Ten web professionals worth your attention

This week on the Boagworld Show Paul shares the ten people who have been the biggest inspiration in shaping his view of digital.

Paul Boag: This week on the Boagworld Show, I share the 10 people who have been the biggest inspiration in shaping my view of digital.

Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com, the podcast about webby stuff. I still don’t know how to start the show.

Marcus Lillington:
Shouldn’t we be saying digital stuff?

Paul Boag: Digital stuff, that’s true.

Marcus Lillington:
We’re a digital agency.

Paul Boag: But what the heck is digital? That’s the question. And interestingly I wrote a post on this, earlier this – last week.

Marcus Lillington:
Earlier this last week.

Paul Boag: Earlier at some point in my life. I have written a post on what is…

Marcus Lillington:
What does digital mean?

Paul Boag: What is it? Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Because in my, an aging language, if you like…

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…digital means the opposite of analogue. So – and that’s not what we mean here, at all.

Paul Boag: No, and that was far too short. I managed to write like a couple of thousand words on the subject. You’ve just said it in about three.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah and it’s not the same anyway.

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus Lillington:
But it just – I just – I don’t like the term digital in the way we use it because of that because it means something else to me.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I don’t like the term. To be frank because I think it’s vague and woolly and annoying. But unfortunately, you kind of need a shorthand sometimes.

Marcus Lillington:
I like that side of it. I mean you’re not talking about just web stuff.

Paul Boag: Yes. It’s essentially a way of – I mean – and also it means different things in different contexts.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: So if you’re just talking about digital, when I talk about digital, I am basically talking about the convergence of the web, social media, and mobile. Those are kind of the three things that have converged together and have created this kind of different kind of consumer behaviour. So I mean that in that sense. Then when you talk about digital consumers, so people, you’re talking about the kind of millennial generation and the digital natives, so people that have grown up using those three tools. And then of course, there is digital transformation which is really about – in my mind, it is about changing and adapting your business to better serve the digital customer. So that’s a different thing again.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: So it’s all very woolly.

Marcus Lillington:
But to me digital can mean electronic goods. It can mean an iPod.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
An iPod is a digital thing.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And that really doesn’t have any relation to anything you’ve just said so…

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus Lillington:
… it’s, yeah, no. But I still like it purely for the – it doesn’t – if you talk about web, people just think websites and desktop computers and that.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s more than that. So from that point of view, I will allow it.

Paul Boag: It has Marcus’s seal of approval.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes.

Paul Boag: Well not even a seal of approval really. You tolerate it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, tolerate it.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
I tolerate it for now, until something better comes along.

Paul Boag: I have actually written a post on it. So do check out the show notes because it will have a link to that and it is kind of useful because we talk about digital a lot and it’s useful for people who actually understand what the hell I mean.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: But anyway, that got into web very quickly. Where was the pointless preamble about how the winter’s now arrived and all the other things that we just churn out.

Marcus Lillington:
I do need to talk about the weather.

Paul Boag: You do need to, do you?

Marcus Lillington:
Because August has failed us. It has not done its job and I want to know quite what we should do about it.

Paul Boag: What – have you not noticed the overall trend over the last few years? Is that, kind of late spring, early summer is nice. August is shit, then it gets nice kind of from September into the beginning of October.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, yes, last year, because last year was a cracking summer, if you remember.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
It did actually – there were a couple of wet weeks in the middle of August and then this coming weekend equivalent. Last year, it went back up over 30 degrees. It’s not going to happen like that. But apparently, there is another hurricane. Because the reason why it’s gone all cold over here is because the last hurricane, that I can’t remember the name of…

Paul Boag: Right.

Marcus Lillington:
…and there is another one, that I can’t remember the name of, which may push the jet stream back over the top of us and which – or above us, further north which might mean a return to hot weather. So your theory would be correct.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I’m always right.

Marcus Lillington:
But like this year, it was glorious May, June, July but before that it was horrid.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
So early spring this year was vile.

Paul Boag: I think nobody cares basically.

Marcus Lillington:
I do.

Paul Boag: Except well other British people

Marcus Lillington:
All English people who listen to this will be going, “yes yes”, nod, nod, nod, “yes, yes, yes”

Paul Boag: Yes. Very interesting. Important conversation. I don’t know why as a nation we talk so much about the weather when our weather is so boring compared to other countries.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not. It’s so varied.

Paul Boag: It is varied. But it’s not like we have tornados or hurricane. Well, we occasionally have a hurricane.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Occasionally we do, yeah.

Paul Boag: I mean when we have a tornado, it’s like – knocks over one plant pot and that’s about it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah we don’t have so much big weather. We do have flooding, I suppose. That’s the big one we get.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I think our thing is probably flooding, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: And we can’t even do snow properly. Our snow is just grey and mushy.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh I don’t know. We’ve had – but you forget, Paul.

Paul Boag: Do I? Do I?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Not last winter but the three before that, we had lots of snow.

Paul Boag: Yeah, but not like Canada.

Marcus Lillington:
Not like Canada, no.

Paul Boag: I mean they had polar vortexes. We never get anything exciting like that. We just live in the dullest place on earth.

Marcus Lillington:
No, we don’t. We live in the bestest place on earth.

Paul Boag: Well, no, I mean from a kind of natural disaster point of view, which isn’t a…

Marcus Lillington:
That’s a good thing.

Paul Boag: Yeah, that is a good thing, I am not complaining – I’m not saying that I would want the earthquakes that they’re currently having – that they’ve just had in California.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. The lack of poisonous animals is not…

Paul Boag: The lack of poisonous animal…

Marcus Lillington:
I know it kind of reduces the kind of scare factor but I kind of like it.

Paul Boag: No big animals either. We’ve killed them all.

Marcus Lillington:
And eaten them, yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah, we’ve killed and eaten anything that could be a threat to us basically.

Marcus Lillington:
We’ve got cows, they’re pretty big.

Paul Boag: Yeah, but we just eat those, we keep them around to eat them. Where are the wild boar and the wolves?

Marcus Lillington:
Wild boars still exist.

Paul Boag: Yeah, kind of – and so do wolves but…

Marcus Lillington:
Kind of. Not really.

Paul Boag: Do you know we used to have bison?

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag: We did, long time ago.

Marcus Lillington:
Obviously, it’s a very long time ago.

Paul Boag: European bison, so it’s different to the American ones.

Marcus Lillington:
Right, yeah.

Paul Boag: Not as cool, obviously, and not as big.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: Because America has everything bigger.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag: Not that I’m bitter. Okay. Anyway, enough of that. So we’re going to do an interesting one this week.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, Paul’s favorite people. Have they paid you?

Paul Boag: Yeah, well this is a really difficult one because I’ve got – I got several requests…

Marcus Lillington:
Right.

Paul Boag: …to do the most inspirational or most important top 10 people in web design and it’s like how am I going to do that. That’s impossible. Because it’s so subjective, isn’t it? It’s kind of just purely dependent on kind of what you’re into and who you are in contact with. So that was just impossible.

Marcus Lillington:
Right.

Paul Boag: But because I had kind of several people suggest the idea, I thought, well, I ought to do something along the lines.

Marcus Lillington:
And we can blame it on them.

Paul Boag: Yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s going to sound sycophantic and all those kind of things but…

Paul Boag: Well, yes and no. I’m hoping it’s kind of people that – yeah, it is going to sound sycophantic isn’t it? There is no way out of this.

Marcus Lillington:
But yeah, it’s okay, it’s interesting.

Paul Boag: Yeah. I mean…

Marcus Lillington:
Maybe.

Paul Boag: …I kind of – I had narrow it down a lot in order to get to a list. Because I mean it’s possible that I – I’ve started…

Marcus Lillington:
You’ve already cheated.

Paul Boag: I’ve already cheated, yeah. I have got multiple people on some of the…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: …on some of the options which – yeah, totally, I totally cheat and I also had to go for people that were the biggest inspiration to me rather than the most important, the people I thought were the best.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, that’s absolutely right. If it’s personal to you and these – because I have got people who aren’t on this list that I – were major inspirations to me like Jim Coudal and Brendan Dawes.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And that’s because I saw them speak years ago and they were like, wow! So from that point of view, yeah, I am just winding you up, as you know.

Paul Boag: And it’s – I have also have to go for inspiration rather than kind of value, if that makes… Because you could…

Marcus Lillington:
Valueless people, we’re going to be talking about.

Paul Boag: Yeah. And also that again, it’s so subjective. So for example, I haven’t included Chris Coyier on this list, yet he’s been of a huge value to me, right, especially when I was doing design and development because I used to – I was always referencing his stuff. Oh, how do I do this CSS thing or how do I do that or whatever. But he wasn’t – I’ve kind of focused down on those that have inspired me in some way because otherwise the list just goes on forever. So it’s very difficult. So we need to put links in the show note to Chris Coyier, Brendan Dawes and Jim Coudal.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: Because they are all very cool people, all definitely worth checking out.

Marcus Lillington:
Also…

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Kristina Halvorson.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
These are my ones. Because it’s your show, Paul.

Paul Boag: I know. She’s so nearly ended up on my list as well.

Marcus Lillington:
There you go.

Paul Boag: She was on the – I got down to…

Marcus Lillington:
How good does she feel right now?

Paul Boag: Yeah that she almost ran. That’s so cruel, isn’t it? The – everything about this is horrible.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: I don’t know why I’ve chosen to. I’ve chosen to do it because it’s nice to introduce people to other people if that makes sense.

Marcus Lillington:
There are a few names and I stressed the few, one maybe, that people might not have heard of which is good.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Well I think there is more than one actually. I think there could potentially be a couple, at least.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I have to say I don’t know the first one and I probably should.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Well, that’s quite a new addition to the list really. But anyway, so…

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag: …so please nobody take offense at this if you’re not on the list because it is purely people that have inspired me personally over the years and this is where – this is the important bit of this week’s show, is the comments on the show notes. This is where I want you to talk about people that have inspired you and have been a massive inspiration. And if you feel the need to mention my name repeatedly, that’s fine. I accept that that is a burden that I will have to live with. If anyone mentions Marcus on the other hand, I have problems.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag: So Kristina Halvorson you would have put on the list?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: So link in the show notes to her. Anybody else you would have put on your list? Your brain has gone blank now, hasn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Hang on a minute. Yes, it has. Keep talking.

Paul Boag: So, well we might as well kick off with the first one and then you can kind of – I suspect as we go through why these different people have inspired me that maybe that will trigger other thoughts in your head as we go.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh! Yeah, I’ve thought of one…

Paul Boag: Go on.

Marcus Lillington:
Can’t think of his name.

Paul Boag: That’s a problem.

Marcus Lillington:
He’s at Twitter now, I think? Head of Design at Twitter.

Paul Boag: Doug Bowman?

Marcus Lillington:
Doug Bowman, yeah.

Paul Boag: Ah, a link to Doug Bowman. Yeah, Doug Bowman is very cool.

Marcus Lillington:
We saw him at @Media in 2005.

Paul Boag: Wow!

Marcus Lillington:
And he was talking about the redesign of the Blogger site and I can remember that at the time, most of the talks were kind of that sort of like let’s all team together and do a better job man, and I was like thinking tell me – give me something with a bit of meat on it and he came in and said, right, I did this, and then I did that and then I talked to these people and got their opinions on this. And it kind of – it really helped with – it helped shape our design process.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Way back then. It also was the first time I saw Jeremy Keith speak and he made me laugh, so…

Paul Boag: Yeah. I mean Doug is just a genius. The guy is incredibly, incredibly talented and incredibly clever. So, yes, he should have been on the list really. That’s the whole show is going to be me saying this person should have been on the list. But then the trouble is I’m only allowed ten, and I started off with 25.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. And I would have to say, so – because you started me so, obviously we’ve got Jeremy and I always think that kind of Jeremy and Andy and Richard all kind of go together but – because they’ve been inspirations from a business point of view over the years.

Paul Boag: Yeah, that’s true.

Marcus Lillington:
But Cennydd and James’ book about UX processes was definitely an inspiration.

Paul Boag: Okay. So hang on a minute. We’ve got to put a link in the show notes to Andy Budd, to Richard Rutter

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: …and to Kenneth and James’ book.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: Link in the show notes to all of that. God I’m going to hate you.

Marcus Lillington:
There you go, I’ll shut up now.

Paul Boag: Shall we move on to the first one in my list?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: Alright. Then let’s kick off.

Do you know I am going to change the order of this list?

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag: Because you’ve already mentioned someone which is Jeremy Keith.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Jeremy Keith

Jeremy Keith

Paul Boag: So I wasn’t going to start with Jeremy. I have this big problem with Jeremy Keith. If you don’t know who Jeremy Keith is, we first encountered him at @Media 2005…

Marcus Lillington:
Correct.

Paul Boag: …when – and this was in the days where JavaScript was evil. What – well, it was, wasn’t it? It was…

Marcus Lillington:
In line nastiness.

Paul Boag: …in line nastiness and it was used for pop-up windows and blinking text and horrible shit like that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: And then this strange Irish guy that looked like Severus Snape although we didn’t know that at the time because that wasn’t out, stood on the stage and basically stood in front of a load of Standardites people and tried to convince us that this mess that was JavaScript was a good idea and he succeeded.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, definitely.

Paul Boag: It was absolutely brilliant; very, very good speaker but also very, very clever guy and I hate saying it because he is a friend and I don’t want him to hear the fact that I actually respect him. Because that would be bad. But Jeremy Keith, he is one of those guys that, I don’t know, is very logical and well-thought through. I disagree with him on a regular basis. But I am normally always wrong.

Marcus Lillington:
This is quite – well, I’ve got that on tape.

Paul Boag: You have got that on tape? I am fairly confident he won’t listen to the podcast, so I am kind of fairly safe saying that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: But he is also one of these visionary kinds of people that is always – is looking ahead. Always does things – he’s been doing things for years that the rest of us only just started worrying about. Do you know what I mean like, he never built websites that were fixed width unless he was kind of forced into it and even then I doubt he did it? He was always thinking about the Oneweb and how the web will be used on different devices. He is the one that popularised the idea of progressive enhancement and all kinds of different areas. I mean he does occasionally get it wrong. He very much defended or promoted micro-formats that never really kind of got a lot of traction. I suspect he would still argue that he didn’t get that wrong and that they should have and that the rest of the world was wrong and he’s probably right. That’s the annoying thing.

So yes, Jeremy Keith, definitely a guy worth following if you haven’t already encountered him, expect quite a lot of cerebral stuff, if that makes sense. He tends to be quite a high-level thinker and that’s often where I disagree with him is that I tend to be more pragmatic and practical about stuff. But that saying, he just always has things spot-on and he is one of those guys that I follow just to know what I should be paying attention to, does that make sense?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Well, I kind of do that with you, but I record a podcast with you.

Paul Boag: Yes. Jeremy is my equivalent of me.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: If that makes sense. By following him, I know what I should be paying attention to. So, yes, that’s Jeremy Keith. He’s…

Marcus Lillington:
I have a favourite Jeremy moment.

Paul Boag: Oh, go on. Oh when he rejected the premise of my question?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, exactly that. We were recording a live podcast at South by Southwest and he was on the panel and I think someone said so should we be supporting IE6, and he just said, “I reject the premise of your question, move on.”

Paul Boag: That’s the thing about him. That kind of sums him up, just that one thing. Very funny, incredibly arrogant, and completely right and that’s what so annoying about him and why I hate him with a passion. But he does still inspire me, damn him. Alright, let’s move on.

Carl Smith

Carl Smith

So the next one on the list is somebody you haven’t heard of apparently…

Marcus Lillington:
Correct.

Paul Boag: Carl Smith.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, sorry, Carl. Don’t know, who are you?

Paul Boag: Carl Smith, he’s somebody I’ve only – well I kind of knew of vaguely. He was the founder of an agency called nGen out in the States.

Marcus Lillington:
Right.

Paul Boag: And I’ll put a link in the show notes to them. And I kind of was aware that he was doing stuff but I didn’t really know much about him and then relatively recently, I – well in fact it hasn’t actually happened yet, I’m due in October to be speaking at a project management conference in Austin, I’ll put a link in the show notes to that as well. And he was involved in organizing that and interviewed me for a podcast that they were recording. And so we had a chat and we got on like a house on fire. You know sometimes you just kind of click with people?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: And we seem to think about the world in a very similar way. So I kind of went away and learnt a bit more about the guy really and paid a bit more attention. And I have – I’ve got a little bit of a man crush, I think, on Carl Smith, right? And I’ll tell you why I’ve got a little bit of a man crush on Carl Smith, is because he’s made himself redundant from his own company, right? And he’s – what he’s done, clever bastard, is he didn’t want to – he was getting to the point where he was fed up running his nGen, his agency, very much like Headscape, right? And he kind of lost his passion and enthusiasm for it but he didn’t want to kind of close it down and put everybody out of their jobs. So what he did is over a prolonged period of time he made himself irrelevant. And he had a very specific plan of how he did that and he has done exactly that. So now the company operates entirely without him. I mean he still kind of does a bit of figure-heady stuff, but basically he’s removed from the day-to-day operations of it. And I’ve just become fascinated by his kind of whole attitude. They’re very much – he’s very much got that same lifestyle attitude that we have at Headscape. He talks about not being busy a lot and productivity and all of those kinds of lifestyle stuff. And he’s been a real inspiration to me because he’s the first kind of guy that I have encountered in the web industry that has got that same slack attitude that I’ve got. In the sense that we work in an industry that’s very much, “yes, I did a 56,000 hour week and I live off of Red Bull and pizza” and all of that and it’s like a badge of honour that you work really long hours and all this kind of stuff. And he takes the complete opposite point of view. So he has been a real inspiration to me. And yeah, he’s definitely worth following just to kind of get that balanced perspective about the industry we work in and how you can be really successful without kind of kissing goodbye to your life and your family and all the rest of it. So, yeah, he’s a really interesting guy, you would like him lots, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag: So you need to check him out. So that’s Carl Smith.

Gerry Mcgovern

Gerry McGovern

The next guy, you know, don’t you, Marcus? Gerry McGovern?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, but I’ve never met him.

Paul Boag: Well neither have I.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh right.

Paul Boag: Which is bizarre. It’s so funny. We’ve never actually met in the flesh, we’ve spoken over the phone and we’ve worked with similar – well, the same client in a number of occasions and he channels my brain, right, and he tells me what I am thinking before I think it which is very useful because he saves me the effort of thinking. So what do I mean by that? Well, his blog posts – he blogs regularly and he is a kind of digital strategist, usability, kind of governancey kind of guy…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: Very similar to the kind of stuff that I do these days. But he’s got that same really blunt style about him of not pulling any punches and just saying it how he sees it and he’s got this tendency of writing posts that I go – I read the posts and go “yes, yes, that’s exactly it, that’s what I have been thinking”. And he’s got a way of putting it down that’s absolutely brilliant. He’s also quite a funny guy and some of his posts are blunt to the point of being quite hilarious. I don’t always agree with him but in terms of his kind of focus on usability and user experience and that kind of stuff. He is absolutely a really, really influential figure in my life. He also introduced that idea of top tasks, if you ever come across the idea of top tasks.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: That’s something that I think came from Gerry at the beginning with but certainly it has been popularised by him and that’s the idea that essentially you identify a big old list of all of the different tasks that users might want to complete on a site and then you let users rate those tasks into how important they are and then essentially you structure your website around that prioritized list of tasks which is an incredibly simple idea but is massively effective and he seems to get it to work very well. So again, a very astute guy, much more interesting to talk – to listen to from a kind of business perspective. If you run any kind of large organization then I think Gerry has got a lot that he can teach you about how you manage and work with digital. So definitely check out Gerry. Got a lot of time for him.

Anna Debenham

Anna Debenham

So next one must be our favourite on the list, would you say, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s Anna, isn’t it?

Paul Boag: It’s Anna. Anna Debenham.

Marcus Lillington:
Anna baked us a cake and made us homemade, handmade T-shirts the first time we met her.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…which would be a worry with some people but it wasn’t with her.

Paul Boag: No, yes. In other situations, that would seem really stalky and disturbing. But when Anna does it, it’s somehow fine. Anna is a massive inspiration to me and always has been. It’s really hard to describe why. So we first met Anna when we were doing, what was it, the hundredth Boagworld episode which was a live event.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah, in a pub in London.

Paul Boag: In a pub in London which was a great evening, really good fun. And Anna turned up, okay, and Anna was 16 at the time, I think.

Marcus Lillington:
I have no idea.

Paul Boag: Something like that. So she was a very quiet, introvert little 16-year-old. I know that sounds really patronizing but that pretty much described her.

Marcus Lillington:
A little girl.

Paul Boag: Yeah, pretty much. And instantly, that had a huge impact on me because she just, you know pitched up at this event which was a very kind of male, geeky event by herself and just kind of got stuck into the community which was a massively brave thing to do. Anna has also shared some very personal stuff about other things that were going on in her life at that time as well and it was an incredibly tough time for her. And for her to do that was in itself an inspiration, of that not being afraid to engage with the community and I think a lot of people are very afraid to kind of step out of their comfort zones and put themselves out there. So she did that but really it’s from then on that she has been this incredible inspiration. So she basically decided not to go to university which was a big step and instead just kind of threw herself into the web community. And she, for me, is the epitome of two things. She is the epitome of how being a nice person will take you a very long way. And secondly that enthusiasm really pays off. I think that’s a fair way to describe Anna.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. I mean you probably have to say that she is also very skilled at what she does.

Paul Boag: Oh, yeah, yes. Sorry. Yeah, oh dear.

Marcus Lillington:
Really friendly, not very good at what she does but friendliness got her through.

Paul Boag: But then that’s the incredible thing about Anna. She was – my point was that she was at huge disadvantage. Yes, she is incredibly good. She is a front-end developer and very, very good at what she does. But she was 16 years old.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: And with no qualifications and nothing like that and yet she – I have watched her build her career. She helped out in the podcast for a long time and was really supportive in that. She wasn’t afraid to make friends with some – and approach people that would scare a lot of people.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, she worked at Clearleft, didn’t she?

Paul Boag: She – yeah, she got an internship at Clearleft. She just – she is just an incredible young lady and has gone on – she writes A List Apart articles now. She speaks publicly. She does all of these incredible things and she has worked really hard to build her career from nothing and watching someone do that is just – was just a pleasure and an inspiration. So Anna is like – yeah, is just incredible in every conceivable way. Bless her. That’s really patronizing, mind, we shouldn’t be going “oh bless her” now because really she is…

Marcus Lillington:
And calling her a young lady.

Paul Boag: Yeah. She is now at the point where she should be going to me, “ah bless him. Look at the old man.”

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I was kind of doing that to you. The “ah”. Because you’re being all soppy.

Paul Boag: That’s where you’re directing the “ah”.

Marcus Lillington:
Paul is a soppy old man.

Paul Boag: Okay, next up.

Matt Curry

Matt Curry

Next up is a guy called Matt Curry who is a client of ours.

Marcus Lillington:
And who has been on the show.

Paul Boag: And has been on the show. Yeah, a couple of times.

Marcus Lillington:
Once or twice.

Paul Boag: Yeah. A couple of times.

Marcus Lillington:
He is the person that I don’t think people would know.

Paul Boag: Yes. So tell people a bit about Matt. How would you sum up Matt?

Marcus Lillington:
Matt is probably what, he is probably the most enthusiastic person about his job which is not that exciting a job, it’s basically – it’s trying to sell more stuff.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
He is the most enthusiastic person I have ever known about delving into the figures to make things better. Does that make sense?

Paul Boag: Yes. Absolutely. And that’s why he is on my list.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: For precisely that reason. Because bearing in mind this list is people that were an inspiration to me and Matt was an inspiration because he taught me the value of testing and he taught me the value of being obsessed by the numbers and using those to guide the direction you go. And there is a lot of debate at the moment within the web community about the balance between a designer’s creativity and data and numbers and that kind of stuff. And Matt always hit that balance very well, I think. He wasn’t of the Google mentality of let’s test 15 different shades of blue to see which one performs better but he was very much – he would let me go away and create a hypothesis, put together a design and then we would put it out there and test it and try different variations of that. And he does that to this day and is incredibly successful doing that. So I learnt a lot. Also the other thing that really inspired me with Matt is Matt was the first client that I felt I had a peer-to-peer relationship with, if that makes sense.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: So he became a…

Marcus Lillington:
Very rare.

Paul Boag: Yeah. And he became the model for me as to what a good client supply relationship should be that it shouldn’t be him dictating to me exactly what needs doing neither should it be me going “I’m the designer listen to me”, it’s a partnership of working together. And I always felt like I got that with Matt and I haven’t worked with Matt for quite a while now and I miss it very much so…

Marcus Lillington:
You’re not good enough at selling sex toys, that’s what it is.

Paul Boag: No, no. I think, yeah, that’s the great thing about Matt is he went from selling ready-meals to old people to selling sex toys which I just think is the best career move I’ve ever heard. And of course, now, he is a TV star as well because…

Marcus Lillington:
Is he?

Paul Boag: Yeah, did you not know that?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag: I can’t remember whether it was Channel 4 or Channel 5, did an entire series on Lovehoney which is the company he works for, link in the show notes but not safe for work. And they did a whole series on – yeah, and so he features in that, not as much as the call centre people, the people that have to deal with people ringing up and saying…

Marcus Lillington:
It’s stuck.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Well! I guess you get a lot of that working in customer service…

Paul Boag: I wouldn’t know – I can’t even begin to imagine. So yeah, he – remarkable guy, worth following because he is very funny again, it’s this reoccurring thing in my list, isn’t it, funny people? But also certainly the some of the – to hear him speak at a conference or to read some of the stuff that he writes on analytics and ecommerce and that kind of stuff, you will learn a lot. And he will certainly change your view of things. So check out Matt Curry.

Jared Spool

Jared Spool

Okay, next up is the amazing Jared Spool.

Marcus Lillington:
Spools.

Paul Boag: Spool. I just decided to pronounce his name like that.

Marcus Lillington:
He is the magic tricks guy.

Paul Boag: That’s it for him. That’s all you remember is that when he gives…

Marcus Lillington:
Doesn’t do anything else as far as I remember.

Paul Boag: Yeah. When he gives presentations, he just does magic tricks.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: He is a brilliant presenter actually. Not even just his magic tricks, just his whole presentation style. I love him.

Yes. But the reason I have him on my list is not so much for his magic tricks although they do go a long way and I do very much appreciate them. He is a usability guy really. But he has also got that real kind of hard business edge to him, if that makes sense. He is very practical about the business side of things. And there are lots of times where I have kind of read stuff of his and just been blown away at the real pragmatism. He cuts through all that kind of pretentious designer development lovey kind of stuff that floats around our community and kind of gets to the heart of the commercial matter which I have got huge respect for. But he is also incredibly insightful about things. I remember we had a little bit of a disagreement when – that sounds really strong but I asked him to review my book, Digital Adaptation before it got published.

Marcus Lillington:
This is shit.

Paul Boag: No, he is far too nice to say that. But he…

Marcus Lillington:
But that’s what he was thinking.

Paul Boag: Yeah, well, I think he may well have been, yeah. But he was kind of arguing with the basic premise of the book which was a focus on digital, the idea of digital goes back to what we were talking about right at the beginning of the show really.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: And his argument was, well, actually, this whole digital transformation stuff is actually crap. It’s – all it’s really about is good customer service. That’s what it comes down to. It’s about structuring and organizing your business around customer service and the fact that the customer has changed in their behaviour and that organisations need to adapt to that. And at the time, I foo-hooed him a little bit over that. I could see where he was coming from but I kind of wasn’t convinced, let’s put it like that. But over the – kind of months that have gone by since the book’s come out, I can kind of more and more appreciate where he was coming from over it. And that actually as I talk about digital transformation now, as I said right at the beginning of the show actually, I am increasingly coming to talk about organisations adapting to meet the needs of the digital consumer, the fact that consumers and customers or whatever you want to call them, their behaviour has changed because of digital and we need to adapt accordingly.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: And he is right that we should’ve been doing that all along. Do you know what I mean? You don’t need a digital transformation project to justify focusing on good customer service, it should be the heart of every business all of the time.

Marcus Lillington:
But it isn’t and that’s why we are doing a lot of this work.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Or it’s just a fact that it’s the expectation of customer service has changed.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s the issue.

Paul Boag: Absolutely. And it was again he – it was his ability and he constantly does this, the ability to get to the nub of the issue. Not necessarily how you present that to clients or whatever but to be clear about what the real problem is. Because the real problem is that organisations are not servicing their consumers in the way that they should be. Now, whether you dress that up as a digital transformation project or what you call it is somewhat irrelevant as long as you keep the core issue in your mind and that’s what Jared is so good at. He writes loads and loads and loads. If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, do that. I mean, obviously the show notes are going to have a link to – through to all of these people and Jared is really worth reading. He is – again, he is up there with Jeremy Keith from my point of view in terms of people that I pay attention to when they say something because he is so incredibly insightful and also I love him to bits. He’s a great guy as well, so that’s good. Okay. Next up.

Mike Kus

Mike Kus

Next one is Mike Kus…

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: …who I really like. I’ve got a lot of time for Mike Kus. Mike Kus is an interesting one, right? If I am honest and I’m sure Mike could agree with me, Mike Kus hasn’t changed the web community in a fundamental way. He hasn’t invented anything. He didn’t create a term like responsive design or set off a movement or anything like that. What I like about Mike Kus, just to explain who he is in case you don’t know, he is a British web designer, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. He does more than just web design, he does print design as well doesn’t he?

Paul Boag: Yes. He’s a through and through proper, good graphic designer that does a lot of web stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
We met him when he worked at Carsonified.

Paul Boag: We did.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: That’s correct. And he has a very distinctive style and what I like about Mike is that he doesn’t follow any of the rules. And that’s why he is an inspiration to me. Like there are certain kind of best practice in web design, right? Things like you work with a grid system and you do modular design and all of these kinds of rules about what makes good graphic design. Mike just ignores all of those, right? Some – I’ve heard him speak…

Marcus Lillington:
He’d really appreciate that, I am sure.

Paul Boag: I know, I know. Well it’s true, he does. He says he does. And you watch him – I’ve seen him speak a couple of times and the best bit out of his talks are always the same which is that he records a video of him doing a piece of design and then speeds it up massively, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: And without fail, it’s just essentially pushing stuff around the screen until it looks right, right? And that’s not how you are supposed to do design. Do you know what I mean? It doesn’t – where’s his grid structure, where’s his typographic scale and his vertical rhythm and all of this kind of stuff that we talk about? And it is all there. It does actually appear but it doesn’t appear in the right way. He’ll start with some random bit of the design and just kind of use that as a starting point and grow out of that so it might be a typeface or it might be an illustration, everything kind of grows organically out of that. And the result of this is that he creates a design that looks like no other, right? There is nobody that can create a Mike Kus design. And you know…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: …you don’t – so many websites end up looking the same, don’t they?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: They have got – there are these very obvious trends that come along and websites have got certain structure and rhythm and layout. When Mike Kus designs a site, you know it’s Mike and you know it couldn’t be anybody else and you won’t see anything like it. And that is an inspiration to me. Somebody who isn’t constrained by perceived best practice and he’s willing to stand up and say, yeah, I appreciate all of these things, that’s fine, that’s great but that’s not how I do it. And that’s quite brave, I think, to do that and that’s why he is an inspiration to me. So check out his website, check out his work and you will see exactly what I mean and he is an amazing designer as well and I want to be him. He is also incredibly cool which is not me. And he also made a hugely successful career out of photography on Instagram as well and gets to travel around the world taking photographs for big brands to go on Instagram and I hate him for that because he gets a really cool life. So, yes, that’s Mike Kus, check him out, really inspirational guy.

Jeffrey Zeldman, Eric Meyer and Molly Holzschlag

Jeffrey Zeldman

So now we now get into the territory of me cheating.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, this is proper cheating.

Paul Boag: I have got three people.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag: So it started off with Jeffrey Zeldman, alright?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: Because how can – I could not create an inspiration list without including Jeffrey Zeldman. And it’s worth telling the story of what happened, right? It was when we were working with the National Trust, wasn’t it Marcus, do you remember that?

Marcus Lillington:
I remember working with the National Trust

Paul Boag: So you probably don’t remember this specific incident actually. We were working with National Trust and they came to us and they said, “we need to – we – our website has to be accessible”, right? And this was a long, long time ago. “Our website has to be…”

Marcus Lillington:
We started working with them pre-Headscape.

Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly. “Our website has to be accessible,” and of course, we went, “oh, yes, yes, totally agree. We can make that happen.” And then I went away going, “shit, what does that mean? How do I make it accessible?” Because this was before I really knew anything about that kind of stuff. So it’s one of those classic examples of agreeing to a client’s request without actually knowing how to implement it.

Marcus Lillington:
Which obviously never ever happens, now.

Paul Boag: No, never because I am all-knowing now, that’s the difference. And anyway, so I went out and bought a book on accessibility or at least I thought I did. What I did it by accident because I am stupid is I bought Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman. I sat and read that book and if you haven’t read it then, to be honest, it’s probably not worth getting at this point because it becomes so ingrained. But this was back in the days when we were all building with tables and that kind of stuff. And I sat down and read this book that talked about why we need to be building websites with CSS and I went shit. I have got to relearn everything I know about web design. And so we did as Headscape. We completely moved across to CSS based design all because of Jeffrey Zeldman’s book Designing with Web Standards. And just to add to that then, of course, we – he came and spoke at the @Media Conference that Marcus mentioned earlier in the year and we would not have gone to that conference if he hadn’t been speaking at it. And that suddenly opened up – us to a whole world of the web community because we were completely oblivious there was such a thing. And so that’s how we started getting involved with the web community and the rest is history.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: So I was going to put just Jeffrey down on the list but as I thought about it, it actually isn’t just Jeffrey. It’s those early pioneers of the web standards movement, the people that have really shaped how we build websites today, people that campaigned and cajoled and forced browser manufacturers to standardize the way that they were working, the people that campaigned tirelessly to get stupid people like me to work with CSS rather than slicing and dicing in tables. And so that includes people like Jeffrey Zeldman, Eric Meyer, and Molly Holzschlag, all of which, I think, were kind of founding figures in that web standards movement. And every single one of those, I cannot express my gratitude to them. My career would not exist without those people. So I don’t care if I am cheating, all three are going on the list.

Okay. Nearly at the end.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. What is this, number nine?

Sarah Parmenter

Sarah Parmenter

Paul Boag: Number nine, that’s right and it’s Sarah Parmenter.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. I am interested to know why she is on the list.

Paul Boag: Why? You’re saying she is not good enough?

Marcus Lillington:
No, I am saying there are different reasons why you might be inspired by her. I think that her business mind for me is the reason why she is an inspiration.

Paul Boag: Go on. Go on expand on that.

Marcus Lillington:
It was the fact that she kind of decided, on a whim is too strong and I don’t mean it in a kind of flippant way but she just decided that she needed to do something different. So she set up a kind of hair salon but without the cutting bit.

Paul Boag: It’s a blow-dry bar.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, that’s it.

Paul Boag: Apparently.

Marcus Lillington:
And the way she did it and the way she – and the way it’s obviously become a success and she is sort of hoping that it will be bought out and franchised and that kind of thing. And I am sure it will be if it hasn’t already, was an inspiration.

Paul Boag: And it was all her use of technology and all that she had learned in her career as a web designer that she could apply to this business.

Marcus Lillington:
The usability stuff, yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Usability, customer care, using technology for business management, using social media for promotion, all of that kind of stuff. Absolutely, that was the primary reason I had her on the list. She just sounds crazy, doesn’t she?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: I am a web designer. Oh, I’m going to open a blow dry bar. I mean when she told me that, it was like, you nutter. What the hell are you doing?

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I just got a bit tired and went for a lie down.

Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah, and she was going “I’m getting a bit stale just doing web design. I need a new side project”. Like life isn’t stressful enough, go and take up golf or something, don’t start another business but, wow has she made that work and it’s just absolutely a massive, massive inspiration that one. There is another reason as well that I put her on the list which is the amount of crap she has had to put up with as a young, attractive woman in the web design community, she has got nothing but abuse and yeah, hate and anger and vile, vile stuff where people have said, “oh, the only reason you are successful is because you are young and attractive” and all that kind of crap and really personal attacks and the fact that she has kept going through that and she hasn’t run away from the limelight which is very, very easy to do and I’ve seen a lot of other people do that. But that she has persevered and kept going. She is an incredibly tenacious woman both in her web design career and in her side projects and all of this. And she gets something in her head and she won’t let go of it and that’s something to be admired. And I get crap sometimes online from people over different things and I always – wherever that happens to me, I always think of Sarah and I always think, well if she can put up with stuff that is a million times worse than anything I have ever had to endure then so can I. So she is a massive inspiration.

So talking of people that have done dumbass things that I thought would never work, that brings me on to number 10.

Drew McLellan and Rachel Andrew

Drew McLellan and Rachel Andrew

Okay. So my final selection again is a cheat because it’s two people. But at least these two people are married to one another which apparently makes it okay.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: I don’t know why, but I am going to go for it. So it’s Drew McLellan and Rachel Andrew who – so they are web developers, okay? And they run – used to run, well, I think they kind of still do, I don’t quite know how it works, but they run a web development company called Edgeofmyseat, so link in the show notes to that. And for years they just produced client work like the rest of us. And they hit that stage that I think we’ve all been through of “clients are a pain in the ass, don’t want to do client work”. And I was a bit kind of rolled my eyes, well, suck it up, and then they go, no, no, we’re going to create an app. That kind of made me sigh, inwardly. Yeah, yeah, going to create an app and that’s going to create a sustainable revenue and then everything is going to be great and wonderful, yeah, yeah, right? I am a cynic, can you tell?

Marcus Lillington:
They don’t appear to do any client work anymore.

Paul Boag: No, they don’t. No, I am pretty sure they don’t.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m just having a look.

Paul Boag: Yes. And so you can already tell that I was massively wrong by the fact that they no longer do client work. But then they kind of made it even worse. So I was quite cynical to begin with. I mean obviously I didn’t say any of this.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh no I stand corrected. At the current time we take on only a very small amount of work for clients.

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
So they do little bits.

Paul Boag: So I was – I didn’t say any of this to them because of course you don’t, do you? You don’t squash people’s dreams but inside, I was quite cynical about it. Then they put the killer blow on me. They said, yeah we’re going to design a content – build a content management system. Like really? You’re going to build a content – the world needs another content management system… not.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: Of all the things, the most saturated market you could possibly imagine and you’ve decided to build a content management system. And so they went away and they built something called Perch and it’s been a massive success. But it shouldn’t be. It annoys me to this day, no it doesn’t, I’m massively pleased for them obviously, but it’s like – it’s dirt cheap this content management system, I can’t remember off the top of my head. I think I want to say it’s like £35 or something like that. Do a – go to grabaperch.com, will you, Marcus, and have a look and see how much it is while I’m explaining it. So it’s a really cheap content management system. It is a very easy content management system. It doesn’t do – it is a good content management. It’s aimed at small websites and they offer exceptional customer service. So it’s a one-off cost of £35 or whatever it is and then they offer, they’re forever on top of customer service…

Marcus Lillington:
£50.

Paul Boag: £50 is it? It’s probably – I expect that was the introductory price I’m remembering.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: But even at £50, and they’re forever on customer support and doing all of this kind of stuff and they’re so, so good at doing all of that and you think how are they making money? But they are, because it gets such good word of mouth recommendation and because it’s such a good product that’s so well supported and so easy to use and for me, what they’ve done, they have done two things to me. They have knocked my cynicism. They have made me believe that more is possible than I think is possible. But the other thing they have really done for me is they have driven home quite how important customer service is and how far good customer service can take you. Because they didn’t have mass – they did do a bit of marketing and advertising and they still do a little bit of – but compared to so many of the CMSs out there, they didn’t have a big budget. They have been successful because of the outstanding customer service and the word of mouth recommendation. So I stand in awe of those two and what they have managed to achieve and good on them absolutely I think is actually incredible.

So there is my list, basically, a group of amazing people for lots of different reasons that have kind of shaped my attitude towards digital and how I kind of approach it. So check them all out seriously. These people are all really worth following. Rachel – just going to back to Rachel just for a second, Rachel Andrew, Rachel writes so much about – another thing that I love about her, is that she writes so much about this kind of venture capital kind of model where I am going to build an app and we’re going to get funding and all of this kind of stuff and she’s very cynical about that. She writes about being profitable and proud and that kind of thing which again really resonates with me, that whole – you don’t need to build a product that you then sell to Google or Facebook, you can do something that stands in its right. So yeah, brilliant group of people, all worth reading, all worth following, check them out.

Marcus, do you have a joke for us?

Marcus Lillington:
I have to start off with an apology…

Paul Boag: Oh right.

Marcus Lillington:
…remember a couple of weeks ago when I said I hadn’t got any jokes…

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, a chap called Andrew Woods had sent me some jokes. And he’s then sent me them again to remind me. And I have to say that I – when I first looked through the list of jokes, I thought I’d said them all…

Paul Boag: Right.

Marcus Lillington:
…which is why I didn’t use them but there is one in here that I don’t think I have…

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
…it’s the walk into – walks into a bar jokes, okay?

Paul Boag: Right.

Marcus Lillington:
Which I quite like the first one, which I am sure I haven’t done which is a man walks into a bar… ouch.

Paul Boag: You haven’t done that. But that’s such a…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag: …terrible joke that…

Marcus Lillington:
But this was the one that I wanted to say which was a screwdriver walks into bar. The bartender says, hey, we have a drink named after you! The screwdriver responds, you have a drink named Clara?

Paul Boag: That’s terrible.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, there you go. But I had Andrew with his – well, his – his telling off really. I thought that I ought to say – I ought to repeat one of the jokes that…

Paul Boag: Absolutely. And I think, although the joke is terrible, I feel that that’s not Andrew’s fault. I feel that he is merely giving you the kind of joke that he thinks is on your kind of level.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, this one – I have got another one. Why not? I’ve obviously now, because I asked for jokes, I’ve got millions of them but this was Leigh the other day possibly on Twitter but what do you call a sad coffee?

Paul Boag: What?

Marcus Lillington:
A depresso.

Paul Boag: I quite like that one.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s good, isn’t it?

Paul Boag: Yeah, that is a good one from Leigh.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ll move on to the laughing motorcycles next week.

Paul Boag: Oh, laughing motorcycles, interesting. Alright, so that wraps up Episode 7 of Season 10, The 10 Web Professionals worth Your Admiration. We will be back again next week when we’ll be talking about something else, no idea what. If you’ve got ideas and stuff that you think we ought to cover, please, please, email me at [email protected], I would love to hear your suggestions, otherwise, you’ll probably just get more people that I’m sucking up to. I don’t know, like I’ll come up with somebody.

Alright, thank you very much for listening and we’ll talk again next week.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

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