way Anton understand the underlying needs of the business, and translates that into a beautiful solution. Anton is very easy to work with and he is good at finding the balance between listening and pushing.”

If we break it down, here’s what I love about it:

As a designer, my job is not to create pretty things. My job is to understand the underlying business needs and translate these into a well-crafted solution. This involves understanding the client and their business as well as it involves understanding their end users and their needs. The client in question is the world’s largest electricity supplier (E.ON) and I’m helping them with an online tool for their largest corporate clients. Needless to say, I am not part of their target audience. But as a UX-designer, it’s my job to understand how someone who’s a site operator thinks. It’s my job to understand and develop the features an accountant will need.

Working with, especially, large corporations is very different from working with smaller start-ups. The pace and the time it takes to get things implemented is very different. It’s essential to understand the possibilities as well as the limitations of any client that you work with. And most of all, it’s important to understand when to push and when to pull back.

Creating an online experience is not a sprint, it’s like so much else, a marathon. And as a designer, I need to be able to know my body well enough to know when to push and when to slow down and just enjoy the scenery.

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Planners and UX-Designers

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Chloe Gottlieb on planners and UX-designers:

“The two minds—the experience designer and the planner—are so important because as I look for pain points and things that will add value over time, the planners look for dissonance and interesting elements that will stand out. By combining these two mind-sets, we’re looking for patterns and dissonance together. It gets really juicy and really interesting.”

I do share her reasoning that different types of people (roles) will look for different solutions and pain points. Different perspectives on the same problem should ideally give a more thought through solution.

However, I think it’s clear from the quote that R/GA’s blood is marketing rather than product design.

From a product design perspective I’m trying to create an experience without elements that stand out but rather a seamless, simple and efficient solution. People that use products daily want things that just work – not things that stand out and create fraction against the rest of the experience.

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Kudos: Social Media framework

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I’ve recently done some changes to my website, the most significant one being going from company-focused (Le Petit Garcon) to solely being me. More on that here.

Another thing is that I’m back at blogging. I’ve read through tons of old posts (and even reposted some of them here) but interesting to see is the most shared content since 2011 is the post about ‘Kudos’. Ironically, since it’s about what kind of content is social media friendly.

Here’s the re-cap of Kudos:

Kudos is a planning and evaluation framework for social media marketing.
When planning a piece of social media we need to ask ourselves if it is going to be;

Knowledgeable

Does this activity demonstrate knowledge on the part of the brand? Is it something that you know about our product category that your competitors don’t? Is it knowledge that is unique to your brand, product or service? From the audience’s point of view you need to consider if its something they need or want to know. Are you increasing their knowledge or just telling them something they already know or could have gained elsewhere?

Useful

Not all of social media activity is useful to the brand’s audience. Not all dissemination of knowl- edge is actually useful to the brand. It might be commercially sensitive. It might promote an out of stock product or a discontinued service. The best-case scenario is when an activity is useful to both the brand and the audience such as with Amazon’s product ratings; the audience benefits by having unbiased reviews to help them make their decisions. Amazon benefits from the free content and additional product information for its audience. I’d add here that providing entertainment is actu- ally useful. Ask any bored office worker, student or house bound parent – a good laugh has plenty of use.

Desireable

Thinking through the desirability of an activity can be a great check against what is assumed to be useful. By desirable we mean that both the brand and the audience actively want it. This is a step on from useful. Think of eating your greens; useful but not that desir- able. Conversely, consider for a moment the joys of unlimited self saucing sticky date pudding – desirable – oh yes, but no, not actually that useful. If something is desirable, really tasty-can’t-get-enough-of-it desir- able to your audience you’ll know it. The servers will fall over. Your hosting bill will go through the roof and you’ll get calls from the IT department over the weekend screaming about terabytes of data. Desirable is a can be a challenge because making something truly desirable is actually quite tricky.

Open

Used to the impression of control that broadcast media had previ- ously afforded them, open is a concept that some brands have been struggling with. Open means honest and transparent. Not just about the parts of the message that are desirable to the brand, but about the whole lot, warts and all. An audience will respond very actively and negatively when they believe a brand has been dishon- est with them. There are lost of examples of where brands have been dishonest and been caught. Don’t be one of them. It doesn’t even require active dishonesty – just a lack of intent to be com- pletely open can come across badly.

Shareable

Another degree further of open is making the activity sharable. Are the materials easily downloadable? Can it be linked to or have you gone and wrapped them up in a big Flash movie that no one can link to? If it’s a Flash movie then there’s less material that can be shared in social book- marking sites like del.icio.us, Digg and Stumbleupon. It is as im- portant as being open that the brand then follow that up by making the activity sharable by acknowledging standard protocols that enable sharing and by actively promoting sharing with a simple “Digg this” button or a downloadable Zip file of assets.

Here’s the original Kudos – PDF.

 

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Look and Feel and Feel

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Jason Fried makes a great point in his latest post Look and Feel and Feel.

Designers often talk about the look and feel of a product, an app, an object, etc. These are good concepts to be talking about, but how the thing feels isn’t really the important feel. The important feel is how it makes you feel.

Jason makes the point that Instagram makes him happy whereas Twitter makes him feel anxious, unhappy and uncomfortable.

I can see his point and agree. Twitter is more of a rage-outlet whereas Instagram is much more personal and “warm” even though I’m not only following friends but also celebrities, people I don’t know and even brands. They all make me feel warm and nice (@thefatjewish occasionally being the exception I guess).

Facebook just makes me feel exhausted.

“It’s not the buttons, it’s not the animations, it’s not the interface or visual design. It’s not the colors, it’s not the font, it’s not the transitions. It’s how using the apps make me feel before, during, and after”

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Great user experience

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There’s a great post over at boagworld called User Experience Design is not what you think. I was particularly fascinated by the following:

If you need to call Barclays you can do so via the app. This allows you to skip the authentication over the phone because you did that when you logged into the app.

I have honestly no idea how this is done technically but it’s inspiring to think about the amount of technical work that have been done behind the scenes to be able to create something as “shallow” as not having the say your pin code when you dial in. It really goes to show that it’s the small things that create an amazing experience. Well done Barclays for investing the time in creating a great seamless user experience.

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Naming your icons

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I think good design is intuitive but should also involve a certain degree of exploration (unless it’s.. say an ATM machine in which case exploration is not necessarily appreciated by the user). There’s a growing trend amongst designers though to use icons that are extremely hard to understand with the sole excuse that the use will eventually learn their meaning.

Joshua Porter makes a great case for labeling your icons in Labels always win.

However, I think labels should be kept around in almost all cases as they turn guesses into clear decisions. Nothing says “manage” like “manage”. In other words, in the battle of clarity between icons and labels, labels always win.

 

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Golden Krishna on Our Job as Designers

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I believe our job as designers is to give you what you need as quickly and as elegantly as we can. Our job as designers is to take you away from technology. Our job as designers is to make you smile. To make a profit by providing you something that enhances your life in the most seamless and wonderful way possible.

Love this quote from Golden Krishna in his new book The best interface is no interface. If you haven’t read the book, I strongly advice you to (even if you’re not a UX-designer). Get an idea of it’s content by watching his talk from last year’s The Conference.

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Conversations

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Do you remember the last time you had a really great conversation? Regardless if it was with a friend, a colleague or a stranger, I imagine that it was a rewarding experience. The two of you talking, listening, interacting, engaging with each other. I’m pretty sure you felt there was a mutual respect. Maybe you gained some new insights or was touched by something they said. Perhaps it made you look at something from a new perspective?

Now do you remember the last time you had that type of communication with a brand or a product? No? Most brands today are getting really good at communicating their thoughts and opinions through social media. They’ve adopted the new (digital) landscape and use the tools at hand to talk to millions of fans, followers and “friends” on a daily basis. For some reason though, it’s not really that same type of communication now is it? What we as communicators often forget is that communication is a two-way street. Without a mutual respect for each other there’s nothing to base the communication and the relationship on. How come so many brands try to start a communication by talking, rather than listening in and joining in on a topic?

When you listen to people and really try and understand their thoughts and everyday life, you get to understand what their needs are. This enables you to create products and services that not only make your users happier — but thoroughly gives them a better everyday life.

“Sure, but we’re already talking to our customers and taking input from them.” Well, that’s great but here comes the tricky part. Your organization will have to change. Your company will need to adjust and reshape. Every day. And there’s no guarantee that it will bring you anymore success.

I recently gave a short talk about the challenges the banking industry is facing. It’s an industry that have been centered around their own office for centuries and they have had complete control over their customers and the way they should run their business. The last couple of years though, we’ve seen a huge change within that industry and there are literally new services popping up every day that will give the old banks a decent fight over users.

I’m a consultant and consultants generally sell their services in relation to time. Some charge an hourly rate and some charge a monthly rate. But the general business model is that you pay X times Y. It’s an understatement that my potential might be resistant to hire someone they’ve never met (and usually never will meet) to do something that they find it difficult to scope. When talking to potential clients I realized I had to offer a lower risk, lower cost offer that I could offer to them without really knowing the specifics of their business. As a low risk offer, I realized I had to drop my current business model of charging for my time and give them a fixed price, fixed deliverable product. You can find out more about it my offer here.

Change is scary because you’re never sure of what you’re going to get. I have honestly no idea how my product will fall out. I have invested time and money in it but I’m not sure if it’ll ever generate me anything back. But as Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine put it:

“Don’t get me wrong, (banking) innovation is not easy, but the alternative, as far as we see it, is no longer an option.”

So we dare to try. We dare to fail and because of that, we will succeed.

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Cost, pricing and perceived value

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There’s a very simple pricing strategy I like. Wether you’re selling a physical product, a digital product or a service — it’s price is related to three different factors.

There’s the cost which basically is how much it’ll cost to produce or what your lowest hourly rate would be. If you price your product below the cost, you’re eventually run out of business (unless you have other super products to balance it up).

Then there’s the price which is how much the customer pays, sometimes referred to as the markup. Take the price and subtract the cost and you’ll end up with the profit.

Thirdly there’s the perceived value that the product has. If the cost is 50$, the price is 100$ but the customer’s perceived value is 150$ — everyone wins. The manufacturer will end up with a 100% profit and the customer will feel as if they’ve done a great deal — paying less than what they think the product is worth.

When the iPhone originally launched in 2007 and with the significant update in 2008 (iPhone 3G) — it was a huge success. iPhones were sold for 500-600$ depending on capacity and had a production cost in the areas of 200-250$ giving Apple a massive profit of somewhere in the amounts of 300$ per sold unit.

The perceived value of an iPhone was far higher than it’s price.

Now, the iPhone was not just a phone — or even a smartphone — it was a whole new category of products. Nothing like this had ever been introduced before. Expectations were high before it’s announcement and they were met — and exceeded. People were enthusiastic, they were thrilled. The perceived value of an iPhone was far higher than it’s price.

As we’re approaching a new product launch, it’ll be interesting to see what Apple have in store for us. The rumored, low-cost, iPhone 5c will likely be less of a profit product for Apple but instead bring users to it’s app-ecosystem. The perceived value of an iPhone 5c will surely be lower — as will it’s profits — but allow Apple to gain larger market share.

The world’s most sold phone is the Nokia 1100, having sold more than 250 million units. It doesn’t allow you to do anything besides call and text — but it’s value lies elsewhere, it has great battery life lasting for more than a week and is a low cost phone at a cost of 12-15$ (prices vary heavily).

What features could Apple introduce to the iPhone 5c that would allow for it to gain market share in regions such as India, Africa, China and Latin America?

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