Design differently: Boagworld Podcast

Web & Digital Advice

Digital and web advice from Headscape and the addled brain of Paul Boag... tell me more

Paul Boag Posted by: Paul Boag On Thursday, 14th February, 2013

Design differently

This week on Boagworld its all about design. Design at Google, moving beyond user centric design and designing with audio.

Season 5:
The estimated time to read this article is 48 minutes
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Paul Boag:
Hello and welcome to our wonderful show for the week. Hello, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
Hello, Paul. How are you?

Paul Boag:
I am very well. This is exciting. We are trying out broadcasting live.

Marcus Lillington:
I know. This time I’m really nervous.

Paul Boag:
But what’s really quite funny is that we just released one episode. This is the 7th of February recording this. We just released one episode today and now we’re already confusing people by now recording next week’s episode, which will be the 7 days after the 7th – 14th. See advanced maths, that’s impressive.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s Valentine’s Day isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Ooo, happy Valentine’s Day, Marcus. I’m sorry I haven’t gotten you anything.

Marcus Lillington:
You don’t say happy Valentine’s day to me that’s horrid.

Paul Boag:
Why?

Marcus Lillington:
Because it’s like…

Paul Boag:
That I love you? But I do Marcus. You’re very important to me.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh I feel very – eurgh.

Paul Boag:
That’s very – that sounds very homophobic of you if I may say so? Or is it just me? Very Boag-phobic probably is…

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, look. Michael Schofield says “Hurray my face”.

Paul Boag:
I think that’s because he managed to get his little icon to work.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. Look, there I am. Woo.

Paul Boag:
We’re now going to be totally distracted. What we’re thinking is, it would be quite cool to have this going out live so that people can pop in and they can make suggestions and make comments from the articles we are talking about. We figured it might be a bit more interactive but this is only a trial. If this doesn’t work today, if it goes horribly wrong, if we learn to hate it with a deep loathing, then we won’t be doing it again. But maybe we will, maybe we won’t, who knows. But what you will need to do is, if we are all going to do it again you need to be following us on Twitter if you wish to join because that’s where I will be announcing it. So follow me at @boagworld.

Marcus Lillington:
Or me.

Paul Boag:
No, no. There’s no point of following you @marcus67 because you wouldn’t announce this. Would you?

Marcus Lillington:
No, I wouldn’t. I’m just saying it for the hell of it.

Paul Boag:
You just want people to follow you.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. I need to make it over 2,000 followers.

Paul Boag:
What you do need, is people need to be sending Marcus suggestions about what to include for his segment for his show because he’s useless at picking things.

Marcus Lillington:
I think that’s unfair.

Paul Boag:
Excuse me, who picked this week’s for you?

Marcus Lillington:
I did.

Paul Boag:
No you didn’t. You fat liar. You are such a liar.

Marcus Lillington:
I did. No I didn’t, but I did. It was to do with the fact that somebody came up with an idea about audio on Twitter. Then I said “Oh, I wrote about that once.” Then you said, “Oh I looked at this particular article.” So it was everyone, man.

Paul Boag:
It was a group effort is what you are trying to persuade me to believe and I’m not convinced.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Actually I was going to look that up wasn’t I? I must do that.

Paul Boag:
I’m so busy at the moment.

Marcus Lillington:
So am I. I’m busier than you are.

Paul Boag:
It’s awesome. Isn’t it? I’m really quite excited about it and it’s really cool stuff we are doing. So we are doing, I love this project, I won’t mention client names. I’m doing this great project at the moment where I don’t have to produce anything. It’s awesome. I just have to like express opinions. I’m basically a sounding board that somebody wants to talk about their web strategy and their web governance issues that they are having and that kind of stuff. And I’ve just got to listen and make suggestions and not produce anything which is perfect for me. Isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
It’s my perfect project.

Marcus Lillington:
I can see that.

Paul Boag:
So doing that…

Marcus Lillington:
But you were moaning about it a little bit as well.

Paul Boag:
Well yeah, because I had to read. I don’t like reading or making effort. And then what else are we doing which is really cool, we’ve got – oh I’ve got a really good project I’m really excited about but we are not allowed to talk… Why I’m I having this conversation?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know.

Paul Boag:
Because I can’t talk about any of these? But it’s really busy at the moment, cool and exciting. Lots of consultancy work and advising people about strategies and sounding important.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes exactly. It’s a lot of consultancy…

Paul Boag:
It is.

Marcus Lillington:
I mean, the usual kind of number of design and tech projects thrown in but it seems that we are doing a lot more consulting and strategy.

Paul Boag:
And we are doing cool native – hybrid apps, mobile apps which is fun…

Marcus Lillington:
That’s a native one.

Paul Boag:
Oh yes, it’s got native, native.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s gone native.

Paul Boag:
It’s gone native.

Marcus Lillington:
So anyways, no one cares because we can’t say what it is.

Paul Boag:
I know but it’s so exciting and then Ed is doing this – have you seen his wire frame that he’s doing?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
It’s awesome. I’ll post a video on it today. Just showing it off. It’s really clever. It’s wire framing but responsive wire framing. So actually you can see the different sizes and stuff. And it’s really client friendly and it looks gorgeous.

Marcus Lillington:
Axure does that.

Paul Boag:
What, responsive wire framing?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
This does it better. Much better.

Marcus Lillington:
Whatever it is

Paul Boag:
Whatever it is Ed’s done it better.

Marcus Lillington:
All I can – referring to Ed, all I can smell is his pipe. Now…

Paul Boag:
Ed has turned 50. At the age of, what is it?

Marcus Lillington:
31.

Paul Boag:
31. He’s turned 50 and he’s started making the pipe

Marcus Lillington:
It really suits him.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. It just looks right. Doesn’t it? So there you go, so really excited about at the moment. Isn’t it funny, I was commenting on this on Twitter. I am completely reversed right, so things are slow and there’s not much happening, I get really down, a bit depressed, I don’t know what to do with myself. If it gets manically busy, and I have got more work than I can possibly handle, I get all over excited and enjoy myself. So I’m some kind of masochistic kind of psychopath or something. It’s weird I don’t really quite understand why I’m like that. But I do like it busy.

Marcus Lillington:
I think most people do. I mean, there’s busy and there’s busy.

Paul Boag:
I like it insanity I think. I like it where there is no way I can possibly get everything done.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
I know I’m strange. What can I say?

Marcus Lillington:
That’s okay, that’s fine. I’ve got plenty of other things I can give you.

Paul Boag:
No, I don’t like it that much. I don’t like it when you give me things because that means you’ve got less to do.

Marcus Lillington:
It is recording. Yes.

Paul Boag:
Are you panicking?

Marcus Lillington:
No, no, no. I was just making sure that I actually got you saying what you…

Paul Boag:
Oh, I see. I’ll deny it.

Marcus Lillington:
So I can play it back to you.

Paul Boag:
It was an impersonator or something. Well, not as bad as you. I love the way you kind of – I do recognize I’m not the easiest people to work with always. And it’s the way that you – with that Skype conversation we had yesterday where what you wanted to do is ask me to go to a pitch meeting with you. But you were so afraid of asking me outright that you are pussy-footed around it didn’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
Afraid isn’t the right word, Paul. But I wanted to make it so you couldn’t say no.

Paul Boag:
But unfortunately you caught me in the mood where I would have said yes straight away anyway. Yes. I know I’m temperamental. I have weaknesses I know this. Shall we talk about web design?

Marcus Lillington:
Could do.

Paul Boag:
This is going to be a really cool show. And you’re going to enjoy it because it’s all design. It’s wall to wall design which should be entertaining, so let’s hear it. Let’s start off by talking about design.

Google’s approach to design

The verge talks to Google about its design process.

Paul Boag:
So, first up is Google right?

Marcus Lillington:
Right.

Paul Boag:
I was a bit disappointed because I mentioned this post over lunch today and I was like, we are going to be covering on the podcast about how Google has gone about redesigning all of their apps and how they look so great now and how everything is so much better and how have they’ve done that. I was a bit disappointed, the overall responses was meh. There wasn’t a feeling that Google had really turned things around. Well, I think they have. I think they’ve done an amazing job with design recently.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
Yeah. That was the reaction I got over lunch. Why do you –? I really like their new interface, I love the Gmail client for iOS, I love their Google Maps on iOS, it’s mainly the iOS apps I like. But I really like the design of Google+ and the Google+ app. I think they are doing some really good stuff and suddenly they’ve got this really kind of consistent look and feel going across everything.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s alright.

Paul Boag:
You are purposely just winding me up now. I’m sure the chat room will support me in my claim that the Google are doing great stuff. I think they are doing really interesting stuff. And what I think is so interesting, what there’s this article basically on The Verge and obviously there will be a link in the show notes, which is talking about redesigning Google and about how Larry Page, when he took control back of Google and he became CEO again, has basically stipulated, we are redesigning all of our products in a ground up visual appearance-wise. And he’s created this amazing revolution, I think within Google to improve their apps and stuff. What’s really nice about this particular article although you can read it all, it’s actually got a video, big video about where they’ve gone in and they’ve interviewed all the various people, and it’s quite interesting because they were going in expecting to have this moment of kind of – they’ll go into the organization, they’ll be introduced to somebody who owns the Google don’t design brand and will be the God behind this huge innovation, the kind of Jony Ive of Google, but there’s no such person. It’s this very distributed, very Google kind of approach to design, and to be quite frank, I wouldn’t think would work it’s very decentralized and you never think of design. You always think you need a designer and there is this one person that kind of owns the look and feel but that’s not at all how they’ve worked.

Instead, what they seem to have done is taken designers from all across the organization, put them in a room together, locked the door and they’ve iterated and iterated and iterated producing thousands and thousands of different design concepts to kind of establish a new direction for the website and establish where they are going. And it’s really interesting how they’ve kind of gone in a complete opposite direction that Apple have in terms of their design – design approach. Yet it seems to have worked really well. In fact, I will go as far as saying at the moment Google are doing more and impressive stuff on iOS app design that Apple are. Which would seem to be floundering a little bit from the design point of view. The other incredible thing about the approach that Google have taken, is it happens so fast right, Larry Page came along and they were starting – and said we are now going to redesign our products from the ground up. They like have done it in 3 months.

I get the impression that had they hadn’t done any user testing, they hadn’t done any of the kind of normal stuff. They just basically relied on the expertise of their designers and had them sat down in a room, and gone, go for it. And these guys have churned out amazing stuff. So it’s quite an interesting read this one. And I think what I took away from it was that what decentralized design is possible. You can have multiple designers working together to produce something quite impressive which I think is a little bit counterintuitive to what we normally say about designers.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. I think that kind of works or has worked in this case A) because they had a position of pretty much anything we do will look great compared to what we’ve got…

Paul Boag:
Yeah that…

Marcus Lillington:
…which is always a great place to be to start a project.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
And secondly, it seems that they’ve been trusted to just get on and do it.

Paul Boag:
Yeah that was the other thing that I’ve really, that’s really come out of this. Is that how strong leadership makes such an important difference. We’ve found that haven’t we though? The projects that work best is where the CEO has come in and said, “This is going to happen, listen to these guys, let them get on with it and do it.” And that always produces the best results. So I mean, the fact that Larry Page has come in and done that, I think goes a long way, absolutely.

And also this idea of kind of fast and intuitive and lots of iterations and endless debate seems to have really worked for them. And it’s something that I find quite interesting as well. So it’s a really interesting approach, really good article, highly recommend you check it out. I think that’s probably all I got to say on that. Except try doing things differently.

I think that’s if there’s one underlying message out of today’s show it’s you don’t have to always go with perceived wisdom; you can try things differently and it doesn’t always need as we will come on to next, actually, to be user-centric design and I’ll go through this long process with lots of research. Fast, intuitive design done by an experienced team with good backing can achieve just as much good stuff really.

So there you go, let’s move on I think.

Looking beyond user centric design

Cennydd Bowles article on A List Apart

Cennydd Bowles suggests that maybe we have taken our love of user centric design too far.

Paul Boag:
Alright, so I said that we were going to look more this idea of breaking normal conventions in design and this next article does exactly that. Written by Cennydd Bowles who we know reasonably well. That’s Anna’s other half I believe. I presume they’re still together, I might have just massively put my foot in it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, maybe. Well obviously he used to work for Clearleft.

Paul Boag:
Yes used to work for Clearleft now works for Twitter. Works on Tweet Deck. And this is posted on the new List Apart site that…

Marcus Lillington:
Which maybe – because I really like the new List Apart site. I like this kind of really…

Paul Boag:
Stark.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah but everything’s just perfectly kind of lined up, lovely but they’ve cut off the top of the word. That actually makes Leigh angry…

Paul Boag:
Yeah, it’s really funny. We have a little chat room, HipChat we use, because it’s a really good chat facility and he really was ranting wasn’t he? Which was quite interesting. I think what annoys me more, I’m okay with that A List Apart being cut off . But I have bigger problem with the bottom of the page where it has for people who make websites and it’s just the bottom cut off. And it cuts it off at an awkward point for me

So there you go.

Marcus Lillington:
Surely that’s the same amount of cutoff that’s on the top bit.

Paul Boag:
No, it’s not.

Marcus Lillington:
bet it is.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
Don’t say that because I’ve got to get rid of that.

Paul Boag:
The top one cuts off much nearer the center of the letters. But you couldn’t do that at the bottom because it wouldn’t be readable.

Marcus Lillington:
Right I’m looking at the S there.

Paul Boag:
He’s measuring it now. For crying out loud.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s got to be an S – no it’s identical, Paul. See you should just trust me.

Paul Boag:
It’s wrong. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

Marcus Lillington:
Is it like when you put hinges on doors? If you make them equal, it looks wrong.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
You know that?

Paul Boag:
Yes. Yeah, it kind of do that. Michael in the chat-room agrees with me that the header is wrong, oh but then Dennis agrees with Marcus. Boo, that’s no good, is it?

Marcus Lillington:
I just think it’s quite cool, anyway.

Paul Boag:
I do like it, I’m not saying – no, I’m not saying no I didn’t like the site, I think it’s a nice site and it’s very, very readable which is obviously the main thing that they were trying to achieve, which he does perfectly. I just think hmm, but then that’s the great thing. That’s what a good design, especially on something like A List Apart, it should make you go, go divide opinion. Do you know what I mean? It would be nothing worse than a bland site that was neither one thing or another. So no, I’m totally, totally with them on it even though my personal taste I’m not so keen. Right, anyway that was one we’re going to talk about.

Marcus Lillington:
Talk about the article…

Paul Boag:
Cennydd Bowles has written an article, looking beyond user-centric design. I loved this article.

Marcus Lillington:
You did. You were saying how much you loved it.

Paul Boag:
I loved it for two contrasting reasons.

Marcus Lillington:
Right.

Paul Boag:
One is that I thought it had absolutely superb content. Right? And second reason I love it is because Cennydd makes me smile when he writes.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s because you don’t understand half the words he writes.

Paul Boag:
Exactly. Me and Cennydd – as people probably could not be more opposite. He is intelligent, he is articulate, he’s well read and is a superb writer and…

Marcus Lillington:
You could have just stopped at intelligent couldn’t you really?

Paul Boag:
Yes and I don’t understand a thing he says, right. He uses – let me see if I can find some of the really funny paragraphs because some of these paragraphs just make me hoot to the point where I actually can’t pronounce half the words that he says because I don’t even know what they mean. Oh god, where is the one, that’s one really funny one that post I know, if I look on postmodern, he mentions postmodern. I’m sure he did or modernist perhaps – here we go, here we go, here we go.

Marcus Lillington:
This is exciting isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
This is good podcasting. Right? Throughout history daring work from iconoclasts have sparked entire movements and thus transformed creative practices. The transition between neoclassical and modernist architecture eras, for example, wasn’t simply a case replacing Doric columns and, what, with perpendicular glass. It was a total reframing of architecture and its values. Modernist…

Marcus Lillington:
Modernity.

Paul Boag:
Modernity surpassed antiquity.

Marcus Lillington:
You really can’t say.

Paul Boag:
I can’t speak.

Marcus Lillington:
Usurped antiquity.

Paul Boag:
Usurped antiquity. I just – I don’t understand, you know I went to art college for three years and they use words like that all the time and I didn’t understand them.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m sorry I’m, re-reading it.

Paul Boag:
And if it was a different person, right, I would say okay, you’re just using those long words to look impressive really. Right? I try and make things as simplistic as possible. Right. But no, Cennydd’s not doing this out of presumption this is who he really is. And I just think it’s superb, but it’s brilliant, the point he’s making in this article, I think are absolutely and utterly spot on and I enjoyed every moment of reading it and I highly recommend you check it out as well.

So, let me tell you, a little bit about what he’s covering. So, what’s he getting at here, what he’s getting at the fact that the user-centric design which has become such the way that we design these days, we all liked to be user-centric design. That is not the only way. There is also what he calls the genius design which is, I’m an expert, listen to me, I know what I’m doing. And it relies on your years of experiences a design that you know what you’re doing, that’s why we do things like expert reviews, which we do at Headscape.

Then there is self-design which is essentially you’re designing for yourself, so that if you happen to be in line with the target audience that works very well, because you don’t need to do a lot of user research because you’re designing for you, right.

And then the final one, which is one that I personally like, which is task design, so it’s the idea, it’s not so important who the person is as much as what they’re trying to achieve and making sure you facilitate what they’re trying to achieve. So there’s lots of different ways of designing. And he’s basically challenging the supremacy of user-centric design, he’s not saying it’s wrong, he’s not saying it should go away, he’s just saying there are other approaches and there are all downsized to user-centric design, the biggest being that it takes a long time. And he argues that some of the design research that we do…

Marcus Lillington:
It was actually a little bit related to the previous article?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, that’s my point, yes, it kind of – it goes on very well from that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, good designers just trust them, get on to do it.

Paul Boag:
Exactly. And he actually says that, he says one of my favorite lines…

Marcus Lillington:
Those exact works.

Paul Boag:
…in the whole thing is, weak leadership over-tests in lieu of trusting designers to make decisions and spot on, totally agree with that. So, it’s a really, really good article, it’s got some really great stuff. He talks about how sometimes all the research that we do is actually wasted effort, someone with the organization – sorry, someone with experience as not only a designer but also as an attentive user has built up an unconscious repertoire of patterns and approaches that suit various contexts. As this library grows, it frees the designer from the need to research every problem.

Marcus Lillington:
Sorry, I’m nodding sagely.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, and it’s true, I’ve got to say, I still think a lot of times user testing is worthwhile. But I’ve got to say most of the time I know what the results are going to be.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. User testing is – it’s often put in place to sort out arguments.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Rather than because whatever you’re going to design would be awful without it.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
I often use usability testing as an example of stuff that’s good to do but it’s not absolutely necessary should you not have the budget.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah?

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
I often use that one is, basically I tend to use the line that what we’re designing for you isn’t going to be an unusable turkey if we don’t test it.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
It might turn out that we’d find issues with it once it’s gone live but you can fix them, not the end of the world, so yeah basically.

Paul Boag:
I know, I know, I mean, the main – in my mind, the main reason for doing things like user testing and design testing and all of these other things that we do to apart user-centric design is primarily to bring the client with us on the journey, is to prove that they can trust us and they can trust that we know what we’re doing. So, actually and he does kind of – he does – I get the impression he dismisses that as an argument a little bit but I do think that is a worthwhile role for user-centric design is to prove that you know what you’re talking about.

When you’re working with someone that has no reason to trust you, they don’t know you necessarily. So, and I think we do use user-centric design to justify design decisions and he writes, while user-centric design is methodical, it’s manifestly not scientific, which is quite interesting.

There has never been a universal truth to design. While user-centric design is methodical, it is manifestly not scientific. I’ve got that twice. There never can be a universal – I’ve copied and pasted the same bit twice. I’m driving the point home…

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
…by repeating it I’m driving the point home, but that’s really embarrassing.

Marcus Lillington:
You’re saying the same thing, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I am. But I have to say, I think personally I think that is a really good point that we kind of use user-centric design as a scientific tool to justify what we’re doing, but designing is always going to be opinioned to some degree. But what I think – where I think it becomes invaluable is it shifts the opinion away from being designer versus client to try and get the users opinion into the mix and get the client thinking in terms of the user.

So, it has its place but he’s not at any point saying he doesn’t, he’s just kind of saying we shouldn’t be obsessed about it, which is why he goes on about this weak leadership over-tests in lieu of trusting designers to make decisions. But the one bit that really got me at the article and the bit that kind of excited me incredibly about the whole thing is that he talks about the cost of business objectives, right. He says, it’s unsurprisingly that the user-centric processes can skew inexperienced designers’ loyalties away from business priorities. When a designer adopts simplistic, reductive arguments that ignore business reality, it undermines them and this I have been saying for years.

Right back to when I wrote the website owner’s manual, didn’t use fancy words like that but essentially I’ve been saying, look, business objectives have to come first. And sometimes you become so obsessed with user-centric that you can undermine the business objectives and that you should never do that and that’s an important thing to remember. So, brilliant article.

Is responsive design always the right decision?

Go cardless website

Gocardless made the brave decision to buck the trend towards responsive design and post exactly why on their blog.

Paul Boag:
So, what was interesting about that last post, it was about challenging the norm, wasn’t it, challenging the pre-conceptions, actually all – both of our posts so far have been about that. And do you know what, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
What?

Paul Boag:
So is our third. There is a theme…

Marcus Lillington:
There is a theme here.

Paul Boag:
It’s good for once normally we don’t have themes, but we are having a theme this week, so almost like we’re organized. So, what’s – if you’re outside the user centric design, what is the biggest in-thing you can think of within web designing? I mean what’s everybody talking about, the thing that we all must do.

Marcus Lillington:
That would be…

Paul Boag:
No, I know what you’re thinking and it’s not that.

Marcus Lillington:
Well the thing that everyone is talking about in the web design community at the moment.

Paul Boag:
Look, I’ve just sent you the frigging URL, so you should know this.

Marcus Lillington:
Stretching this point out a bit longer…

Paul Boag:
Are you stretching it out, okay, there has been a lot of controversy on the Internet at the moment.

Marcus Lillington:
There is about responsive design.

Paul Boag:
Okay, fair enough. Now, a lot of people will be wondering what we were actually talking about there and they will never know.

Marcus Lillington:
I think they probably already know anyway, but anyway, let’s move on.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, so responsive design is this, there is no controversy, it’s just generally accepted that this is the way things should be, isn’t it? We should all be building responsive websites but should we – he says in a teaser kind of way, find out after the ads.

Yeah, really interesting that a company called GoCardless.com, which is like a starty-uppy kind of Direct Debity, paymenty.

Marcus Lillington:
Something else with a y on the end.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, thing. Have decided with their new site, not to make it responsive.

Marcus Lillington:
Really.

Paul Boag:
Really interesting. I know, it’s – I really enjoyed this article because it drove home the post, as did the previous one, drove home the idea that one size doesn’t fit all, right. Just because some people use user-centric design it doesn’t mean everybody has to in all circumstances just because some people use responsive design, it doesn’t mean you have to in all circumstances.

Marcus Lillington:
You’ve got to persuade me of this one.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
The reason and I’ll tell you why.

Paul Boag:
Why is that?

Marcus Lillington:
My eyes have gone, and it’s literally – I think I posted a picture on the Internet just before a year ago basically, on my 45th birthday with a pair of five-pound short-sightedness, not short-sightedness…

Paul Boag:
Long-sightedness glasses.

Marcus Lillington:
Because I can’t see stuff up close.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And it really need them, you just – I found that after – look at a computer all day. Now, if my eyes are tired, I struggle to look at my watch, see what time it is.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
So, I’ve gone boom, like that in year. Responsive design is a thing from heaven because…

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
…I can – it’s just like wow everything is big, I can see, fantastic.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
So, I’m very interested to hear what this guy got to say.

Paul Boag:
Well, it’s quite interesting, I really liked it, they decided – they had a responsive website, they were going through a redesign process and they decided to ditch the responsive website, right. And I can kind of see where they’re coming from, because we hold up responsive design as this kind of silver bullet that cures all known ills to man and it makes everything all right.

Marcus Lillington:
I think that’s a bit unfair?

Paul Boag:
There is a lot of that kind of…

Marcus Lillington:
Well, oh yeah, you could argue that – I think if you said that your existing non-responsive design site is a waste of time, you’re damaging your brand then yeah, I would agree with that, you probably aren’t damaging it.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
But to say that – but to go from responsive back to, that seems like an old thing to do.

Paul Boag:
Well, I mean, their logic basically is that responsive deign takes a lot of time, right.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, true.

Paul Boag:
Building a site that’s responsive, will add they say almost as much again to the later time, I think that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration but it certainly – it certainly adds a lot of work to a website. And what they did is, they sat down and they looked to their analytics, right. And they saw that only 2% of users are were mobile users on their particular site.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, on their site. Okay, I’m not arguing with this, there are statistics. What they probably have and where I would be more interested and this is I think a lot of people are doing this at the moment and looking at them over stats again they are really, really low why are we wasting time with all this mobile stuff. But what I think you’ve got to do is look at the level of growth between last year and this year and then extrapolate out, because that website is going to exist over a few years. So, okay, it might only be 2% now but it was 0.3% six months ago, so that rate of growth is going to be significant very quickly.

Marcus Lillington:
I would check it between now and the last month for example.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, exactly. So, but say in that site they made a business decision, they only have 2% of their people using mobile. And it – was it worth them putting a lot of extra time into making the site responsive for 2% of their audience or were they better off in actual fact making – taking that extra effort and putting it into the full design for their site, the desktop version for one of a better idea rather than doing a kind of half-arsed desktop version and a half-arsed responsive version because they had limited time and limited results.

Marcus Lillington:
Sir, Sir – I have a comment on the – from the comments.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Fan Farian [ph] says we only have 3% mobile users but we have a growth of over 200% every year monthly about 30% to 50%.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. So, I mean that’s…

Marcus Lillington:
There you go.

Paul Boag:
Yeah that kind of shows – it shows that growth is a massively important part of it. But for that – they look to that and they made the judgment. And they said, okay, we’re going to spend more time on the desktop version of the site rather than building a kind of half-arsed responsive site. I can accept that actually and the argument that they put forward is well, zooming does work, right, it works really well, in your situation about reading it.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s irritating having to zoom. It really – yes, it is because I know there is a better version.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I guess so. I mean, I’ve got…

Marcus Lillington:
Because you have to zoom and then you can’t read it all, and then you’ve – where is it – not great usability isn’t it…

Paul Boag:
Yeah. But – okay, I think they have done some reasonably nice stuff on their zooming, they thought about their site in such a way that the grid system was quite well zooming in and out of content. So, they have put some extra thought in it. But to be honest, I’m not convinced by it either, I prefer a responsive site. But what I do love is the fact, you know, that there are people out there presenting the other sides of arguments. You know – and that’s so good that people aren’t accepting disbanded thinking, whether it be Cennydd and his post on user-centric design whether it be this post on responsive design, that there are people challenging those preconceptions and going, okay, is this the right way to go? Let’s try another way, let’s see what happens. And even accepting, there might be more than one way to skin a cat so to speak.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I think – and I haven’t read this article – but what I think we can take from this is A) yes, it does take longer to build a responsive site, definitely.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
So, therefore, if you’re paying someone else to do it, it’s going to cost you more. If you don’t have the budget then – to be able to get responsive – then what you can take from this article is a good way to design it if you’re designing non-responsively, how to design it so it zooms well, that’s a really good thing to take from this article.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. And you know I thought it was a really brave article to be honest. And I did think with Cennydd as well, for him to step up and say ‘user-centric design, it ain’t all that’ which essentially my – how I would have said the article. He used a lot more words, but essentially ‘it ain’t all that’ you know I really think that’s great, that there are people out there doing that. And that does bring us back to this issue we talked about in, was it last week or the week before, I can’t remember, where we talked about Christian Heilman’s article about learning to criticize and having civility as a web design community. And I think we do – these articles are great example of what happens if we are civil to one another, if we don’t jump over people the minute that they suggest something that’s different or unusual and we actually have an intelligent debate about something, you do get great post side this which are really good, encouraging dialogues and I just think it’s brilliant. So…

Marcus Lillington:
I need to go back to an earlier comment from Michael Schofield that, he says, this is talking about testing and the value of it, from when we’re talking about, and he says ‘that actually turns out to be a hang up with our user studies for our university website. It doesn’t hold up as real research’ which it shouldn’t do, as we were saying, it’s not scientific. ‘So, it’s really effing hard to do any study that will satisfy the committee, takes forever’. Well, I guess, well poor you, you have to teach them that it’s not scientific.

Paul Boag:
No. It’s quite we had this problem with academics. I remember sitting once in front of the – what do they call them? It’s not the Board of Directors is it? What do they call them in universities?

Marcus Lillington:
The directorate.

Paul Boag:
Is it the directorate? Something like that – anyway, the big bosses.

Marcus Lillington:
Well it was a web strategy group that I think you’re referring to, which is basically a committee.

Paul Boag:
And I was saying about the user testing and we only tested six to eight people or whatever – ‘well that’s not a statistical base’ which it isn’t, no it’s not bloody use for that at all. And I was trying to get across to him that user testing isn’t about statistical numbers, it’s not about statistically significant, it’s about learning and understanding general trends and getting a sense of the site. It’s much more kind of touchy, feely, gooey than that.

Marcus Lillington:
Or we shouldn’t do at all?

Paul Boag:
Or we shouldn’t do it all.

Or we should use, you know, what we’re doing increasingly with design testing, just things like Verifyapp where you can test, you know, 500 people at a go, you know, quite easily, and then it does become statistical. So it’s interesting.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. So that’s a useful response from Paul there. Just don’t do it face-to-face, do it online so you can get hundreds of responses.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, but that’s the – design testing is different to usability testing.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah? I still think you can do it.

Paul Boag:
It’s harder to test the usability – yeah, but not 500 people, how would you do user testing for 500 people?

Marcus Lillington:
No I guess not. Yeah, good point, I don’t know. Dunno.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, anyway. So, yes, I’ve been really encouraged to see those posts today, all of them are challenging the normal way of doing stuff and branching out and trying new things and new approaches. And I guess, I’m encouraging you, dear listeners, to do the same. You know, don’t just follow the crowd blindly because everybody says this is the way to do things; make your own mistakes. Yeah sure listen to that kind of stuff, but don’t be constrained by it and don’t be constrained by it just because some well-known blogger has said that, this is a good idea or that’s not a good idea. Our very own Dan Sherman – or Shearman, he doesn’t like it when I call him Sherman.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s because it’s not his name.

Paul Boag:
Shear. It is Shear. He is right.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah he is right about his name.

Paul Boag:
Well, I just – you know, it’s funny because I just let people pronounce Boag any way they want, I don’t really care.

What happened to my point?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, as Dan would say, the thing is with all these bloggers and stuff saying ‘this is the way that you should do things’ they probably haven’t designed a line of code in bloody years because they’re so busy on speaking circuits and …

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, meowww!

Paul Boag:
This is Dan, mind. But it’s true, I mean, who am I to tell people about coding or what’s right or wrong in design, because when was the last time I designed anything other than on my own website? You know, actual hands-on design?

Marcus Lillington:
No idea.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, exactly. So, yeah, make your own way, make your own mistakes. I’m a great fan of that.

Let’s talk about the Marcus’s stuff.

Designing with audio

Smashing Magazine article on designing with audio

Marcus joins Smashing Magazine in asking the question; what role does audio play on the modern web?

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. In my scrabble to find something to talk about earlier, basically as I mentioned earlier on Paul put me onto – well actually it wasn’t Paul, somebody put me on to – oh it was somebody – because you tweeted…

Paul Boag:
I tweeted asking for people to help you because you’re incompetent.

Marcus Lillington:
…an someone help me, and somebody came back and mentioned the word audio, which reminded me of an article post that I wrote years and years ago, it might be 10 years ago –

Paul Boag:
Now do we say, a link in the show notes?

Marcus Lillington:
Don’t know where it is.

Paul Boag:
I’m going to see if I can find it, you carry on talking, I’m going to see about that.

Marcus Lillington:
It would have been on the original Boagworld stuff, I assume, I don’t know. I haven’t tried to find it. But anyway, I was basically talking about the use of music and audio on websites. This was kind of – it wasn’t pre-broadband, but it was kind of back in the days of if you didn’t live in a city, you didn’t really have broadband, so I was sort of in a – the question, I think, trying to remember back was ‘when we’ve all got broadband, will we see a lot more audio, etcetera on websites?’ And I think I posted back to myself five years later to say ‘no, we don’t.’ But the advent of these devices and I’ll start making –

Paul Boag:
While you’re holding up a device..?

Marcus Lillington:
Did you hear that? Yeah, yeah, because it makes noises.

Paul Boag:
Oh right.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m going to do it again because you talked over it. There you go, there’s another one. So things like [click noise] that and [click noise] are noises that we’re all thoroughly, you know…

Paul Boag:
Used to.

Marcus Lillington:
Used to. Yeah

Paul Boag:
And the swoosh of an email going out.

Marcus Lillington:
All of that stuff is every day to us now. So anyway.

Paul Boag:
But it was before. This is – because me and you disagreed when you wrote this post, right.

Marcus Lillington:
Have you found it?

Paul Boag:
No, I haven’t found it. But I just remember disagreeing with you when we discussed it on the podcast – I am still looking for it. And I was saying ‘yeah, we should do this. When you add something to your shopping basket you should get audio feedback’ and things like that and you were going ‘nooo!’ and every time I talk about this online, everybody goes ‘nooo, we don’t want on the web, nooo!’ And I think it’s because people have got it in their head that I’m talking about like flash audio, you know, like you used to have the background music.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. When you went to a website for the first time and it played you a minute’s worth of audio that you couldn’t turn off and it’s – yeah.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I’m not – I just think we’re so happy having it on our phones, we’re so happy having it on our computers, but if you put on the website: ‘oh, you shall burn in the depths of hell!’

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I think it’s basically if you – well I’m going to go this article, it’s a Smashing Magazine article and it’s called “Designing With Audio: What Is Sound Good For?”

Paul Boag:
Yes. Because I haven’t read this article, so.

Marcus Lillington:
And I have to say it was a fairly lengthy article that I’ve kind of skipped through, but I’m going ‘oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…’ So –

Paul Boag:
But you haven’t read it, have you?

Marcus Lillington:
I have. I’ve read some of it. But, I’m going to go just through the points – she talks – it’s by Karen Kaushansky, I wish – I should have got you to say that.

Paul Boag:
No leave me alone. Don’t pick on me.

Marcus Lillington:
She starts off by saying “our world is getting louder, considering all the beeps and bops from your smartphone that alert you that something is happening” blah, blah, blah, so feedback on appliances and Siri and all this kind of stuff, that audio is becoming more and more accepted. But going back to what I was saying earlier, you still don’t find it on, – or it still seems a bit annoying on a website. You know, you go – I think it’s the, I buy those espresso coffee pods and I think they have like little beeps and bops on the buttons and things like that, and you just go ‘oh, dear.’ And you shouldn’t do because we accept to as fantastic interaction design when it’s in on a device like an iPhone, so why? What’s the difference?

Anyway. So, but I’m going to go into the article a bit more, so where we find audio? Mobile, so “much of the web is moving to mobile, which of course entails smaller screens people on the go. But besides creating mobile-specific websites, there are ways to augment the mobile experience with audio when people aren’t looking at or can’t interact with the screen.” Sorry didn’t read that out very well. But, I think the point is basically, we’re using our – we’re surfing the web with mobiles as well as using mobile phones for phone calls and e-mail and the like [phone noise] – oh look, Paul’s doing music in the background.

Paul Boag:
Somebody just posted a URL and I wondered whether it had audio on but it doesn’t seem to, so I have no idea why they posted it. Carry on.

Marcus Lillington:
But I think the point that –

Paul Boag:
See, you knew I was doing e-mail in the background because it pinged.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly, but did I need to know that?

Paul Boag:
No probably not.

Marcus Lillington:
I think the point is that we’re using our mobile devices a lot more – we’re using the devices that we expect to have audio feedback on to do the stuff that we use to only do on desktop.

Paul Boag:
Yes

Marcus Lillington:
Now, but if you’re designing in a responsive site, can you make it just do the audio stuff or the mobile device part of it? If you wanted – if it was something that made sense to do. But yeah, that fact, the fact that we’re doing a lot more stuff on mobile kind of maybe means it’s now time to start considering audio as part of design process. And that’s the main message that comes from this article: don’t stick it on afterwards.

Paul Boag:
No, no, no. you can’t do that.

Marcus Lillington:
It must be very much part of the design from the ground up. So this – I suppose if it’s a call to action or if it’s something that you need to get feedback on, when you’re wire-framing it, even at pen-and-paper stage, you need to be saying, okay, this is super highlighted, we’re going to super highlight this by adding some kind of audio thing over the top of it.

Paul Boag:
I think it suits applications, do you know what I mean? Whether, you know, if you’re building a web-based application, you noticed the example I gave was of an e-commerce transaction, which is a, very much an application experience. I think with things like that it works so well, I don’t – you know, it’s like anything isn’t it, you can overuse it, can screw it majorly and that can apply to typography, it can apply to color it, it can apply to your choice of imagery, animated GIFs, video, anything. You know, it’s using it subtly and with a light hand that’s so important. But I do think it’s got its place, absolutely.

And that’s just what you focused on is the idea of little beeps and swooshes and stuff like that. But there’s also other elements of audio that I think increasingly you need to think about, for example these videos that we’re starting to produce on websites, you know, audio as in music for those, is really an important area.

Marcus Lillington:
Well this is where – this is kind of where I was talking – there was two sides to the original article in the feedback article that I did. There was this idea of instruction and information and feedback, if you like – interaction, that is beeps and you know, the kind of iPhone noises that we were talking about earlier. But, yeah, I mean, other examples of places where you got a lot of audio happening are games and it’s perfectly acceptable to have a backing track – that you can turn off, but a lot of people don’t because it adds to the mood of what you’re doing. Now, there may be, and it’s quite hard, I’m really struggling to think of an example, but there may be examples of websites where that would make sense, to have some sort of mood-setting music rather than instructional.

Paul Boag:
The one that always gets me is: well, there’s a couple of examples of it, there’s the kind of motion graphics, motion – kinetic typography type of stuff, videos or the little animated things that introduce your product or your service, they often have audio behind – music behind them. And fairly intrusive audio as well that’s kind of upbeat, we’re setting a tone here. But then there’s other things where they do like interviews with people or screen cast type stuff where someone’s talking over and it’s mainly a voiceover this behind it. And some of those don’t have any background audio and some do. And background audio in that, I’ll be interested to know in what you think, it can either be really helpful and add a richness to the video and it makes it sound more professional rather than ‘just a person like this talking into a microphone’ or it can be really annoying and you just want to kill it.

Marcus Lillington:
Weirdly – well, weirdly, no – coincidentally every week when I edit this podcast when the interim music finally fades out it’s like ‘oh it all sounds a bit rubbish now.’

Paul Boag:
Right. Yeah

Marcus Lillington:
And because it’s just me and you in a room going ‘meh-meh-meh’ to each other, whereas I had spent quite a bit of time on that intro track.

Paul Boag:
But if you had anybody through the whole thing, it would just be, you would want to kill yourself.

Marcus Lillington:
No, because I’ve never listened to it running through the whole thing.

Paul Boag:
Right. Okay. Start it now, right, from now to the end of the show, run some background music behind it…

Marcus Lillington:
And see who’s killed themselves first. [Music plays until end of Podcast]

Paul Boag:
And see how many of our three listeners kill themselves

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, Okay.

Paul Boag:
That’s really cool. So, yeah, really interesting that as a subject, it fascinates me.

Marcus Lillington:
It is.

Paul Boag:
Now I’ve got something – Daniel seems to be trying to show me something really cool in the chat room from the New York Times, scroll the document to the link, target media within the document, I don’t quite understand what he’s getting at. But – has this got audio on it and we’re just not hearing it?

Marcus Lillington:
You carry on talking because I realize I haven’t got a joke.

Paul Boag:
You got media and…

Marcus Lillington:
Yep that’ll do nicely.

Paul Boag:
Okay, anyway that about wraps it up except for our joke. Now, as I – did you get a little sound effect when you swooshed your iPhone there to get a joke?

Marcus Lillington:
Nope, no sound effects on the Boagworld app

Paul Boag:
There needs to be. I might add some to the website. And do you know what I haven’t even looked at how you would do this, introducing audio, because you’re not – you know I mean there’s an HTML audio tag what am I talking about? Easy, fine, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, joke?

Paul Boag:
Yes joke, sorry.

Marcus Lillington:
I once went on a date with a girl I met at Marks and Spencer’s – that’s a shock by the way for anyone that doesn’t know – but she wouldn’t [stutters]. I’ll start again, right, concentrate, Marcus, I’m catching it off you with the inability of talking.

I once went on a date with a girl [stutters]

Do you know what the problem is? I can’t read it.

Paul Boag:
Ahh, because you haven’t got your glasses on.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, glasses are downstairs. Right here we go, far enough away. I once went on a date with a girl I met at Marks and Spencer’s, but she wouldn’t let me try anything on.

Paul Boag:
That’s terrible. And that will mean nothing to anyone that doesn’t know what Marks and Spencer’s is.

Marcus Lillington:
Well it’s a shop! I said it was a shop. Or it’s a clothes shop.

Paul Boag:
Well it’s a clothes shop would have helped.

Marcus Lillington:
Well it’s more than a clothes shop, they sell all sorts of stuff.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but it’s well known as a place you try stuff on. It’s still a terrible joke, shameful.

Marcus Lillington:
Well it kind of made me smile in a smiley kind of way.

Paul Boag:
Okay. This podcast is going downhill, it’s really is. Check out Unfinished Business, that’s a good podcast you might want to try instead of us. What other ones are there? There’s loads of much better web design podcasts out there now, guys. Just go and find them and just give up on us, that’ll be fine.

Marcus Lillington:
No, don’t, this is good fun, it’s just Paul can’t talk properly this week and I had a little bit of not being able to talk properly but I’m back again, Queen’s English.

Paul Boag:
So, basically, what we’re saying is that you’re long sighted so can’t read anything, I’ve got senility going here, give it a few years it’ll just be a couple of grumpy old whingey men. Well we already are anyway. We’re doomed.

Anyway, thank you for listening. There was some great stories this week. Let’s now what you thought about the live broadcast for those of you that were involved. For those of you that won’t – if you like the idea of a live broadcast and you want us to continue, can you post that in the show notes, it would be http://boagworld.com/season/5/episode/s05e05/

Marcus Lillington:
How many forward slashes? Yes, that’s it.

Paul Boag:
Or alternatively if you just go to Boagworld/show and select the appropriate episode which probably would be a lot easier and wouldn’t involve so much slashing. So, yeah, let us know about that and make suggestions for future episodes; we want to include more. If you want to give us an audio suggestion you get bonus points and we will definitely include your article on the show, promise.

Marcus Lillington:
Paul will take you out to dinner.

Paul Boag:
I’ll not, because you might be a weirdo psycho. All right. Thank you very much. Goodbye.

Thanks to the guys at PodsInPrint for transcribing this week’s show

“used paint brushes of different colors” image courtesy of Bigstock.com

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