Apple on Burger Menus

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“Look, drawers of any kind have a nasty tendency to fill with junk.”

What Screens Want

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I just finished reading a really interesting article about what it means to natively design for screens.

Some of my favourite bits:

“A designer’s work is not only about how the things look, but also their behaviors in response to interaction, and the adjustments they make between their fixed states. In fact, designing the way elements adapt and morph in the in-between moments is half of your work as a designer. You’re crafting the interstitials.”

“I’ve worked on several responsive projects in the past couple years, and it’s always been a headache—not from technological limitations, but because there weren’t suitable words to describe the behaviors I wanted. I had to jump into code, and waste time writing non-production markup and CSS to prototype a behavior so the developer could see it. That’s really wasteful, especially if all you needed was a word for the behaviour.”

“People believe there’s an essence to the computer, that there’s something true and real and a correct way to do things. But—there is no right way. We get to choose how to aim the technology we build. At least for now, because increasingly, technology feels like something that happens to you instead of something you use. We need to figure out how to stop that, for all of our sakes, before we’re locked in, on rails, and headed toward who knows what.”

The bit about the maps particularly blew my mind.

UX Design is Bollocks

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“User experience designers have to understand design, usability, front-end and server-side development, and content strategy. They may not be an expert in all, but to do their job well the have to know how all pieces of the puzzle fit together to create a great user experience.”

In doing a bit of research / reading around the interwebs today, I stumbled across the above quote. I would encourage you to read the whole article, but I have to say, I couldn’t agree more. Now of course the title of this post and the article are both a bit more provocative than truthful, but it does comes from a good place.

Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Aesthetics (and User Experience) Matter

Posted by & filed under Thinking & Philosophy.

Okay, this is a bit of a rant, but it is longtime overdue.

I am shocked, appalled, and generally frustrated by organisations which think they can continue to get away with putting together tools which do not consider – first and foremost – the user experience. I have had my fill lately of budgeting, timesheet, and other project control systems which do not work to create an intuitive interface.

I have used them at both previous and current agencies. The first of which, and one of the most offensive of which was AtTask. We used this heavily at echo for the last couple years we were operating. I have no insight into the selection process, but from what I understand it was selected due to its comprehensive feature set. Apparently it was great for reporting, but it was TERRIBLE from a day-to-day user’s perspective. More recently, I have been exposed to a system which requires training to understand. Yes, the user experience is so complex, even I, someone who is pretty tech savvy, needed training on how to complete a simple set of tasks – such as completing a timesheet.

The companies which make this software just don’t get it. That and they are so settled in the fact they have a “captive audience” (the company developing the software have been providing cost control systems for the company in question for over a decade) that they do not feel the need to create anything which is easy to use – because it is in their financial interest to keep the handcuffed company buying their training services for their substandard products.

That said, I am also pointing a finger at the management teams who have purchased this software. They have made the conscious decision to invest in software that NO ONE else in the industry (or ANY industry) will have used, and the training of which will add no value to their employees outside their own company. Now, they may think this is a benefit, but in actual fact, it means potential employees will have to spend a lot of what should be productive, billable time, simply LEARNING how to use a proprietary system. This, in and of its self, does not bother me terribly – though it disagree with it – however, the fact that the bespoke system is so terribly confusing to usem, does!

These tools and systems, like every other piece of software in the modern world, should be evolving to make work easier for the user. This is the fundamental purpose of a tool – to ease the completion of work. And yes, aesthetics and user experience matter, because you want your staff to use them. When the tools they have to use for you are substandard to what they are used to using elsewhere (at home or another company) it has an impact on their desire to work for you. This is because it has a direct impact on their desire to use your tools.

The more you can improve the experience a user has with a tool, the more likely they will enjoy using it. And if they enjoy using it, it will improve their enjoyment of the job. And when you want the most talented people – meaning they are not just in it for the paycheck – “every little helps.”

Laws of Velocity

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Okay. I am going to do you a favour.

I am telling you to read this book – Velocity: The Seven New Laws for a World Gone Digital. For those of you who work in the digital world, you will either think it is brilliant because it so eloquently says what you already have known to be true (which is how I felt) or it will drastically change your perception of what you do.

The actual format of the book is that of a conversation between the coauthors, Ajaz Ahmed (the founder of AKQA) and Stefan Olander (digital brand guy at Nike). This format actually makes this a refreshing read which I believe helps to humanise the topics.

Once you finish the book, there is also additional support material on the website.

It is no spoiler to say the principles of Velocity are as follows:

  1. A Smith & Wesson beats four aces
  2. It’s easier done than said.
  3. The best advertising isn’t advertising.
  4. Convenient is the enemy of right.
  5. Respect human nature.
  6. No good joke survives a committee of six.
  7. Have a purpose larger than yourself.

Each of these principles has some seriously weighty rationale behind them. Each of which have become a bit of a manta for me (despite my belief that mantras are a waste unless you act upon them). You see, for me, these are not new ideas, but rather beautiful ways to communicate the things I already believe.

Lets take “No good joke survives a committee of six” for example. I have often said, “a camel is a horse designed by committee” when trying to open people’s eyes to the danger of too many cooks being in the kitchen (there is another). This basic idea is one which I have long believed, but I find this phrasing much more poignant because everyone can appreciate how delicate a joke is. Or maybe not.

As funny as it may seem, I have actually created a series of desktop wallpapers based on these principles and set my Mac’s system preferences to cycle through them every five minutes. It may be a drain on my system resources, but it is also a great reminder of these rules.

If you have read it, let me know what you think. Happy to hear both sides – love and hate.

Microsoft Surface: Son of Zune

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Here is the reality of Microsoft’s new tablet, Surface – it is not an iPad killer. It is an Xbox controller masquerading as an Ultrabook PC masquerading as a tablet. Here is what I mean…

The law which Microsoft should know all too well firsthand (given they proved it so well with the Xbox) is that it is not the hardware which really makes or breaks success – it is the software that runs on it. Without great apps, anyone who looks into this thing will ultimately look to what it can do.

Now, rightly, Microsoft have their new tablet running the latest version of Windows – a slightly forward thinking, touch-ready OS (which is being ever more greatly integrated / mirrored with Xbox’s interface). As such, it will be able to run Office and any other Windows based software out of the gate. So tick, you have all the apps people could want – including games. But any laptop can do that and possibly better. So why isn’t this thing a laptop?

Well it is not a laptop because Microsoft are threatened by the thought of a post-PC era without them in it. And fair enough, but beyond that there is another opportunity they are factoring into the equation and that is the Xbox.

If you follow the gaming world, you may have also heard about the introduction of Smart Glass to the Xbox. Basically it is a way to use your tablet with an Xbox as an ideal controller. This is really the ONLY reason the Surface is not a laptop. Sure, you could probably find a few other things to claim as rationale, but this is THE reason.

You might also be thinking to yourself – the Pro version is the size, price, and weight of an Ultrabook …with heat vents. Why wouldn’t you just buy an Ultrabook?

Well, if you weren’t thinking about the Xbox, you would. As an Ultrabook it would not be able to integrate with Microsoft’s home entertainment ecosystem.

Now the reason it is NOT an iPad killer – the reason I am hesitant to even call it a tablet is because (back to my earlier point about apps) the lions share of the software which will run on this at launch (and I dare say a good while after) will not be touch optimised. This is a FUNDAMENTAL problem when trying to truly kill the iPad.

Why would someone buy a tablet which doesn’t have all those neat lifestyle apps which make the iPad a staple in the living room? Unfortunately, the Xbox answer is not likely to be enough – not at the price of a full Ultrabook.

Even corporate suit types will need to use it like a laptop in the office – why not just use a laptop.

In the end, time will test my beliefs, but I can’t help but see the future headlines reading “Microsoft Surface, Son of Zune.”

Incremental Improvements

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So when I decided to completely rebuild my portfolio site out of frustration / boredom with the old design, I also decided I would treat it as a constantly evolving, working prototype. Rather than perfectly hammering out Photoshop mocks and perfected wireframes, I would launch my new site with the Agile Method. What this means in short is that I would launch it and make incremental improvements to the visual, user experience design & functionality.

If you are not familiar with production methodologies, there are two main schools of thought:

  1. Waterfall / Prince2
  2. Agile / Scrum


With the first, Waterfall, each step of the production process is perfected and signed off before moving on to the next stage. The waterfall stages for software / website development are typically involves the completion of phases in a specific order escalating in ever increasing levels of detail & complexity, e.g. requirements listing, user flows, site map(s), wireframes, mocks, development, debugging, launch, then ongoing support.


The Agile process is all about getting something up and working sooner rather than later which is real and can be improved a bit at a time.

So I say all of this to explain, that if you are reading this near its post date, it is very likely the site is ANYTHING but complete and bug free.

Hello World.

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The default first entry title on newly installed WordPress blogs… seems entirely appropriate. Having gone far too long without collecting my work-related thoughts in an official channel, it only seems appropriate I start there. This is the blog, the place I will collect general thoughts, opinions, and eventually white papers and digital inspiration.

As I am currently spending my out-of-office time building this site, I will have to come back to adding content in a bit. Until then, I encourage you to have a look at my “Digital – Ideas Worth Sharing” inboard on Pinterest.