Data, design and honest clients

On this weeks show we look at Tabular data, design templates and how to get an honest word out of your clients.

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Paul Boag:
On this week’s show we look at tabular data, design templates and how to get an honest word out of your clients.

Help me, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Now what?

Paul Boag:
My OCD is getting seriously out of control at the moment.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
So, I was up at like 2 o’clock…

Marcus Lillington:
Aren’t you supposed to get – grow out of that?

Paul Boag:
What, OCD?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know, is it something, have I just offended millions of people.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, well OCD is a serious condition.

Marcus Lillington:
I thought it was like an allergy or something like that it gets …

Paul Boag:
What do you think OCD is?

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve no idea, I’m making this up. I’m making conversation, Paul.

Paul Boag:
OCD is obsessional compulsive disorder.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, haven’t we all got it to a certain degree.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, but mine’s getting out of control at the moment. I was up until like 2 am tagging things in Evernote. It’s an obsession, I suddenly decided…

Marcus Lillington:
Do you want to come around and do my filing for me?

Paul Boag:
I’m that kind of person. Have you ever seen the Big Bang episode where Sheldon goes around – whose house was it, Howard’s house?

Marcus Lillington:
Oh right.

Paul Boag:
Do you watch Big Bang?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
So funny, because so basically Sheldon is autistic or borderline autistic. Absolute genius, but he suffers from serious OCD and so one of his friends, a guy called Howard invites him around to his house to show him his walk-in cupboard, just because he knows that he will have to go in and tidy it.

Marcus Lillington:
Brilliant.

Paul Boag:
A genius idea, so now is the time to get me around your house as my OCD is out of control.

Marcus Lillington:
I just find filing – like paper filing – I have done it. But I basically do filing once a year, probably I have a…

Paul Boag:
See that’s the trouble, it becomes such a big job isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
… box where stuff that needs filing goes into, but occasionally I get caught out, so maybe once, twice a year I have to go through the list, through the pile of the stuff that needs filing, rather than you know, just go to where it lives.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
But some years I get away with it completely, winner. See what I mean.

Paul Boag:
Well if you get to the end of the year and you haven’t needed to look at the box, I suggest probably just set fire to the box.

Marcus Lillington:
You might need to look at it in next year or whatever, I had to find a receipt the other day.

Paul Boag:
Well, I’ve started going paperless, so everything gets scanned into Evernote, but the result is I’ve got …

Marcus Lillington:
Some documents you have to keep though, don’t you?

Paul Boag:
There is not many, there are a few, but yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Like your passport and stuff like that.

Paul Boag:
They don’t let you just turn up with the scanned version of the passport, they’re funny like that.

Marcus Lillington:
I have got all of my CDs in alphabetical order though.

Paul Boag:
That’s impressive. So you’ve got a little bit of OCD.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, yeah.

Paul Boag:
But I’ve got like 5,500 notes in Evernote now and last night I decided that my entire tagging system was wrong. So I’m now retagging 5,000 notes. I have no life.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s my problem with all filing. That every time I start doing it, I think there is a better way of doing this. And if anyone else was watching me, they would be going ah, just tutting over my shoulder, kind of …

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
… ‘what you doing it like that for?’

Paul Boag:
But that’s the trouble with tagging as well, right. You’re going through all these notes, and I keep going through them and then I’ll come across one and I’ll think that needs a new tag like illustration, right. And I’m say 2,000 notes through and then I’m thinking well those 2,000 notes, do I need to go back through them to see if any of them now need an illustration tag. So it’s never ending.

Marcus Lillington:
And also the problem with stuff like illustration, I suppose no, that’s not too bad, but if you’ve got 5,000 notes, if you tag everything sort of with, I don’t know image, bad example, but you’re going to get 4,500 results.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely, which is useless. You’ve got to be specific enough, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
I should get into Evernote, but can’t be bothered.

Paul Boag:
You don’t have to. I just find it a useful program, but there is no reason why you have to get into it.

Marcus Lillington:
I like the idea of having stuff somewhere.

Paul Boag:
It encourages hoarding. This is my problem with it. You just hoard information and then you don’t look at it anymore. But …

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, so it’s actually a waste of life.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. Absolute waste of life.

Marcus Lillington:
But then you go back and tag stuff that you’re never going to look at, ever again. That’s true though, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
No, it isn’t entirely true. So, I was saying to Chris earlier about this, that it’s great for blog post writing, because if I’m writing …

Marcus Lillington:
If you’re a songwriter, it would all be – it will be your little notebook. Wouldn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Yes. So it is great for not only do you keep blog post ideas in it, but say if I’m writing a blog post about usability, I can type in usability and it will bring back quotes of things people have said relating to usability or statistics about usability or good bookmarks I’ve made or tools that I’ve found or all these different things, which makes writing blog posts a lot easier, at least that’s the theory.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. I think it’s great. I mean I store my musical ideas on my iPhone. I record them in, as voice memos. So it would be nice if …

Paul Boag:
Because you know Evernote that does that well, you can put audio in it, which is really good. What you can’t put in it, which really annoys me is video. You can – well, no that’s not true, you can put in video that you’ve recorded yourself, but I want to be able to copy and paste a YouTube video in there, that kind of thing.

Marcus Lillington:
You can copy the link to it though, surely.

Paul Boag:
Yes, but just I want InVideo to play in it, I’m fussy. I always, that’s my problem with technology generally, is I always conclude, instead of going wow isn’t this an amazing piece of software that’s revolutionalized my life, instead I go well, it would be even better – it would be really good if it could just do this.

Marcus Lillington:
You seem to put up quite nicely with your fan going at a thousand miles an hour that no one else can cope with.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, we’re trying out a new communication tool at Headscape called Sqwiggle. Link in the show notes to Sqwiggle. It’s a really good idea in principle.

Marcus Lillington:
I love it.

Paul Boag:
It’s a really good idea full stop, right …

Marcus Lillington:
Especially for us.

Paul Boag:
For us it’s perfect, because we all work remotely, or a lot of us do.

Marcus Lillington:
Some of the time we’re…

Paul Boag:
It’s mix and match. And so what Sqwiggle does is that you log into it and it connects to your webcam. Excuse me; burping on the podcast, I’ve got this overwhelming urge to do a really massive burp now. I won’t. And it puts up little pictures of you – all of you in your team that refresh every four or five seconds and then let’s say I wanted to talk to Marcus. Why I would want to do that escapes me, but let’s say I did, I just click on his picture and start speaking to him, he doesn’t need to pick up at the other end and it’s just a great way of kind of seeing everybody in your team and it’s a great way of kind of being able to kind of tap someone on the shoulder and ask them a question.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s exactly what it is. It’s tapping – Skype which we signed up for their group calls and probably better quality than Sqwiggle, but it’s always like the phone rings and you don’t know if anyone is there or nothing. Whereas this it is literally like tapping someone on the shoulders so therefore it is the closest to being in the same room that we can possibly find and we like it a lot. Apart from the fact that it makes my fan run bloody…

Paul Boag:
But then it’s still in alpha at the moment. So give them time hopefully …

Marcus Lillington:
I’m just complaining, hoping they’re listening to this. Fix it.

Paul Boag:
We are talking to them quite a lot and I’ve – we asked them to be able to turn off the notifications and it was there the next day.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, that’s pretty good.

Paul Boag:
You can’t complain at that. So, I think the fan one is a bit more of a complicated one, because I think to some degree that’s – I think if you had Skype open the whole time, running a video session, you would also have a fan going. I think it’s just accessing the webcam the whole time that does it.

Marcus Lillington:
Right.

Paul Boag:
But I might be wrong, we will see. Hopefully it will improve. Anyway we’ve got some new stories to talk about. So should we talk about them.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve one more thing to mention …

Paul Boag:
All right, okay. Go on then.

Marcus Lillington:
… which is, isn’t it lovely now that it’s proper spring even summery?

Paul Boag:
Although I’m seeing here quite cold at the moment, because I only got a t-shirt on.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, yesterday wasn’t a very nice day…

Paul Boag:
Not that I’m being negative.

Marcus Lillington:
… but we’ve had another bank holiday weekend that was nice and warm and sunny.

Paul Boag:
I know, it’s a shock.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, no because we do moan about the weather so much on this podcast. You’ve got to say that. At the moment it’s not bad at all.

Paul Boag:
Well done, God or something?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
All right.

How to get honest feedback from clients

How do you get useful and honest feedback from clients after the project is finished? I always get good and often very brief generic feedback, even when I know myself that a project has gone badly or that the client isn’t entirely happy.

Darrel Snow

Paul Boag:
Right first up, question from Darrel Snow. Do you want to read the question, Mr. Reader? I only wanted to say that so that you didn’t, because I knew you wouldn’t have it up front of you. I bet you haven’t even read it either.

Marcus Lillington:
I really haven’t. One second.

Paul Boag:
This is a question you said we should include, because he sent you a joke and you – and it included question as well and you forwarded it on to me.

Marcus Lillington:
I should be looking in Evernote shouldn’t I? There it is. Okay, here we go. From Darrel Snow, I thought we were going to have the audio ones.

Paul Boag:
No see. I’ve just thrown you.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, it has completely. Right, here we go then.

Paul Boag:
I’m also going to change the next question as well, just to throw you.

Marcus Lillington:
What swap them around?

Paul Boag:
No, I’m going to introduce around a random new question.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, fine.

Paul Boag:
That’s in video format and you’ve got to work out how to play that.

Marcus Lillington:
How do you get useful and honest feedback from clients after the project is finished? I always get good and often very brief generic feedback, even when I know myself that a project has gone badly or that the client isn’t entirely happy.

Paul Boag:
They just go ‘F off’!

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve always tried to structure the request for feedback asking for quantity of answers, yes/no answers, reference the original business objectives etcetera. But I rarely get any tangible feedback that I can take back to the team and apply learnings from. Maybe the clients are all too busy or afraid of coming off rude or abrasive. If there is no ongoing relationship then I suppose there is no value to the client in offering such feedback, is there. Have you guys ever had this problem?

Paul Boag:
No. But you said this is a really good question we should include on the show, but I don’t …

Marcus Lillington:
Struggling to remember why now. Did I not say why?

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
Damn.

Paul Boag:
You just said we ought to include it on the show so I am doing as I was told.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Why is this a good – it’s a valid question. I think what you need to do for a start is not stand in front of them holding a baseball bat and say what did you think of the project, then you might get more honest answers, I don’t know.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Feedback, let’s talk about feedback.

Marcus Lillington:
But, yeah this idea of clients being too polite.

Paul Boag:
I’ve never found that.

Marcus Lillington:
Honest feedback. No, I think maybe sometimes people feel – it’s a tricky one, isn’t it? Because I think that sometimes particularly when you’re looking at design look and feel, that clients – because we’ve, often we’ve talked about design process, you don’t have design by committee blah, blah, blah, that they feel that they need to be more positive than they’re actually feeling …

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
… which is tricky because honesty is always the best policy in pretty much everything.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I mean, I guess there’s – right. First of all, have a debrief meeting. A face to face debrief meeting, that we find very helpful don’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. And if you can’t do it just talk to people.

Paul Boag:
Talk to people.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
I would also suggest that, look if you think the project has gone shit, say so.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah and say why you think that.

Paul Boag:
And say why you think it’s been a problem.

Marcus Lillington:
Do you agree?

Paul Boag:
Yeah. And also to say if you’re not getting much back from the client, try and encourage them to go first, because you don’t want to lead unnecessarily, but if they’re not being forthcoming, say to them well we felt this bit went well or this bit went badly and just kind of get them to respond to that because often, you know what it’s like when someone asks you a question, you just go uh. Bit like we did when this question was read out to begin with.

Marcus Lillington:
What did I say?

Paul Boag:
Yeah, you can’t think why you think it’s a good thing or not, so actually leading is all right in this situation, give them something to respond to.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s a bit like testimonials really. There is a similarity here, because people – even people that really rate the project, you say well can you give us a testimonial they go yeah and then you never hear anything. Yeah and it’s the same thing I suppose to a certain degree as a project that hasn’t gone great and you’re asking me for feedback that they just oh, I can’t be bothered. That’s what it really is, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got other things to do. So, I’m agreeing with you here, Paul, by the way. In the testimonial case, what I do is I write it for them and then I say …

Paul Boag:
Write it for them, yes. Feel free to change it. And it gives them a starting point.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s a starting point and they can go well I don’t, that’s absolute rubbish. You’re not the best web design agency in the world, then if they don’t agree to put that in, then I don’t use it.

Paul Boag:
And so the same applies if you say this is – this was a great part of the project and they go hang on a minute, I don’t think it really was – there was this issue, that issue and you get them going basically. But I do think it’s a really valuable exercise so do persevere with it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I think basically, have a meeting, even if it’s a phone call.

Paul Boag:
Yes, there is a spin off to this, which is pitching for work, right. One area we do have problems with it is getting honest feedback about why we didn’t win something, because we always ask that, don’t we. Why didn’t we win it, what’s the problem there, what are we doing wrong, Marcus? Well, I suppose if we knew, we would do it right, wouldn’t we.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, actually I think I’m quite good at…

Paul Boag:
…reading between the lines.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. This means that.

Paul Boag:
Yes. So give us an example.

Marcus Lillington:
I knew you were going to say that.

Paul Boag:
No, sorry. But they often say – make up some bullshit when you know either it’s about the money and they don’t say that because, or they always had someone in – already in mind for the job.

Marcus Lillington:
Basically we quite often, if we don’t win a piece of work we’re quite often second.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And that I can kind of go, if somebody says you were second and this and, but it was a tossup. Blah, blah, blah I’m kind of thinking this is honest feedback. They’re being positive …

Paul Boag:
You just get when people say you weren’t even listed, you just don’t believe them, because obviously we should have been amazing.

Marcus Lillington:
What – if we don’t get shortlisted or if you’re getting a lot of generic, kind of standard: it wasn’t you, it was us kind of stuff. I just think they had a preferred supplier instantly, every time …

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
… and they probably did and that’s life.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
So blah on that one. Honest feedback in those situations? Apart – often people want feedback honestly because they are concerned that it will lead to problems.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
Do you see what I am saying, you know, if they said well we didn’t hire you because you were black, that would be a good example, yes.

Paul Boag:
Not that we are.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m trying to think of a better example, than that or a more – a more subtle example.

Paul Boag:
Or you’re all too blokey is when we had once.

Marcus Lillington:
Well no – yeah, I mean – I’m thinking about something – if you presented a particular set of ideas or something like that and they came back and said, we thought that your idea about X or Y wasn’t right for us and then you look – but it is –

Paul Boag:
And then –

Marcus Lillington:
It is wrong, you know…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
… what they are saying to you is incorrect and you’re thinking hang on a minute, it’s perfect for you.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
So, they would rather avoid maybe doing that because you can then go back and say – well – so you marked us down on that…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
… that’s not fair. And if you get into – it’s not fair conversation than they might be forced into hiring you and they don’t want to and all that kind of thing. It’s basically – I’ve always made this kind of oh we must get feedback, we must find out why and – into the minutiae. But if you think about it, you’re actually never really going to get anything of much value because you are never really going to believe it.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
You’re always going to wonder if bits are missing or whatever.

Paul Boag:
So is the same true with the post project feedback, are we wasting our time?

Marcus Lillington:
No, because that one you could learn – well it – as long as people – I see no reason why somebody wouldn’t be honest with you about well I think the project management – you said you would get back to us on a weekly basis with a report and you didn’t.

Paul Boag:
Right

Marcus Lillington:
You need to do that otherwise you’re going to piss your clients off in the future. Nothing wrong with saying that.

Paul Boag:
Well, unless they’re reliant on you for ongoing support, and they might feel like they can’t piss you off. Perhaps I’m grasping at straws here.

Marcus Lillington:
I think you are, yeah. But I think that this idea of people being too busy and thinking well, I – yeah, I need to think about that, I need to go back through what do we do and write a bullet point list and these are the things – these are the pros, these are the cons. I’m too busy, I can’t be bothered.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
That is the wrong way of going about it. The right way, well you covered it in the first sentence is to talk to them…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Because if you would have a conversation they will cover all of that while you’re chatting.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
As long as you’re talking notes you will learn stuff that you can pass back to your team which is what Darrel says he wants.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. I also – I mean, those kind of post project debrief meetings are really good anyway, because they are a sales opportunity, you know. You get people thinking about well, what’s the next stage? That should be part of it. So you’re not just talking about are we good or where are we bad, because people – why would client X want to waste their time having a meeting talking about making your life easier or better? But if you’re having a meeting that is talking about next steps and how to run the website on an ongoing basis and monitoring and iteration all that kind of stuff and this is a part of it, I think you will find them much more responsive and much more friendly.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. And suppose if – if, as Darrel says, if it’s just a one off and you’re never going to work with them again then a five minute phone call they’re not going to be bothered about…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
… they will be – happily to do that.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Anyone would. I think we’ve murdered this one though.

Paul Boag:
We have murdered this one. It was a crap question. Darrel it wasn’t a crap question, it’s just I don’t think we’ve got a lot to offer on it. It’s all Marcus’s fault for making me include it on the show. I don’t – but – although I don’t suppose he even remembers asking me.

How to avoid resorting to tabular data

Greetings citizens of Boagworld. Thank you for the excellent podcast. I’ve got a question for you guys about tabular data. Being that you’re a design firm, folks probably come to you because they already know that they have no idea how to present data in a pleasing way. But I’m not a design firm, I’m an in-house web developer and I have to deal with business users who frequently think that the only way to effectively present data is in tables. They think this because they work with Excel all day and tables in Word all day and rows and columns is simply how they view the world. It can be difficult to condense them otherwise, especially when you’re not somebody who is a web designer for a living and instead are a jack-of-all-trades. So my question to you guys, what are the circumstances in which there is no other way to present data on a webpage than in a table? And what are some ways that you guys have found in the past to avoid having to present data in tables? Bonus points if you can give me some pointers on how to make data beautiful even if it’s in a tabular format? Thanks for the great show guys. Keep it up.

MC Wilson

Paul Boag:
All right, so next up we have a question from MC Wilson. Have we had MC Wilson before?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know. It’s like MC Wilson.

Paul Boag:
No, we had a DJ somebody.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah, yeah we’ve gotten a DJ and an MC.

Paul Boag:
We’ve had DJ, now we’ve got an MC. So, this is an audio question and he is asking about tabular data.

MC Wilson:
Greetings citizens of Boagworld. Thank you for the excellent podcast. I’ve got a question for you guys about tabular data. Being that you’re a design firm, folks probably come to you because they already know that they have no idea how to present data in a pleasing way. But I’m not a design firm, I’m an in-house web developer and I have to deal with business users who frequently think that the only way to effectively present data is in tables. They think this because they work with Excel all day and tables in Word all day and rows and columns is simply how they view the world. It can be difficult to condense them otherwise, especially when you’re not somebody who is a web designer for a living and instead are a jack-of-all-trades. So my question to you guys, what are the circumstances in which there is no other way to present data on a webpage than in a table? And what are some ways that you guys have found in the past to avoid having to present data in tables? Bonus points if you can give me some pointers on how to make data beautiful even if it’s in a tabular format? Thanks for the great show guys. Keep it up.

Paul Boag:
See I like that.

Marcus Lillington:
Great show.

Paul Boag:
Great show.

Marcus Lillington:
Great show.

Paul Boag:
Thanked us at the beginning, much better than – who – what was it we had begging for audio questions. He appreciates us. We like you Mr. MC. And also I don’t – hasn’t he got a good – I think he has got a very good radio voice. I liked him, I liked listening to him. He is my new best friend.

Marcus Lillington:
Obviously. Mr. MC Wilson you should be scared.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. Yes, he sounds he has to work with Chris Scott all day, didn’t it, basically? So – oh, I love Excel documents.

Marcus Lillington:
He is so not here to defend himself.

Paul Boag:
Chris has got such an unhealthy like of Excel, it worries me.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s because he programs things in it.

Paul Boag:
He makes it do unnatural and unspeakable things.

Marcus Lillington:
He does. He makes it do stuff.

Paul Boag:
And he makes very pretty pictures in it as well actually. Diagrams and pie charts and – if I feel like …

Marcus Lillington:
Well, that’s the answer isn’t it? Diagrams and pie charts. There you go, I’ve answered your question. What’s the next one?

Paul Boag:
This isn’t a really very you question, is it? You haven’t got a lot to add to this particular subject.

Marcus Lillington:
That, pie chart, there you go; that’s a great way of presenting data.

Paul Boag:
Well, I’ve got to say yeah – I mean, infographics was where I was going to go. There are so many cool infographics around these days that can present data in a so much more attractive way. But you need a designer for that, that’s the trouble…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
… but that’s fine –

Marcus Lillington:
But not pie charts and graphs and stuff like that.

Paul Boag:
No, no. You could do things like that, but I – you know – yeah okay pie charts and graphs and things are good, yes, and definitely.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s visual representations that people can understand immediately.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. If you can afford to get yourself a designer then get him to do a fancy infographic, it’s money well spent. But if not, then there are tools that are appearing now to enable you to create your own infographics. I don’t know how good they are, I haven’t tried them myself, but things like Visual.ly and Piktochart are two that I spotted that look quite good so I’ll link in the show notes to those. So that’s definitely, a considerably more engaging one.

Marcus Lillington:
What’s Google’s thingy, you know, its charts and pie charts and graphs and tables thing called? Google Charts probably.

Paul Boag:
Google Spreadsheets isn’t it? Isn’t it part of their spreadsheet program?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
Oh it’s a separate thing is it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, it – basically it develop – it creates things like pie charts on the fly, nicely pretty ones from your data.

Paul Boag:
Oh, I didn’t know that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, you must know that, Paul.

Paul Boag:
How did I not know that?

Marcus Lillington:
We’ve used it.

Paul Boag:
Have we?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
What on websites?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Oh, that’s cool. Google Charts, there you go. Link in the show notes. Now there you go, I didn’t know that, so that will help as well. Oh I see, so you pump in the data and it has got like an API in that and it churns out …

Marcus Lillington:
And it churns out nice pretty pie charts.

Paul Boag:
I didn’t know we did this.

Marcus Lillington:
You’ve learned something need today, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Wow! Damn we are talented. Much disturbingly I learned it from you, which is obviously very concerning as it’s a techie thing as well.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah but it’s – I – for a while as well, Paul; how are you feeling now?

Paul Boag:
Display live data on your site. How have I missed this? Because I have no interest in Excel that’s why. So – yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
But this is perfect for – for MC.

Paul Boag:
It is. But there is also cooler stuff you can do. I mean, you could even get into the realms of – so we talked about getting a designer to go away and create a nice infographic that kind of lays out stacks and stuff like that. But also motion graphics, there is some great kind of pseudo animationy stuff that shows off different – data in different ways. Again, you’re going to have to hire someone to do that, but if it’s an important piece of data – and they reckon that people that have watched these kinds of videos are something like 80% more likely to – go on to convert if that’s a relevant thing for you, I don’t know the details of it. And if the table of data sufficiently simple, you can do some gorgeous stuff with it. For example pricing data tables, you know, some pricing and kind of feature tables that – they do some lovely stuff on some sites for that. So there is actually quite a lot of possibilities. But yeah I – Google Charts, who knew? But –

Marcus Lillington:
I did.

Paul Boag:
Well yeah, apparently so. But before we move on, he has bonus points, didn’t he?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Bonus points if we can make suggestions about how to improve a boring data table. Basically it boils down to styling and spacing. So add lots of padding, add borders, alternate row colors are a really good thing.

Marcus Lillington:
Makes it easy to read, alternate row colours.

Paul Boag:
Rollover highlights, so if you rollover a row it highlights the whole row, so you can kind of see where you are on the row – which row you’re on.

Marcus Lillington:
Yep.

Paul Boag:
Basically I – you know I said things like borders and that kind of stuff, but understate it. Right? It doesn’t work if – you know if you have really heavy borders and really strong background colors, it’s like whoa and it actually makes it harder to read it. But very subtle variations in ultimate row colors, a nice little border, lots of white space around it is great.

Marcus Lillington:
A good example of table design is in Pages. I mean – but obviously it has got different styles you can choose, but it’s –

Paul Boag:
Yes, it has got some good starting points in there.

Marcus Lillington:
They look really nice.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. That’s true.

Marcus Lillington:
Good examples of how it should be done.

Paul Boag:
The last thing you need to consider these days with tabular data is – well of course is mobile devices. How do you display a massive table in a tiny little screen? And there is some interesting stuff being done in that and I’ll link to some of that stuff in the show notes. I won’t go through all the different techniques that there are here, but certainly there are ways of hiding and showing stuff and introducing some form of scrolling and various – various other techniques. So I’ll link to all of that for you as well MC in the show notes and you can check those out.

But yeah that’s tabular data. It is – I think there is nothing inherently wrong with it. He – there was this implication in the question, everybody wants to use tabular data, but depending on what it is you do that’s a perfectly valid way of communicating stuff. But I agree. I think it depends on the type of person you are. I mean, I tease about Chris but if you are that kind of person and your user is that kind of person then that’s a really good way of communicating. The problem comes – is when you’re trying to communicate with people that are more like me when – if I look at a table I just start dribbling out the corner of my mouth, you know. And I – I literally cannot see data in tables, it doesn’t make sense to me, it scrambles my brain. But the danger is, Mr. MC, is that you may be like me, but if your user base is more like Mr. Chris Scott, then actually tables are all right and you shouldn’t fight it. So don’t dismiss stuff just because it’s not you, is the moral of the story or something, I don’t know.

Marcus Lillington:
Hard for you to have said all that I would have thought, Paul.

Paul Boag:
What, because English is not my first language? What –

Marcus Lillington:
No, no because it’s not really the way you look at life is it?

Paul Boag:
No, no I look at life…

Marcus Lillington:
Other people –

Paul Boag:
That I am right, aren’t I?

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly. Other people have an opinion?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Surely not.

Paul Boag:
What their opinion is wrong, but you need to accept that they get stroppy when you tell them that. So, anyway let’s move on.

Is it okay to use pre-designed templates?

I have started to notice the rise in popularity of templated designs in the web industry and I’d love to know what your opinions are towards using pre-designed templates when working on client websites. Being a web designer myself, I’ve always frowned upon the use of templates and that using them that felt a bit like cheating but in today’s world are they more widely accepted, provided we are honest with our clients that they’re going to receive a templated design?

Ashley Mosuro

All right, so we come to our final question of this very exciting episode from Bob Reid. Are we ready to listen to it – no, not Bob Reid.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I was going to say Bob was on last week.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I’m looking at the wrong week. Ashley Mosuro.

Marcus Lillington:
Do I need to look?

Paul Boag:
Mosuro.

Marcus Lillington:
I do. Mosuro.

Paul Boag:
Mosuro. Anyway Ashley, shall we have a listen to what he has got to say?

Marcus Lillington:
Yep.

Paul Boag:
He is short and to the point. I like this.

Ashley Mosuro:
I have started to notice the rise in popularity of templated designs in the web industry and I’d love to know what your opinions are towards using pre-designed templates when working on client websites. Being a web designer myself, I’ve always frowned upon the use of templates and that using them that felt a bit like cheating but in today’s world are they more widely accepted, provided we are honest with our clients that they’re going to receive a templated design?

Paul Boag:
Good question.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
I get this a lot actually. It seems to be a topic of hot debate. I think he nailed it right at the end, didn’t he? Did you hear what he said at the end?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, about sort of that you’re honest with them.

Paul Boag:
You’ve got to tell them. Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. So – absolutely I think you need to accept that you know – this is obviously – it depends on what level you’re working at doesn’t it? If Headscape – I cannot imagine a scenario where that would ever be acceptable for the kind of work we do?

Marcus Lillington:
No. Well, we’ve recently worked with one client where they said we would like you to use this template.

Paul Boag:
Oh really?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. A WordPress template thing.

Paul Boag:
Okay. That’s very unusual, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah and it was just – we’ve worked with them before. I want to say the Royal College of Art, but it’s not them, it’s similar institution anyway. And off the back of that, we proposed a job to somebody that we wanted to work with. I can’t remember who it was.

Paul Boag:
All right. You’re lacking a lot of the details in this story.

Marcus Lillington:
I know. No detail today, but they had a very limited budget, anyway but they said no.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
So and it was kind of – well, that was enough for me, I’m not going down that route again from a Headscape point of view, but looking at some, what’s available.

Paul Boag:
That’s some amazing stuff, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely fantastic.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. I think – it ultimately comes down; it’s all about return on investment, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
It’s what it comes down to and if you’re a small organization with a limited budget, and the web isn’t that crucial to the success of your organization, then why not use an off the shelf template. And as long as you as a web designer are honest about that and you explain the reasons why, then I don’t see a problem with it. I think ultimately my off the shelf templates are never going to be as good a solution as a custom designed job that exactly meets clients’ requirements and branding and usability and user audiences and business objectives and all that kind of stuff. But if money is limited, and if time is limited and if the importance of the website is limited, then yeah compromise down. I mean we do that all the time, even working at the higher end of the industry like we do, we could give every client a Rolls Royce, but they don’t all need a Rolls Royce, sometimes they only need a Skoda, and that’s fine and that’s perfectly adequate. So I have no problem with design templates whatsoever, as long as you’re honest with the client, I think what it comes down to, isn’t it really.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. I also – I mean, if maybe if you would ask that question five years ago, then we would just go no, it’s just because there is a – what’s available is really quite high quality.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. Now, I mean, obviously there’s different versions as, you know you’re talking about WordPress templates that are available, but you can also download PSDs that you markup as you want to, there is a lot of things to consider, I mean, if you’re getting a WordPress template, for example is it responsive, does the client need it to be responsive, if it’s just a PSD that you’re then going to code up, is that actually worth the money or is it you0re better off just getting a complete readymade template, so there are lot of nuances to this.

Marcus Lillington:
Depends where your skills lie as well I suppose.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, absolutely. If you’re a frontend coder, then yeah probably a Photoshop document is enough for you to work with. But in other situations, you might be better off giving them just a whole template. I think when you – what you do have to worry about with getting whole templates is maintenance. It’s like I took for my church website, it’s like I can’t be bothered to do this so I just got an off the shelf template, I customized it, built it. Actually now I’m regretting it, because I’m trying to maintain someone else’s code base, somebody else’s template and I don’t really understand how it works or what it does, and so whenever I want to do something slightly different then it’s like a nightmare. So it can come back to bite you, so you do need to be aware of that.

The same is true actually even with a design template, fine you get a design, your PSD and you apply it and it all works great until the client decides they want something else and are you capable of producing a new user interface element that is in the same style as what you’ve already got. So there are challenges to this kind of area and I’m not saying it’s easy, but it may be the most cost effective way to go. So, yes I think …

Marcus Lillington:
What about just, and one more thing. What about if we’re going to take it a step even further down, what about these sites? I can’t think any of them they’re called, but basically I know nothing about design or coding and I’m going to just go and go to somewhere where I can have, build my website sort of on the fly.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Squarespace do something like that, link in the show notes.

Marcus Lillington:
Do we have an opinion on that?

Paul Boag:
I mean, this is where you’re get into the realms of desktop publishing almost. When desktop publishing first came along, suddenly everybody had a computer and they were capable of making a poster, right.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So what we ended up with is a load of shit posters.

Marcus Lillington:
And it’s like, we got the world is full of crappy photographers.

Paul Boag:
Yes. For exactly the same reason.

Marcus Lillington:
But has it improved since then, I suppose is my question.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I think it has a bit, I mean things like Squarespace and stuff like that you’re working with predefined templates and they kind of to some degree keep you under control and stop you doing anything too stupid. But the truth is it’s you get what you pay for don’t you, nothing is going to be as good as hiring a professional to produce a website, but again if I’m – for example let’s go back to my church website, actually probably there is no way my church is ever going to pay a web designer to build their website. If they didn’t know me, that was gullible enough to do it for them then something like Squarespace where they could kind of build it them self probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. My dad is another example where he is a wildlife photographer, the web isn’t that big a deal for him, really. He’s kind of got to have a website, he has got a reasonable eye for kind of composition, design and that kind of stuff because he is a photographer. So he is probably more than capable of building something with a tool like …

Marcus Lillington:
With some tools yeah.

Paul Boag:
… yeah, with the right kind of tools.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
So I’m very pragmatic about it, yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Or just do a Facebook page.

Paul Boag:
Or, just have a Facebook page, absolutely or in his case a Flickr profile which he uses a lot. So I don’t think even every business needs a website, you’re entirely right. I mean my local coffee shop downtown is on Facebook, but it doesn’t need a website, why the hell would it really these days. And I know a lot of people will get shirty because ‘Facebook’s the closed web’ and stuff like that. I’ve got no, what’s the word, I was going to say scruples, but that’s not…

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got no scruples and that’s the end of the show.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. I’ve got no ideological issues with this. I think it comes down to what’s right for your business, doesn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly, yes.

Paul Boag:
So, yes I think that probably more than wraps up that question. I think that has hammered that question to death. So should we move on to your witty and entertaining joke?

Marcus Lillington:
This is from Mr. Ian Lesky again.

Paul Boag:
Oh good old Ian. I want to meet him.

Marcus Lillington:
Maybe you could one day.

Paul Boag:
Perhaps I already have.

Marcus Lillington:
Maybe you have, yes, and now he hates you.

Paul Boag:
I do have a habit of doing that. Yes, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Right here we go. A funeral service is held for a woman who just passed away. As the pallbearers …

Paul Boag:
Sorry to interrupt.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s all right.

Paul Boag:
A funeral service was just for a women that’s just passed away, what in preference to a dog that died eighty years ago, that doesn’t – of course it’s going to be for someone that’s recently died, that was an unnecessary part of the joke, I’m sorry just carry on.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
I’m just saying.

Marcus Lillington:
As the pallbearers carry the casket out, they accidentally bump into a wall. They hear a faint moan. They open the casket and find that the woman is actually alive. So she hadn’t passed away.

Paul Boag:
No, she hadn’t passed away.

Marcus Lillington:
Shut up, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
She lives for more than 10 years and then dies. They have another funeral for her. At the end of the service the pallbearers carry out the casket as they were walking the husband cries out watch out for the wall. Yeah, right, move on.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Okay. So, yes that’s another podcast done and entertaining as always.

Marcus Lillington:
So you say yourself.

Paul Boag:
I was so dull. I think we failed this week.

Marcus Lillington:
No we haven’t.

Paul Boag:
We fail, I feel dear listener, or six of you or how many there are.

Marcus Lillington:
I blame the questions.

Paul Boag:
Actually. Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Therefore I’m blaming the listeners.

Paul Boag:
What do you think of my idea for the next season that I sent you through?

Marcus Lillington:
Great. What was it?

Paul Boag:
The mass debate.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh that was yes.

Paul Boag:
Not that I’m five or anything. No, we’re going to do the great debate next season, which basically is we take a subject like Photoshop versus Fireworks or in-browser compared to graphics tool or whatever.

Marcus Lillington:
I have so much to say on these things aren’t I?

Paul Boag:
Are you being sarcastic?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Well some of them we will like music or not music, I don’t know. What do you know about cricket? Does it make sense, things like that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, fine.

Paul Boag:
So I think that’s going to be a good season. I’m looking forward to that, but we’re not done with this one yet, that’s not until after August.

Marcus Lillington:
How many more of these have we got?

Paul Boag:
Gazillions.

Marcus Lillington:
All right, okay.

Paul Boag:
Gazillions and gazillions so we need more questions actually. We are a bit – running a bit low on the old question front.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
So if you have a question send it through to [email protected] Audio questions always preferred, but we will settle for textual ones.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
We don’t want questions in interpretive dance because that doesn’t work for an audio podcast. But other than that, why did you make that face. Because that’s such a bad joke that you felt, I need to pull a face at me.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, something like that.

Paul Boag:
All right then, so send your questions through and we will talk again next week. Thank you very much for listening and goodbye.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

Headscape

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