The Information Overload Episode

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show we talk hiring people, selecting images, workshopping and lifelong learning.

Skip to the discussion or this week’s links.

This weeks show is sponsored by Proposify and Teacup Analytics.

Paul: Hello and welcome to the Boagworld show. The podcast about all aspects of digital design, development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag and joining me on this week’s show is Ryan Taylor, Marcus Lillington, Sam Barnes, and Andy Clark. Hello all.

Ryan: Hello

Marcus: Hello

Sam: Hello

Andy: G’day.

Paul: G’day! Go on, I know you are desperate to tell people Andy.

Andy: We’ve got our visas. So we are now legally, lawfully allowed to reside and work in Australia.

Paul: Good, so that’s that done.

Marcus: Congratulations

Andy: Thank you. That was a very nerve wracking few weeks. Not that there was any reason why we would have them turned down but you never know do you. So yeah, we have about another week and then we will be off down under.

Paul: So you’re not going to be joining us for the next couple of shows is that right?

Andy: No, I’m going to ask our good friend Dan Edwards to sit in my warm seat.

Marcus: Err, that sounds…

Sam: Yeah, that did sound wrong!

Marcus: You’re going to miss my birthday, it’s my birthday next week.

Andy: Oh, bugger.

Ryan: What, on the Monday?

Marcus: Well, it’s actually the Tuesday but we may as well go for Monday.

Ryan: You just want us to sing happy birthday don’t you?

Paul: It’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen.

Sam: Not going to happen. I’m with you Paul.

Paul: No, no.

Ryan: I’ll sing happy birthday to Marcus.

Marcus: Thank you Ryan.

Andy: I’ll record a little segment and then Paul can drop it into the podcast.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: No, I won’t do it. You are too old to be celebrating your birthday Marcus.

Marcus: But it’s a big one. It’s a proper…

Paul: Surely it’s just a reminder that you are a year closer to death.

Marcus: Well, yeah. But that’s every minute of every day isn’t it Paul.

Paul: But it’s your age is particularly telling isn’t it.

Marcus: It’s not… Carry on.

Andy: Being 50 and in your 50s is way better than being in your 40s. Because being in your 40s is kind of, you know, it’s just kinda neither here nor there. You know, you’re not kind of… You haven’t got that elegant sophistication, that kind of George Clooney-esque aura about you which of course being in your 50s you have. So I think that Marcus should be embracing the fifty-ness.

Marcus: I absolutely will, no question on that. I’m quite looking forward to it. I found that in the last few years, maybe it’s becoming a grandad as well. It seems like nothing is quite so important any more and that’s really quite liberating.

Paul: Yeah, but then, don’t you find that generally about getting older. The older you get… It’s like… I look at my poor teenage son where everything is traumatic and dramatic in life isn’t it?

Marcus: And then he’ll have such impossible expectations of himself and all that kind of stuff that all of this “what is expected of me in the world’s, and I have to find my mark” and all those kind of things. Och, yes. That’s tough.

Paul: Yeah, I wouldn’t go back to it. When you get to our point, you know, all of your dreams been shattered (laughter) so there’s nothing to worry about any more.

Marcus: Yeah, you’ve had the cry in the shed at the bottom of the garden (laughter) realising that this is it.

Sam: Hang on, but are we just joking now or is this… (Laughter)

Paul: I don’t know!

Ryan: It’s like a therapy session.

Sam: Yeah, that sounded real!

Paul: That was very specific from Marcus there wasn’t it.

Marcus: No, I read somewhere, I can’t remember who it was, that made that analogy.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. It happened to a friend of mine! Yeah.

Marcus: Oh come on, you know me Paul. That’s the least likely thing that I am going to do.

Paul: Yeah, no. That is true. I’ll give you that.

Sam: Hang on, was it worse, did you not cry, just stared.

Marcus: (laughter) Yes, just stared at the floor for an hour.

Andy: I think that being 50 it gives you actually more opportunities to be rebellious. I’m feeling more rebellious now in my 50s than I did when I was like 22.

Marcus: Watching my daughter and her new husband with their baby it reminds me of how much of a more serious person I was when I was her age and doing the right thing. And I’m just an idiot these days! I just any excuse to party!

Paul: Which is great. Again it’s the advantage of getting older, your inhibitions go as well and, yeah, it’s just wonderful.

Marcus: Yeah, you’ve got all this to look forward to Ryan and Sam. I don’t how old you are. You’re younger than me that’s for sure.

Paul: Sam looks older than all of us I think.

Ryan: It’s really, I was just mentioning something before we came on… I’m older now than I was when I first met Paul. So like the people I am working with typically are all in their early 20s and I’m like in some cases more than 10 years older than them and it does feel very weird. It does feel very weird and I’m settled down, I’ve been married 10 years, I’ve got three kids and you know, I’m 33. I’m not that old but you do feel different. From that early 20s. Dan is still in his 20s as well. He should have one of these conversations when he is on. He’s got like just got a rabbit and his girlfriend so…

Marcus: First baby that is. (Laughter)

Ryan: That the trial baby, can we keep this alive before we get a real one.

Marcus: Cat, a dog, and then a baby. Then we had another baby and loads more dogs.

Paul: How does that work then with Sam. Sam, you’ve got like 300 cats.

Sam: No, I’ve got one cat. All the cats that I post are where I volunteer for the RSPCA at the weekend.

Paul: Oh yes, of course that’s it. Yeah, because it’s like I dread the weekends.

Sam: Do you know what? I enjoy it now. I enjoy it for two reasons. One because I get to do the volunteering and post the pictures. And there’s a little part of me that posts it and thinks “there’s gonna be people like Paul out there who can’t stand me now. Good!… Go away.”

Paul: It’s just that 99% of the time, Sam, you’re my favourite person on the planet and then just once a week you just turn into the devil incarnate.

Sam: I know, I did think once about putting a hashtag on it so that you could mute it and then I thought “You know what, screw you all, screw you all.” I’ve got to look at your crap as well so… (Laughter)

Paul: I love that attitude, that’s really good. I nearly once asked you to put a hashtag on it so I’m glad I didn’t because afterwards…

Sam: You would have felt the wrath.

Paul: Hey, can I ask a serious question? Because I’ve got a serious question. And this is something I have been agonising about… Going back to what we were talking about, was it just before we started the show we were talking about books and keeping up with stuff. Do you guys have a set time when you spend learning and reading and that kind of stuff? And if so, how the hell do you make it happen? Because I’ve been so shit. It’s taken me forever, I’ve been reading Jeremy, sorry, Gerry McGovern’s book called Transform and it’s not a thick book and it’s taken me months to read it because it always seems to get pushed out. I just wondered whether anybody had like an answer to this because it’s been driving me nuts.

Sam: We were talking before, I kind of do what Ryan does, I listen to audiobooks more than sit down and read. Purely because I can do it while I’m doing things. That’s the only way I’ve been able to keep learning really. It’s the only way.

Marcus: It’s my bugbear, Paul. I say that… Because I love reading but I only really love reading fiction and I really struggle to keep up. This show has been a godsend for me because I just kind of… Things get discussed on here that seep into my brain and stay there and it keeps me relatively up-to-date. But no, I’ve got… I haven’t got books and books and books but I got quite a few that I have read the first chapter of.

Paul: It’s like Instapaper isn’t it. Instapaper and Pocket and things like that they are this kind of constant sense of guilt to me that I’ve got all these great articles in there and I never read them.

Sam: I’ve still got some articles in there, I think, from when I was putting together a talk in 2013 and I still haven’t read them and I haven’t cleared them out. So yes, it is guilt. It is just constant guilt.

Andy: We do suffer from information overload though don’t we.

Marcus: There’s so much stuff out there we can’t possibly be expected to keep up with everything. No way!

Sam: But I don’t remember having this trouble sort of five or 10 years ago. I kinda felt like… Was there just less out there in our industry? Because I kinda felt like you wouldn’t have to go to a few places and you can sort of pick up on the latest stuff. But now it’s just which area do you want to specialise in. Then you still struggling. That’s how I find it.

Paul: This is what I struggle with, is that I am paid as a consultant, you know, it is all right for Ryan and for Andy because… No, that’s not so right, it’s different isn’t it in that you’ve got a very specific well-defined area where…

Ryan: It’s not so much any more though. Because the lines have blurred.

Paul: No, is it not?

Ryan: I remember for a few years all I worried about was HTML and CSS and now the number of different frameworks language conventions, you know, tools, third-party services, API’s that are running through my brain, it gets to the point where I think “If I have to learn one more frigging API…” You know? “Or interface with this, figure out how to…” You know what I mean? It’s just overwhelming. It’s exponential. I remember though Paul when there was just like Boagworld and maybe a couple of other podcasts and now if you want to listen to stuff about web design and web development and UX and everything else there are 50 million!

Andy: No, there’s only this one to listen to. Never mind the others. Shoptalk.

Sam: Paul you mentioned about being a consultant there. I’ve done a few of those myself, a few sessions. And I do, I think I know what you mean, when I’m going in somewhere as a consultant rather than, I guess you could say, A specific job. I do get this sense of I’m expected to know everything. And actually that’s not… I think we both know that’s not probably not true and yet I still feel it.

Paul: Yeah.

Sam: I don’t know about you but I just try and get as much as I can about what they want to know before I go in so I can actually research. I’ve started to get used to being comfortable saying that and I’ve not had any pushback yet because I guess people don’t expect everyone to know everything right?

Paul: That’s quite a good way… You know that so obvious isn’t it but it’s not something I’ve ever particularly thought about doing.

Sam: It helps me. It makes me feel a little bit better. I can actually do some reading.

Paul: Well, tell you what I’ve decided I’m going to do for now and it feels fairly radical but I’m going to try and set aside every Friday for just experimentation and learning and that kind of stuff. Which is obviously a huge chunk of time but I just feel, I don’t know, it’s a certain degree of kind of impostor syndrome and paranoia but I can’t help but feel that if I don’t really kind of double down on this and put some effort into it I’m going to become obsolete and that I’m not going to be able to keep up so.

Sam: Maybe would help if you sort of focused those days. On maybe this Friday I’m going to just dive into this area and not worry about…

Paul: Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do.

Ryan: We do that. We only book out with clients four days a week and we keep Friday or at least one day a week where we are working on internal stuff and reading up on things that we need to read up on. Because we’ve got a little side projects that need attention and we can’t just leave them week after week after week when people are using them and feeding back and stuff like that. So you do need to have some time that you can dedicate to that and fitting it in around the different points of your day is really disruptive so just having a block of time where you can just say “Right, I’ve got that to fix. I’ll do that Friday.” And jump on it on Friday or “I’m gonna read about how to do this on Friday,” you know, just try and schedule it. It doesn’t always work and sometimes your Friday becomes a Tuesday because you need to jump on something urgently and you work Friday on clients stuff but we try and usually keep to that.

Andy: Well I was wondering about this with me new job and me new team that I’m going to have. It’s how we kind of allow for this inside the working week. You know, I’ve had employees in the past and it’s been a bit hit and miss sometimes in turn of terms of what you can learn and when and often it’s kind of down to the individual isn’t it to almost try and do the stuff in spare time which kind of isn’t really fair. I think there should be actual work time set aside for it. So how do we schedule that? I don’t know whether it is possible to do… There’s always the kind of Google kind of 80/20 rule or I think Clearleft do something where they set a certain amount of time on non-client-related projects or something. But how do we kind of move that into learning part?

Paul: I think, I mean one thing that I do think you can take advantage of is, again something that we were talking about before the show started, which is downtime. You know, Ryan and Dan, were talking about, Dan isn’t here but Ryan with Dan, was talking about how sometimes there’s more or less design work or development work or whatever else. So I mean that’s where you take advantage of stuff. You almost need people to have some kind of learning program that they are working through or at least some kind of idea of what they are doing. Otherwise it just turns into laughing time. Bit like Sam said really with me.

Sam: I think one thing to do at Marks & Spencer is that you have your 10 or 20% time, but one thing I want to bring in, I’ve had it at other places as well, is whatever you are working on you have to sort of present on it. It doesn’t have to be polished, it doesn’t have to be great. It just has a regular cycle of a weekly thing where people talk about what they have been doing in that time. And it kind of creates a kind of a bit of a heartbeat to it and also a purpose that you can’t just go off and, I guess you could say, faff around and do something that is not particularly useful to anybody. Do you know what, sometimes you can do something for yourself but if you’re sharing it you never know who you’re going to get interested or get some feedback, that kind of thing. So you create a routine around the learning rather than schedule the learning time itself. So people kinda do it whenever they can and yeah, that kind of works.

Paul: Yeah, it’s interesting. I tell you one little thing I’m going to do, which is cheating, is I am going to take Marcus’ approach and use next season of the podcast as an opportunity to be introduced to some new stuff. So actually if you’re listening to this you might want to pay attention at this point, not that you haven’t been so far, obviously!

Marcus: Look up now!

Paul: Yeah, look up now, pay attention! So what I’m going to do for season 18, I was thinking, is instead of doing another roundtable, although I love the roundtable and we will definitely come back to this format, is to do a season of lightening talks. Well, I’ve been thinking right, partly because of you Sam and what you are saying about being an introvert and not liking speaking and that kind of stuff, that there are a lot of people out there which have got some really great ideas but the idea of standing up in a conference or even a meet-up is horrendously terrifying and what’s a nice easy way of kind of getting into that mindset of speaking and sharing without having the horror of suddenly finding yourself on a stage faced with all those people. So, I’m thinking we will do a whole section of pre-recorded, so you can go away in your own time for 10 or 15 minutes talk on a subject, right? And you can give a talk and we will include that talk on the show and me and Marcus will talk around it or anybody else…

Marcus: Can we judge them, harshly? (Laughter)

Paul: I’m not sure you’re entirely getting in the spirit of this Marcus.

Marcus: I’m sorry, no.!

Paul: No, no.

Marcus: That was a 4 out of 10!

Paul: Yes, yes. I thought that the content was great but the delivery sucked.

Sam: Oh dear, that’s really encouraging isn’t it!

Paul: No, we won’t be doing that. So what I’m thinking is basically, I mean, if we do lightening talks of 10 to 15 minutes I reckon we can do over 40 in a season. So I think in the end I’m going to be begging people to do this. Because that is a lot of people’s time and effort to go to.

Marcus: We’ll have to do at least one of each of our own, Paul.

Paul: Yeah, yeah! We’ll all do one as well, absolutely. And you know, I’ll be pushing other people to do that and maybe even more than one. So you can submit as many as you want and that’s absolutely fine and, you know, I’d love people that have never spoken before to do it but I’m kind open to anyone really. Even somebody that’s a kind of long-term speaker. I just want a big variety of different content, partly to kind of ensure a good variety on the show and also to expose us to lots of interesting things. So what I’ve done is I’ve prepared a whole blog post on exactly how this will work and also some advice on how to do it well. And even if for some reason, by some freak I end up with more than the number I can include on the show, which I very much doubt. But even if I do I am going to feature everybody’s on my blog. So they will all be available, good, bad, indifferent. We’re not going to make any judgements and it’s just a chance to have a go at it really. And see how you get on. So you can find out how to it is going to work at Boag.world/season18.

Marcus: I can think of a certain managing director at Headscape that would be great for this.

Paul: Exactly.

Marcus: He could speak on analytics.

Sam: It’s a really good idea Paul. I think I would have loved that kind of thing I think to get into the speaking business. That would be really good.

Paul: And also the other thing that occurred to me when I was doing it is that there’s a whole group of people that can’t do speaking even if they are really talented at it maybe people who are caregivers, that’s always a big one because you are looking after a child or a relative or whatever else. You can’t spend time going off to conferences or if you’re disabled there are some situations where you can’t easily attend conferences. So there are all kinds of reasons why people could be excluded from this and I just wanted to kind of open it up and have a load. So yeah, that’s the plan.

Sam: I like that.

Paul: Good. Good, I’m glad I’ve got Sam’s seal of approval! (Laughter)

Sam: I’m really liking that so…

Paul: You validated me as a human being!

Sam: Any time.

Paul: Right, let’s quickly talk about a sponsor. Before we get into our discussions.

Andy: Ooo, who’s our sponsor today Paul?

Paul: Our sponsor today is Teacup Analytics Andy. So Teacup Analytics was, I think they started on last week’s show. The reason I’m really excited about having them in the show is because they are a product that I absolutely love, I’ve been mentoring the guy that created it and also it’s a product that I use. I’ve actually found helpful which is always a good thing. So it’s essentially a tool that allows you to create reports to send to your clients or to your manager or whatever else. So it takes all that kind of guff, guff! It’s not guff! That valuable data in Google analytics and turns it into something very clear and easy to understand. So it’s all built around questions so you have a question such as “Where is my traffic coming from?” Or “Which channel is best converting?” That kind of thing. And there’s a whole section, you just go through and pick whichever questions you want and then it compiles kind of like a report for you that you can then pass to whoever. Because reporting to clients on the performance of their website is a huge challenge and I think a lot of us generate reports manually each month and they are kind of ugly and you have to hack them together and they don’t really impress the clients very much. So Teacup Analytics saves your time for producing those in a few ways that I just want to quickly mention. One is that there is no need to custom build reports for each client. Teacup lets you select a library of ready built reports that cover every client question. So if a client turns round to you, you know, one client wants to talk particularly about bounce rates and another one has got, you know, an interest in something else, that’s easy, you can easily just select the appropriate questions and assemble them specifically personalised to the clients, which is great. Then you can even set it up so that the reports are sent automatically to the client as well which is a really useful thing to be able to do. So it automatically sends them out each week or each month. You can set it and forget it. The best part, of course, is the reports are lovely and your clients are going to love them and that makes them like you and you get more repeat work and the whole world is this beautiful and wonderful place full of flowers and rainbows and unicorns. So that is Teacup Analytics. You can find out more about them at Boag.world/teacup.

Round Table Discussion

Paul: So then, discussion time. Not that we haven’t been discussing stuff already but you know what I mean. Marcus, I thought I might start with you because you got missed out last week.

Marcus: I did, but before…

Paul: But you didn’t make a fuss about it like Andy did.

Marcus: No, no. I was upfront about how much it wouldn’t bother me at all.

Paul: Yep, because you’re mature.

Andy: No, I can’t help being sensitive, you know! People think that I’m just this, I don’t know what, but no, I’m a little delicate flower I am. I’m like a little daffodil just poking its way above… I’m like a snowdrop…

Paul: I could write a list, if you want Andy, of things that people think about you. If you’d like me to.

Andy: The snowdrop feature on the list?

Paul: No, no it doesn’t.

Andy: No, it doesn’t actually does it.

Marcus: Unless that’s a euphemism for something else maybe! (Laughter)

Paul: Anyway, Marcus.

Marcus: Yeah, I was going to talk about recognising uniqueness but before that I have to say that I am the proud owner of a plethora of USBC adapters now.

Paul: Oh, so you’ve upgraded them?

Marcus: My MacBook Pro will be arriving this week. That’s quite exciting.

Paul: So you’ve got all the adapters but no MacBook.

Marcus: They arrived first, as things like that always do. Huge box with this tiny little adapters in them, but there you go. So yeah, I’m going to be testing out these machines that we’ve all said were badly designed. But it’s time for a new one so I had to get one. Anyway, recognising uniqueness. This came… I tend to talk about things that I’ve just experienced and as you know I went out to Washington a few weeks back and I was doing mostly stakeholder interviews. And these guys were telling me that they were a unique firm. And I thought well everybody says that and lots and lots of clients we’ve had over the years say that they are different or unique or they are a bit quirky or whatever. And you think “Okay” and then you end up doing a kind of quirky or unique, in inverted commas, design which then gradually gets kind of pared back to what they actually wanted which was a corporate design or basically a version of their competitor’s website which is just a bit better than their competitors. So…

Paul: Yeah, you’re so cynical. (Laughter) I love it!

Marcus: Yeah, all right. I suppose it’s…

Paul: You’ll cheer up next week because you’ll be 50 and suddenly laid-back about the world.

Marcus: Nearly 50. I think it’s an internal view often is that there is this internal view that we are this quirky bunch of guys, you know, this kind of thing. But actually the external view has to be corporate because we have this corporate message and we work for corporate people. The reason I’m talking about this today is that this client that I’m dealing with are genuinely unique. And what I realised was that the key question to them is “Do people by your stuff, whatever that might be, it might be a product or service or whatever, because you’re unique? Not that you just happen to be kind of quirky guys.” If the answer is yes, then that is when I think you need to develop a style that reflects that uniqueness. And if the answer to that question isn’t yes then you are probably… actually what’s required is something that fits within whatever industry norm that there is. But then another part of these interviews was that you tend to ask people “Are there any other sites that you admire either within your sector not that you think might be useful… That might help us in the process of designing a better site for you guys?” What I kept finding was… Because I have a screen up with a browser open and they would say “Oh, can you go and check out Gibson Dunns site?” or whatever other law firm it was. And pretty much all of them said “Oh, they’ve got a new site. I liked the old one.” And this happened with three or four different sites because they kept referring to the same ones. And they all said “Oh, I don’t like that. The old site was great great” and what I realised is it seems that law firms are, they are basically having to get new sites because their old sites weren’t responsive or whatever and they are just getting whatever the latest trend is. And they aren’t designing sites that reflect the character of the firm which is just that the end of my thought for the week. But it is just interesting to work with a firm, or will be working with a firm that people do by their services because they are different. Which I thought was kind of interesting. End of.

Paul: This whole kind of thing of “Oh yeah, we are kind of fun cool people internally and we’ve got real character” and all the rest of it and then the minute you’ve got to talk to the outside world this attitude of “Well we need to be corporate because those people over there in that other company, you know, that we want to hire us they are all corporate sensible” I call bullshit on that. Because I’ve been thinking about this a lot, I had to do a presentation a little while back on digital transformation and one of the… And it was a B to B company. And one of the things that came up was the fact that “Oh yeah, all the examples that you have been given are B to C, and we are B to B and we’ve got to do things differently. We are different in some ways, because our customers are B to B customers.” Which strikes me as rubbish because B to B… People you by B to B services, right, are the same people who buy B to C services. And it applies in the situation you’re describing as well. You know, just because I’m selling something corporate and sensible people buying it are still human beings, they still go down the pub, they still take their kids to the play park, they still, you know, they are still human!

Marcus: It’s an interesting point isn’t it. Well here’s a question for you. Should the lawyers in this particular firm who are a really cool bunch of guys and I’m really looking forward to working with them. Should they have suits and ties on in their bio pictures?

Sam: Ooo, I would say it depends.

Marcus: So therefore, yes is the answer. Tricky one isn’t it?

Sam: Well when you say should they, do you mean should they look like that, as in should they look so serious?

Marcus: Well you know, these guys are serious trial lawyers. They deal with some very hefty cases.

Sam: I would say, sort of irrelevant of my opinion, I would again base it on their business and who they are targeting. If they are targeting, that’s their client, then yeah, I think they have to. But I wouldn’t just do it by default if that makes sense.

Andy: But also it depends on the concept of the designers

Paul: I would test it.

Andy: No, don’t test it! I mean, if you are… You know, if you think of yourself of being a bit kind of edgy or whatever. Wearing a suit and tie doesn’t necessarily need to mean that you are necessarily going to be conventional or professional or whatever. The photograph of all the people could be done and like Reservoir dogs kind of way, right. And they’re all wearing a shirt and ties and that’s the kind of angle that the whole design might be based around, you know. The whole design might just be based around black-and-white silhouett-ey type graphic-y things. Which is good to give them their edge without making a trite point about it.

Marcus: Very wise Andy. It’s just an interesting point that came up and yeah, fine, representing that uniqueness is something that I can maybe talk about later once we’ve done the project. But it is more of a challenge because you can’t kind of just go by the book. But equally it’s much more interesting thing to do. And the idea of black and white, that kind of starkness is something that is already come up so yeah, interesting.

Andy: Tell you what, it talks about quirky and impersonality and all this kind of stuff. One of my little kind of pet hates is when you see websites and you go to “the about” page and they can be web designers, it can be normal people. You go to the about us page and its “Andy’s been designing since blah, blah, blah, blah and in his spare time he likes to knit pink hats and ride kittens”. And it’s like, who cares?

Marcus: Quite right, yes. It all has to be relevant and the ones where you rollover and they pull a funny face. That’s one of my favourite things actually!

Sam: I get the laughing but have you ever had any clients that actually enjoy that? Because I’ve been part of agencies where when we’ve won work or had whatever relationship with the client, like several clients have commented on how they enjoyed that. Because in the line of work they had no possibility of having what they perceived as fun. They actually quite enjoyed that about us, rather than… So it’s interesting how we look at it and might think it’s cheesy but I think a lot of people who aren’t in our world actually read that stuff and I enjoyed reading about knitting, whatever we do not spare time.

Andy: banking that wear bright socks.

Marcus: It comes down to what is the priority of your highest priority user? And if that sort of thing would piss them off then don’t do it. I think is basically what it comes down to. But yes, representing character is hard. And that’s going to be an interesting… Without making it cheesy or soft or not right. You know, you might be representing character in a way that you think is right but is actually isn’t. So it’s going to be a tricky one but a good challenge to have.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. I was going to add something to wrap it up but then I couldn’t think of anything! So we’ll just move on to Andy. Yes, we’ll stop. It’s the end of that. Andy, speak.

Andy: My book of the day, of the week, was actually brought to my attention by our old friend Mr Andy Budd who I shared a conference staged with him a year or so ago and he was doing a workshop. And he was doing this, I don’t what you call it, game storming workshop.

Paul: Oh yeah,

Andy: And one of the things that he recommended, I tell you what, this was the story. I decided, because I had a spare day after the conference, I had nothing better to do so was going to sit in on Andy’s workshop.

Paul: You really sold it there!

Andy: Actually, it was really good I did actually want to go. I did actually… I asked him whether it would be okay for me to sitting. Because not everybody wants somebody sitting, like me, sitting in on a workshop. And I found it incredibly challenging. It was one of those workshops where he would speak for kind of half an hour about a certain topic and then we would break of into groups and do group activities. And I, to be honest, haven’t done that. I facilitated a lot of those things but I’ve never actually participated in them. And I found it really bloody difficult. It took me until well into the afternoon to feel comfortable about, you know, sharing ideas and stuff. Anyway, one of the books that he talked about was this book “Gamestorming” it’s a playbook for innovators, rule breakers and change makers by Dave Gray and a bunch of other people. And I absolutely love this book and in it they talk about a lot of the kind of game scenarios that Andy talked about in his workshop. For example if we are wanting to get clients to begin to open up about what their issues are and about what their objectives are for example from a design, what they think are the most important properties or features or benefits et cetera of a product then rather than just asking them to fill in a spreadsheet actually do an activity for an hour, 45 minutes. Like for example designing the cover of a magazine. So if your product is going to be on the front cover of the Time magazine what would the strapline be. What would be the big headlines and the little kind of pull quotes. Who would you have describing your product and its virtues on the cover of Time magazine, for example. So that was one of the games. And then the other one was about a context map and think we also did… Oh yes, designing the box. So if your product, no matter what it is or service, came in a box, a cardboard box, what would be on the box? You know, how would you prioritise the list of features and benefits, what would be in the big kind of star sticker that goes in the corner. All that kind of thing. And it really kind of helps clients to open up. We’ve done this a few times now with clients and it’s actually really valuable. So I don’t know whether anybody else has kind of done this process with clients?

Paul: Yeah

Andy: It was new for us and a lot of it came out of this book so that’s my pick for the week.

Paul: We’ve been doing this kind of exercises for years. They’re kind of a staple of how we worked at Headscape and I continue to do so now and I’m sure Headscape still does as well. And it’s incredibly useful especially with design. Things like, you talked about the box exercise. We always do a book cover, right? Which is the same kind of thing basically. The reason it is so good is because you can safely involve the client in the design process without them micromanaging the design. So, you know, when they’re designing a book cover, for example, they are designing what goes on the front, on the spine, on the back and so effectively they are establishing a visual hierarchy. They are establishing key messages, they are making comment on colour and typography and those kinds of things but they are not designing the website. So it still leaves you in control as the designer but they feel like they have contributed to the design and so they’ve got a sense of ownership over it so they are more likely to approve it, they are more likely to support it et cetera. So absolutely, these exercises are great. They are also, they make these workshops and meetings more enjoyable. They are also, some of the exercises are very democratising as well. So in other words you don’t just get a few loudmouths dominating the meeting but everybody gets to feed in, everybody gets to contribute. Gamestorming is just a really good book as you say. The only thing I would say is that I actually think the name is a little bit damaging to it in some ways because it makes you think that you are playing games in meetings and actually the ideas that they put forward, you know, they are activities. They are not really games. And so it is more serious than perhaps it sounds. Also, check out their website. Have you checked out their website Andy?

Andy: Yes, and there is lots of good stuff on there.

Paul: There’s loads more than is in the book on the website. There’s a whole community of people that have been making suggestions and been adding stuff as well. So there’s some really good stuff, it’s brilliant. Sorry, I got a bit overexcited about that one.

Marcus: So brilliant! Amazing!

Andy: I actually picked something that you like Paul, that must be a first.

Paul: Well, it’s not all that wishy-washy oh look here is some designer in the past who did something nice, we should all look at it, you know. We’ve had weeks of that haven’t we?

Andy: Ha, Pah!

Paul: Talking of practical suggestions, I’m going to do one. Won’t take long this one. One of the big challenges that I think a lot of clients have is imagery, right? So, now we all know that we should be going out there and we should be getting proper, good imagery done for our organisation. We should have an image library full of photography that has been specifically taken for our projects and our products and what we do. But that often doesn’t happen and I’m not going to get into an argument about how important that is and how it should be done but let’s just spend a moment just looking at, kind of, reality and some of the stuff you can do. Especially around blogging and social media updates and that kind of thing. Both blogs and social media updates involve a constant production of imagery and most clients aren’t particularly savvy about stuff like that, aren’t particularly good at where they can find good quality imagery, all those kinds of things. So I just want to recommend a couple of things that might help. Number one is a website called Pixabay so P,I,X,A,B,A,Y.com. And that is a repository of huge amounts of royalty free, public licensed imagery. In other words imagery you can use absolutely for free, okay? So go check that out because that’s got some really great imagery you can use as a starting point. Now, there is also a lot of rubbish in there as well so in a minute I just want to share a couple of tips about selecting half decent imagery. The other thing that I know a lot of people do is they have shots of software or screenshots or that kind of stuff that they want to display. So there’s a couple of websites you might want to check out for that kind of thing. One is browserframe.com which is a really, really simple, everybody, all of you are gonna find this. Whenever you do a mock up and you want to show it in a browser go to browserframe.com. You can just whack in your image there and it puts whatever browser around it you want. It is just so useful and quick to do. So that’s a useful thing. Then there’s something called Smartmockups.com. Smartmockups will put your design or screenshots or whatever else on any device that you want. So you can show your screenshot in context, so that’s another really useful tool that you might want to check out. In terms of selecting imagery there’s a few tips that I think are worth giving when it comes to selecting imagery that doesn’t look naff, all right? First of all don’t feel you always have to be literal. One of the things that I see people do a lot when they select imagery is they inevitably end up showing pictures of people shaking hands and that kind of stuff because they’re trying to think, they’re trying to visualise the reality of whatever they are writing about. In most cases it’s us sitting and having a meeting or those kinds of things. So you end up with really naff stuff. Try and think a bit more laterally, that’s always a good one. The second one, always look for slightly unusual angles that a photograph is shot in or cropped in an unusual way that is always another way of making your images stand out. And then third is talk to a designer, get a designers input to establish some kind of style guide for the images that you are selecting. So instead of all of your images being different a good designer should establish some kind of consistency across the imagery either in the terms of how it is framed, what kind of thing appears in it or what filter is applied over it. Then the final piece of advice that I would give over this is make sure that your image has a strong central point of interest. So don’t let it… Crowd scenes or things like that don’t work particularly well on the web. No doubt Andy now wants to jump in because I suspect he’s got a load of great advise on this as well.

Andy: No, I was just going to talk and say that the things that you are talking about there in terms of crop and angles and subject matter and that kind of thing, that is art direction. And that is something which you as a designer should be leading for the client rather than getting them to select images. Because it’s not just about showing… I’m glad you mentioned people shaking hands, you forgot to mention the ethnically diverse, they’ve always got to be ethnically diverse people shaking hands. But that kind of thing is not really for the client to choose it’s part of your overall concept, I think, for the design. And that cropping things unusually is something that the art directors that I’ve mentioned in my previous books that you so widely derided, are all about. So that’s the point I wanted to make really. The other thing I just wanted to quickly jump in and say. Obviously for your ethnically diverse people shaking hands, there is actually a really, really good, I think anyway, good alternative stock library which is called colourstock. I don’t you seen this? The URL is getcolourstock.com. Basically it’s a curated photo stock library but it only features people of colour.

Paul: Right, that’s an interesting idea.

Andy: Yeah, and I just think that that is something that people might be interested in having a look at.

Paul: I mean I totally agree with the art direction thing. I think you are entirely right, it’s just that there is what should be and then there’s the reality isn’t there. Absolutely, you want a designer to be selecting and working on your imagery but it doesn’t always happen, is the truth. Especially on things like social media. Which reminds me of one other site, one other tool that you might find it useful. Which is something called Spark by Adobe. Spark.Adobe.com which helps you create nice, well nice is a strong word, but reasonable, acceptable social media imagery to upload with you know, writing over it or whatever. Absolutely, Andy is a hundred percent right that you want someone proper to do these kinds of things, to advise you and set those kind of styles but if all else fails just bare those things in mind. Okay, Sam what have you got for us?

Sam: Yes. So I just want to give a couple of interview tips. So for people that do interviews with candidates. So I saw a tweet last week from an ex-colleague now friend called Steve Bennett who works at a company called Alfresco and it got me thinking about this topic. I’ve spoken about it before and the tweet was “There are few truly great places to work therefore you should aim for a place that gives you the freedom to make it great.” Which I thought was very wise and very true. It just reminded me of something I’ve spoken about before which is what I believe are mistakes many, many companies are making when they are hiring people, in the interview part, all right? So there are two mistakes that I think people, employers are making in our industries these days and that is essentially ballshitting candidates and hiring rockstar douchebags. So I just want to kind of go through…

Marcus: Pardon? (Laughter)

Sam: Rockstar douchebags is a, yeah, you know what they are!

Paul: It’s a technical phrase.

Sam: You’ve definitely met some Marcus, I’m sure of it.

Marcus: I was wondering whether I was being referred to as one, yeah. (Laughter) Carry on Sam.

Sam: So I just thought I would go through really a couple, it’s really just one tip but a kind of a mindset of what I’ve used to try and get around these to hopefully minimise these two things. And it’s all based around being honest in an interview. So I’ll just go through it quickly. Basically I get the person settled in the room and kind of one of the first questions I’m going to ask them is to tell me what it is about places they work, be it the present one they are at or any one at all that they both… What they think is good and bad about working at any company. And I don’t restrict it to our area in terms of technology or design, it’s like anything, it can be that. It can be that, it can be the bosses, it can be the culture, it could be the coffee machine for all I care. All I want to know is what are those things that they essentially really love about working at a company and also things that really grate on them. And ultimately the kind of things that build up and end up making people leave. Which is kinda fine, it’s not that strange of thinking but what I try to tend to do then is I’m then going to tell them my answers for my company that at the moment. Including the bad stuff. I think that’s what’s quite surprising to people. So what I found over the years is that as I was sitting in interviews in, say, less of a senior role, or whatever, just sort of listening more than contributing, I noticed that there seemed to be this trend across companies and across the years of selling your company to candidates and telling them all the good stuff, how wonderful it is and all the stuff about why they should join and very little about what the reality is. And as we all know pretty much every company I’ve worked for has issues. Everyone has issues, different ones. So I essentially tell them what it’s like to work at my company and it’s kind of interesting to see the reactions because what I find is that you can very quickly get a measure of someone’s character when you start talking about the bad things. What I’ve noticed over the years is that there is a definite split, if I had to sort of categorise it there would be split between people that kind of look refreshingly surprised, kind of find the fact that I’m being honest quite refreshing and the people that tend to have a different attitude, I guess you could say, when I start talking about bad things they’ll start turning their noses up, you can very much tell that they are not liking the fact that there is bad stuff at this company. So essentially it’s really, it’s kind of like a tactic to get people onto my team who really value that honesty over the perks that we are typically used to selling or seeing in our industry. And there are also these people are wise enough to know that all companies have issues. How this plays out in reality is that essentially the people that join, basically whenever I’m telling people what is not so great at the company I am always surprised when people except because it’s kind of a weird feeling because you’re telling people that look, this is the reality and I’m telling you because I think it’s best you know. So when people have like multiple offers on the table and pick yours it always feels kind of weird. But what I found is, using that technique, you just reduce any kind of disillusionment building up because typically what happens when I’ve been in these situations where companies have sold to candidates rather than the reality is that they will get into the company and no matter what they thought before, it could be weeks it could be maybe three months but the kind of see what it’s really like. You get disillusioned and you think this is what I was sold. It’s not a really good way to start a relationship whereas when I do it this way and I have like a one-to-one or passing them in the kitchen or whatever it might be, I will always make sure that the first thing I say to them after say a month is how does this stack up to compared to what I sold you? And what actually looking for, the perfect answer is a nonplussed “Yeah, it’s pretty much what you said” and that for me should be the best thing possible because I’ve had so many experiences in the past where people are starting to see the reality versus what they were told in the interview. The other thing is really about people’s character I guess you could say. Is this thing where I see so many companies hiring based on the skills and not the character.

Marcus: Sam, Sam sorry. Can I… Have you got an example of a bad thing that you might tell somebody.?

Sam: Yes, I mean what I try and do is that I will try and tell them things that all companies have, or things that we have. So one thing that I would mention in the past is that we have a platform that has quite a lot of technical debt. Now to the people that have been doing this for years that’s not probably too surprising but you will see people’s reaction to that and it can vary from people that are sort of younger in their career and they really don’t want to work on platforms that are riddled with technical debt. They want to work in Greenfield, all the new stuff. So you can see that some will say that, some you can detect it. There are other things, so let’s say you work at a company that isn’t as flexible with time. You know, there’s not remote working or it’s not as easy or whatever it is, you can say that and it’s something we don’t have. And it is something that you can get out there, put on the table and you can very much see people thinking “Okay, this isn’t going to work for me.” When that happens it’s not a kind of, you failed this interview it’s more of a “Well, this is sort of a dodged a bullet for both of us isn’t it?” It’s about finding that match and I think one quote from the film Good Will hunting always, always just nails it so much about how I see about finding a place to work but also interviewing is from the film, yeah, Good Will hunting and it’s Robin Williams and he said “You’re not perfect, sport, and let me save you the suspense, this girl you’ve met… or job… she’s not perfect either but the question is whether or not you are perfect for each other” And I just think that so really good way to think about both interviewing and joining a new company, you know. It’s not going to be perfect but it might be brilliant for you personally. And it’s a way of just changing the whole dynamic of the interview really, to make sure it’s a mutual two way pairing process with honesty. And honestly I’ve told people things about where I’m working and they’ve joined and it amuses me the fact that I’ve told someone once and I asked in that same question, you know, how does it seem compared to what is sold you? And he said “You actually made it sound worse than it is!” (Laughter) Which was kind of a strange thing. It’s like I’m the ultimate underselling over delivering tactic. But just really the main message is just to not sell your company to candidates. Just tell them everything because they are going to find out and you are going to very quickly not have people join your company because they come disillusioned because when they do and they are disillusioned it really does only take one or two people to be disillusioned and start being a bit toxic and you got a real problem on your hands. So yeah, why go through that pain, why get three people through the door based on their technical skills.

Paul: No, go on carry on.

Sam: No, it’s just the final thing was, yeah, please don’t hire people based on their technical skills alone. I’ve been in companies where the interview questions were purely based around the skill and nothing about them as people at all. And no doubt there are some people that are amazingly talented, like their super good but they bring with them other things. They are a whole person after all and, you know, you put them into the team and it could just not be right and they could just destroy your team. And it’s, yeah, please just, please just talk to them find out who the person is, don’t just rely on their skills. You can be a nice person and a developer or really not a nice person and a developer. As good as each other, so yes, that’s my little bit this week.

Paul: I just got to say that’s brilliant, Just brilliant, I couldn’t agree more. Really, really good. I’m sitting here smiling. It doesn’t happen often on a Monday.

Sam: The truth is I started doing this tactic when I took over a team and a lot of people were leaving that team as I took them over and the feedback I was getting was essentially the trend was that the job wasn’t what was sold to me. So I just… There were certain things that this company that I just couldn’t change. There was no way I could change them so… And some of them were strange, so I just, you know, why not just tell them? And I have to admit my boss at the first few, it kind of felt uncomfortable to say it but over the years it just seemed to build a really nice team, you know, people who actually value personal morals and values over the tech. And actually found these teams helped each other a lot more than before. Before we had a sort of them and us between technologies, whereas actually getting people that are… You know, maybe do not have people that are sort of on the world stage or cutting-edge, but as a team they were brilliant. I think that’s the whole point.

Marcus: It’s always been my job at Headscape to basically sit in on interviews with developers and I’ve got no… I can add nothing from a technical point of view so my role is purely to try and find out a bit more about the person. which is valuable. It’s great.

Paul: Cool, all right I would say we would move on to Ryan but as Ryan said at the beginning of the show “I don’t know what to talk about.” So you’re off the hook this week Ryan. You’ve got until next week to come up with something. Is that all right?

Ryan: Fair enough, yes, that’s fine.

Paul: You know, I don’t want to offend you. I know that people get offended over this. Or people as in one person.

Ryan: I’ve got to open the show next week.

Paul: Okay, fine. Fine by me.

Sam: You going to regret that.

Andy: And I won’t be on, I won’t be on so you can get my name wrong.

Paul: We won’t mention you, there won’t be any need to mention you will there because you will be dead to us.

Andy: Yes, I suppose so.

Ryan: I think it’s a bit weird that my business partner is on the show next week and I had no idea! (Laughter)

Paul: Yep, but that about sums up working with someone else really doesn’t it.

Okay, let’s talk about a final sponsor of the day Proposify is a proposal creating the piece of software that I used for years, really, really good piece of software. It increases your efficiency in all kinds of ways when it comes to producing proposals but one of them is that it can sink with your CRM, your invoicing system, project management tools. Which is so useful. It integrates with some of the top business apps so you can import contacts, you can link deals, you can generate invoices and create projects and all that kind of stuff. So, for example it will link with your CRM for proposals so you can sync the sales activities and deals and opportunities in your CRM to Proposify which is really useful. So things like Pipedrive, Hubspot, is that Zoho, Zoho. I think that’s right, I know that they are well known brand I’ve just never said them out loud. Pipedrive is the one that I use all the time and the fact that it links to Proposify is just so incredibly useful because you can link the proposals you are writing with the deals and the people have got in your CRM. It’s kind of a no-brainer really.Next one is that you can manage your cash flow through your invoicing. So you can generate invoices and projects with one proposal. So you win a proposal, it automatically creates a project or an invoice in apps like Zero, infusionsoft? I should know that! And Freshbooks. And the final one is that you can use it to project manage your proposal process so you can import proposal details, contacts and generate projects on one deal. So you can invite team members and clients to be involved in a project with apps like Basecamp, Harvest, that kind of thing. So it integrates closely with all these different platforms which makes everything so much easier to manage. Right, so that is Proposify. You can find out more about them at Proposify.biz/Boagworld.

Now, Marcus do you have a joke for us to wrap up with?

Marcus: I do. Am I sounding all right?

Paul: No, you sound… For me you are sounding echoey. I’m thinking you will be all right for the actual recording Marcus because you are recording locally if that makes sense.

Marcus: Oh, okay then. A very quick joke then. I think Ian at work at Headscape came up with this one “Did you know you can’t use beef stew as a password, because it isn’t strong enough”

Paul: Oh, that is terrible!

Andy: I like that one! {Transcriber’s note: I laughed aloud at that one too!}

Marcus: It’s good isn’t it?

Paul: It is, I like that a lot. In a kind of its terrible way, ah, brilliant. Good one Ian, who knew he had such a sense of humour. Well he must do to work with you guys. Ha hah, see what I did there? Okay, so best place to find out about each person. Marcus why don’t we start with you?

Marcus: Headscape.co.uk and very, very occasionally tweets @marcus67.

Paul: Sam?

Sam: Website is TheSamBarnes.com and Twitter is @atheSamBarnes.

Paul: Ryan?

Ryan: We are nodividestudio.com and on Twitter I am @Ryanhavoc.

Paul: We are going to get that twice next week ar’nt we, nodividestudio. Thats going to be annoying, you will get double the mentions. And Andy.

Andy: You can get me at stuffandnonsense.co.uk and @malarkey onTwitter. And I will see you in a couple of weeks.

Paul: Yeah, when you’ll be in Australia. How cool’s that.

Andy: I know!

Marcus: Bye Andy

Sam: Good luck Andy

Paul: And finally, just to say don’t forget to submit your talk for next season, really excited about doing this so you can find out more about that at Boag.world/season18. Thank you so much for listening and talk to you again next week. Bye

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