5 reasons to love working with emails!

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show we have talks on why you should love designing emails and an unusual way to get clients thinking about design.

Skip to talk 1 or talk 2.

This weeks show is sponsored by Fullstory and Freshbooks.

Paul: Hello and welcome to the Boag world show the podcast about all aspects of digital design, development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag. Joining me on this week’s show is Marcus but we’ve also, very exciting, we are also going to have Leigh on the show. We haven’t had him for a while. Hello Leigh.

Leigh: I think you overbilled me there a little bit.

Marcus: No, you were on last week’s show. But, no…

Paul: Yeah.

Leigh: I thought you were having a least special and having two in one.

Marcus: No!

Leigh: Ah.

Marcus: That would be too much Leigh.

Paul: Yeah.

Leigh: I was waiting for the lead to come through as the “Leigh special”.

Paul: You are nice in small doses Leigh! (Laughter)

Marcus: I was going to say, in so many ways that would be too much!

Leigh: Fair enough.

Marcus: How are you Paul?

Paul: Depressed.

Marcus: Oh.

Leigh: Oh dear.

Paul: Well, don’t you feel like… I just reached this point where I’m fed up with the world. It’s all just…

Marcus: There’s no point carrying on, let’s just, I don’t know, walk out into the sea like Reggie Perrin.

Paul: Yeah. I mean, don’t you think, mind, it’s just (sigh).

Marcus: What’s the point?

Leigh: Is it’s just this time of the week?

Paul: We’ve got Nazis and we’ve got, oh, just everything, everything. Everything is miserable.

Marcus: But that’s the reason, the Nazis are a reason to stay alive and do something about it. There you go.

Leigh: Well, Chris was telling me about the super volcano in Naples. That looks depressing as well. Massive, massive explosion and day turning to night for years…

Marcus: 10 years of night.

Paul: On the upside Leigh, if the massive super volcano blows up then that will deal with the Nazis.

Leigh: This is true. And we will have nice sunsets to as well, I think. That is always pretty.

Marcus: I don’t actually think that is true Paul! What you just said.

Leigh: Are they in Naples? Is that what you’re saying?

Marcus: They are not all in Naples!

Paul: Oh, I thought you were talking about Yellowstone. I thought that’s due to go as well.

Leigh: Oh!!

Marcus: No, no, no. It’s…

Leigh: A different calamity!

Marcus: … There is a super volcano of which Krakatoa wasn’t one that… They had an earthquake under the sea outside Naples and where this super volcano is underneath which they think will make it come awake.

Paul: Oh good!

Leigh: Yellowstone is another one, yes.

Paul: That’s nice.

Marcus: But this is a really, really massive, massive one that only happens every hundred thousand years.

Paul: Yeah, Yellowstone is one of those.

Leigh: Yellowstone is bigger. It’s hundreds of miles across

Marcus: Really?

Paul: Yeah, yeah. Slap bang in the middle of America. And it’s due to go, they are all due to go. (Laughter)

Marcus: Oh, well this is very exciting isn’t it!

Leigh: End of days! (Sigh) Shall we do this podcast or…

Marcus: No, no let’s talk about really depressing things. I banged my shin really badly this morning.

Leigh: What’s the point?

Marcus: Which was really, that wasn’t nice.

Paul: Yes, but that’s not… That’s not depressing as in the kind of depression you get on Twitter. Because there is a certain…

Marcus: I don’t read Twitter. I gave up.

Paul: … Type, you know, I don’t imagine your shin getting banged going viral on Twitter while neo-Nazi rallies and all of that kind of… I’ve now had to add so many filters on Twitter to remove keywords and I’ve had to unfollow so many people that I don’t know why I bother being on it any more.

Marcus: Well, I… Isn’t it funny, a friend of mine, sort of, yes, he is a friend of mine but he moved to Spain 10 years ago. He is 66 today and he said, “It’s my annual bash onto Facebook. Thanks everyone for wishing me happy birthday but I don’t really do social media any more. And I thought ”I don’t much either."

Paul: No.

Leigh: No.

Marcus: I do it’s less and less and less and less.

Leigh: Me too. Yeah.

Marcus: Umm, I think we have discussed this on the podcast in the past but I don’t really know why. It’s not like anything is less interesting.

Paul: Because everything is depressing.

Marcus: DO you think that’s why it is Paul?

Paul: Seriously, Twitter now, Andy Budd recently posted on Twitter “I miss the days…”

Marcus: I saw that one!

Paul: “I miss the days where we talked about breakfast on Twitter and what we are eating.”

Marcus: “People far apart posted what they were having for breakfast” or something like that.

Paul: Yes

Leigh: Now you would be criticised from every corner.

Paul: I replied to it and saying “Oh, I absolutely agree, those were the good old days.” And then immediately somebody told me off for being privileged.

Leigh: Nostalgic? Oh, right (Laughter)

Paul: So…

Marcus: Privileged, yes. Well you are privileged Paul.

Paul: Well, I am.

Marcus: We all are actually, yes! You are, as am I.

Paul: Yeah, I am but I don’t see quite how me wanting to talk about breakfast is privileged. But anyway. So, that about sums it up really. I do… You know, I need to know what’s going on in the world but I don’t really want to know it from Twitter. I’d prefer to know it from the BBC.

Leigh: Yes, exactly.

Paul: Because I believe the BBC. Do you see what I mean?

Marcus: So do I. And that’s where I get my news from, mostly. Not all, but mostly.

Paul: You know, seeing random people ranting about various subjects doesn’t… I don’t know whether I believe them or not because they are random people. They are not, you know grown-ups. I’m sounding old aren’t I!?I want fact checks.

Leigh: I think you are kind of, you know, you have been through it. I think all of the surprises have gone as well from things like Twitter. We went through all that, we know what it is going to deliver us now from on a daily basis. There are better places to get the stuff that we actually are interested in now.

Paul: Yeah.

Leigh: Feedly and, you know,

Marcus: That’s true, Feedly is great.

Leigh: Apple news, I guess on the iPad and things.

Marcus: The only social media I do is Facebook now and that’s not very often either because that is friends. It is a closed group of mates showing pictures when they are going out with their family or being silly or whatever. That’s fine but yes, Twitter is too much for me mostly.

Paul: Instagram became my happy place for a while because that’s all people being happy isn’t it? Oh, look I’m having a… I’m in beautiful scenery and all of this.

Marcus: You are living a privileged life Leigh. I mean Paul.

Paul: Yes, exactly, exactly. So I liked that but then they’ve started… People have started posting social commentary. It’s social commentary I don’t really like, I think. On social media personally. I’ve no problem with other people… Other people can post whatever they want to to social media, that’s entirely up to them but…

Marcus: I post some social commentary, like Frankie Boyle and Jonathan Pye, he’s great.

Paul: Oh, Jonathan Pye is awesome. Everything… I would vote for him to be Prime Minister.

Marcus: So, there you go. That is social commentary Paul.

Paul: Yes, exactly. I’m fine with that but for me I don’t want it via social media.

Leigh: No, he’s on my subscriptions on my YouTube channel. So I just go there.

Paul: Exactly, exactly.

Leigh: That’s another stream of stuff that I have decided that I like and I don’t have to be fed it.

Paul: I want to have my worldview constantly reinforced.

Leigh: We want to constantly reinforce our bubbles, that’s it! We don’t want any of this outside stuff getting in! (Laughter) People commenting and saying that we are wrong.

Paul: I don’t want contrary views to my own! (Laughter)

Marcus: I have another theme that we could move to Paul because I noticed on Twitter the other day, Paul, that you want a new book to read.

Paul: Oh yes, I do actually. Yes, I’ve been reading, obviously Ian Banks, who you know I love. Iain M Banks and the culture. I’m a great… I love these sci-fi books where you have like a kind of complete positive views of the future, actually, if you think about it. Rather than the negativity that we are living in at the moment. So, you’ve got like the culture which is this beautiful utopian wonderful world where computers run everything. Which probably isn’t a bad idea at this point. It can’t be any worse than what we’ve currently got running things. Then Peter F Hamilton where you’ve got the Commonwealth and, you know, again these post economic, post capitalist worlds, Utopia, Star Trek-ey type worlds. And I’m looking for a new one.

Marcus: Well, Alistair Reynolds definitely is where you need to go next. He wrote a whole bunch of books in… Basically in our, human universe but in hundreds and possibly thousands of years in the future.

Paul: Okay, which one do I start with? Because I read one of his chasm, was it chasm something?

Marcus: Chasm city was one of them, yes.

Paul: Yeah, it didn’t really grab me for some reason, but…

Marcus: I’ll tell you where you should start Paul.

Paul: Yes boss

Marcus: I should have done this beforehand.

Paul: You are my go to sci… Sorry, what did you say?

Marcus: Oh, you’re going a bit… You’re going all a bit crackly Paul.

Paul: Yeah.

Marcus: Revelation space, that’s where you need to start.

Paul: I’m pretty sure I’ve read that.

Marcus: Oh, right. Well, it will tell you what the next one is, there’s three of them. And then there are other stories within that sphere.

Paul: Okay.

Marcus: But, another book that Leigh is also reading at the moment.

Leigh: I’m ahead of you now. Because I listen to them which is faster.

Marcus: You can’t be ahead of me!

Leigh: I’m halfway through.

Marcus: Oh no, I’m more than that, I’m at 85% through.

Leigh: Oh, okay. I’m not ahead of you.

Marcus: It’s… this is a non-fiction book Pul about science and it’s called “The things we cannot know.” By a chap called Marcus du Sautoy who is like the science version of the poet laureate as far as I can gather. And it is basically every major science-ey thing ever, explained in a way that isn’t kind of childish but is understandable, mostly. And it’s bloody fabulous

Paul: Hmmm.

Leigh: There were a few equations earlier.

Marcus: There are a few equations but you can just skip over those, that’s fine!

Leigh: They don’t go so well on an audiobook!

Marcus: No, they don’t go so well when you can see them either!

Leigh: (Laughter) Oh, okay!

Marcus: But it’s just it’s from the early days of science, starting with Newton and things like that and then on to quantum mechanics and relativity and all that kind of stuff. Things that you think you know about but actually you haven’t got a bloody clue. And it’s a really really good book.

Paul: Do you know what, I’m really sorry to break it to you but there is no way on earth I am going to read that. The problem that I have… It’s not that I’m not interested, I am utterly interested and fascinated by all that kind of stuff. The reason I am not going to read it is because I have an on tap constant, never shuts up the bloody hell up, source of that in my son. (Laughter) If one more person explains quantum mechanics to me I think I might have to punch them.

Marcus: But if anyone… It’s in the book, it’s quoted, “If you think you know it then you don’t.”

Paul: Oh no, he… James says that but it doesn’t stop him constantly trying to explain it to me which is even more annoying. On one hand he says, you know, nobody who says they understand quantum mechanics does. And then on the next hand spends three hours explaining it to me while I’m trapped in a car travelling somewhere with him. You know, that’s not nice. That’s just cruel!

Marcus: Yes, let’s not get into it, but… It is just… We are not here really.

Paul: No I know we are not.

Marcus: None of this is real, none of its real. (Laughter)

Paul: So really I don’t know why anybody cares about this podcast or neo-Nazis. Really! I can’t believe I just said neo-Nazis and this podcast in the same breath as if they are interchangeable. That worries me.

Marcus: There’s nothing I can add to that Paul.

Paul: No, there’s not.

Leigh: Do you have show titles because that sounds like a good one.

Marcus: Yeah, that would be great! (Laughter)

Paul: Marcus can you tell Leigh that I just can’t hear him any more, is getting fainter and fainter and disappearing into the distance. Hello Leigh, are you there, are you there, are you there.

Marcus: Just talk loudly Leigh.

Leigh: I’m trying. I think your audio setup has got a bit of a problem Marcus because I am really loud in my ears.

Marcus: You are in mine too. Yeah, it’s just Paul.

Paul: It’s just me, perhaps I’m going deaf.

Marcus: Ooo, I wonder if it could be this. Goes off and does something techie. You carry on Paul.

Paul: Actually that works well because I’ve got to talk about a sponsor and you can fiddle with things. You can fiddle with your knobs in the meantime. (Laughter) Yes, how old are you? You should be beyond that Marcus, come on mate. Come on, you are better than that. Right, okay let’s talk about Fullstory because I am sure they would be love to be associated with Marcus’s knobs. So, Fullstory, you know I love Fullstory. Next generation of analytics, get rid of Google analytics, it just annoys me. Grr. Well, I know a lot of people are really into it but I’m not. I don’t understand it. It’s too complicated. So, in my opinion Fullstory is just the best analytics tool I have ever seen. You put in one little script onto your website and you are done. You never have to create event handlers or manual tagging or any of that kind of stuff so you can be up and running in minutes. Probably its biggest differentiator from its competition is that every event, every click, every swipe, every scroll, every bit of text is fully and instantly indexed and searchable. So Fullstory does no sampling it just grabs absolutely everything, every single user session and will give you really detailed insights into user behaviour on your site, how people are interacting with every single element. You can do things retrospectively, look retrospectively at stuff. So that once that bit of code is on your website there is nothing to stop you going back and saying “I wonder how somebody interacts with this element on the page?” Even though you haven’t created any kind of event handler or anything on it. It is just absolutely great. Do you know what, instead of me talking about how great it is just go try it for yourself. You can get a month for free of their pro account, you don’t have to enter any credit card. When you get to the end of the month it will just carry on for free but after the initial month it’s only going to record a thousand user sessions per month and then at any stage when, like me, you get the jitters because you got withdrawal symptoms from not having the whole site fully indexed the entire time, then they will get your money because you will want to pay for it! It’s not cheap, I’ll be honest, it’s something for a reasonable size organisations. If you work in-house, really you’ve got to have something like this. But, the rest of us can make use of their free account which is really cool. You can find out all about it at Fullstory.com/boag. B O A G.

Okay, so we come onto our first talk of the day which is a talk by Laura Harrison at 1973online.co.uk. Which makes her one year younger than me if that’s her birthday.

Marcus: I can’t believe people using their birth, date of birth in their URLs and their Twitter handles, is just under believable.

Leigh: That’s one bit of security, isn’t it?

Paul: Yeah, I know!

Marcus: I just can’t believe it!

Paul: I know right! So…

Marcus: It’s too late now, I’ve done it.

Paul: You don’t know, 1970, she looks, from her profile picture she looks too young to be 1973 so perhaps it references something else. But that might just be because I have aged badly and she hasn’t. So compared to me she looks young.

Marcus: Could be.

Paul: Could be. Anyway, hello Laura. So Laura works in digital design. She’s been working in it for over 13 years and heads up a design and marketing company and is the creative director of 1973. So, creative director makes it sound like she didn’t found it so perhaps it is somebody else. I was going to say… Yeah. They are a digital agency in Oxfordshire specialising in design production and automation of global marketing campaigns. So in other words she does a lot of email design, amongst other things. I have to say, this is an absolutely brilliant talk that she’ spots’s got on five reasons to love email design and development. When I saw that talk I thought “Wow, you’ve got a bit of a challenge ahead of you there Laura.” But she does a stunning job so let’s listen to what Laura has got to say now.

Reasons to love email design and development!

Play talk at: 16:58 – Emails can get a bad rep within the digital community for being a nightmare to work with and restrictive in what you can do. I’d like to change that perception with my top 5 reasons to love working with emails!

Laura Harrison: Reasons to love email design and development!
I’ve worked in digital design for over 13 years, and now head up design and marketing as creative director at 1973 Ltd. We’re a digital agency in Oxfordshire specialising in the design, production and automation of global marketing campaigns. Visit Laura’s agency at 1973online.co.uk

Hi everyone, I’m Laura and I’m going to talk to you about the dreaded topic of email design and development. Now, I’ve been listening to this podcast pretty much since it began I think when I was still a lonely student and I don’t think this is a topic that has been covered a lot in podcasts because I know that emails aren’t really Pauls favourite thing. They do come under a lot of flack. They are seen as difficult to work with, outdated, can be seen as spam. But research by Venture beat has shown that for the last 10 years in a row now email marketing has been the channel generating the highest return on investment for marketers. So there are obviously still a big player and don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. So I thought I would try and instil a bit of positivity about emails within the digital community. I remember there was an interview on the podcast a couple of years ago with Fabio Carneiro who is a bit of a celebrity of an email developer and he advocates talking to the wider web community about email design rather than just preaching to the converted so I thought I would follow his lead a bit. So here we go. Here are my top five reasons to give email design and development a chance.

Number one. The email design community is amazing. I don’t know if it’s the whole underdog thing because we feel like the inferior cousin to web design we have got to come together and prove ourselves. But I found that people working with emails are really passionate about what they do and they want to keep learning and pushing the boundaries of what is possible and even better, they want to help others do the same too. So, you have got the Twitter hashtag campaign #makeemailsgreat which aims to do just that and there are websites celebrating really good emails such as reallygoodemails.com! For development support you’ve got Twitter, the Twitter hashtag #emailgeeks which is great and that has a slack channel now too and there you get people sharing code, asking questions or posting a cool or not so cool email they have seen. You have got email testing platforms like email on acid and Litmus and they provide all sorts of tools and templates as well as discussion forums, conferences and even podcasts if you like that kind of thing. Then there is even more targeted groups like the hashtag #womenofemail on Twitter which I particularly like. There are more and more conferences popping up all the time for emails like the Litmus email design conference which was brilliant. And the Email Innovation Summit and these tend to be quite non-sales-ey and are just the people doing hands-on work with emails every day, getting together sharing their knowledge and ideas. So, you learn a lot at these events and always come away feeling quite inspired and more like you’ve made a new bunch of mates really. So again, these are always backed up with really active Twitter hashtags so they create a lot of discussion during and after the events. So it is really supportive and collaborative community.

Reason number two. Limits can be liberating. So, sure, we may need to use old school tables and work with email clients that don’t support all the latest cool CSS stuff but having to keep things simpler and working within restrictions can actually breed more creativity because it encourages you to explore what else you can do within that space. Then actually when you do achieve something great within that space it is all the more rewarding and it makes you want to share it and show it off. There are some really talented people working within this field and pushing it forward all the time. To namedrop one an email developer called Mark Robins has done amazing things in terms of interactive emails. He often demos his more experimental work at conferences and at one talk I saw him do he revealed at the end that this whole slide deck that he had been presenting through was actually an email. So he had been clicking through different slides, it has been animating all the way showing different content and yes, it wasn’t a PowerPoint deck or anything it was actually all held within an email that he had coded. So this bought on an audible gasp from the crowd and I have to say after that it was a bit of a rock star at this conference. But yes, he has pioneered things like shopping cart experiences and pagination within email. So it is actually possible that emails can become a place to stick around to interact with, to have an experience in rather than just being a launchpad to click away off to another website or somewhere else. Bandwidth is improving all the time so this has allowed things like animated gifs, nice big images and email clients are improving too. They are offering greater CSS support now so you can include things like CSS animations, hover states, background images and you can do a lot more with your layouts and how they respond and adapt to different widths and devices. As long as you are working fallbacks for the clients that don’t support things then there’s nothing really to stop you doing interesting things in the ones that do. As with anything, of course, it is worth knowing your audience and the environments that they tend to be in to double check how relevant this stuff is going to be for them. Also Litmus, who I previously mentioned, have teamed up with Microsoft, I think last year, in an effort to help improve the rather awkward Outlook clients. So they are giving email developers voice and working with Microsoft to report all the bugs and the things that make developers lives hard in the hope to improve the rendering of emails in Outlook. So things are really looking up there and have just generally come a really long way. I think it’s a really exciting time to be working with emails.

Number three. Email is a really personal and effective marketing channel. So in 2015 Marketing Sherpa reporters 72% of US consumers named emails as the favourite method of receiving communication from the companies that they deal with. So that is a good stat. for you and just shows there is a fantastic opportunity there to develop a really strong relationship with your email subscribers. In fact more and more companies are sending from a “reply to” address rather than a “do not reply” address as they recognise that this is a great place for a conversation and dialogue and it shouldn’t just be a broadcast. You can get really personal with people and I mean more than just having dear “first name” in your emails. For instance I have seen examples of emails that will dynamically check the weather in the recipients location and then display different content accordingly. I also know a lot of people say that they have got a favourite email that they know comes in every week and they will wait with anticipation to have a good read of it. So if your content is engaging and strikes a chord with people you can build great loyalty. Of course all this comes with great responsibility as well so you have to respect that you’re entering their personal space and be careful not to bombard people or be to sales-y. If you keep your emails helpful and interesting than they can be a really valuable form of communication.

Number four. Instant feedback and real-time results. So whilst it’s quite scary that once an email has gone it has gone and there is not much you can do about it, which is why testing is so key here, there are advantages to having a form of communication that you know reaches your audience at a certain time. A B split tests being one. So for instance you can take a portion of your audience, split them in half and send the same email to each but with different subject lines. The open rates can then be tracked instantly by your automation program and the most successful one can be sent to the remaining portion of the audience right then. So it is fast, it is automated and you can see the results in real time as the emails are delivered. You could also test different designs and content in your emails and then track how these affect the click through rates. So, because you are able to measure and track the results of an email so soon after it is sent it is really useful because it means you can take that data and learnings and inform the next send and just keep improving your output all the time. Automation platforms are really powerful these days in terms of what they can do. There are so many out there now now as well aimed at all different levels so perhaps a smaller business might use something like MailChimp and a large corporate would use Eloqua. Either way the tools are getting increasingly more helpful. They will often provide responsive templates and drag and drop features but for more advanced users you can do all sorts of cool things with data as well such as segmenting your contacts into different target groups, sending different things based on recipients activities, setting up rules for different languages and time zones and working in logic to send a series of emails for a nurture track. Really the possibilities are endless.

Finally number five. Emails are just the start. More often than not if you are working with emails they are just the tip of the iceberg, they are probably part of a larger campaign or a marketing effort that involves websites, social channels, events. So your emails can bring all of this together and link off to landing pages, surveys, micro sites, and social campaigns. They can tie in with events that are running and bring in the graphics used in those. My point being really that you can still flex your web and print design muscles and create cool stuff that your emails can link to as part of a wider campaign. That’s why working with emails never gets boring.

So, that’s it really. I hope I have succeeded somewhat in dispelling the negativity around designing and developing emails. Perhaps encouraged some of you to take another look at it. I for one love working with emails and I know a lot of people that do. Thanks for listening.

Paul: So there we go.

Leigh: Beep.

Marcus: (Laughter) That was an annoying beep in it. Over Paul at that point. Leigh has got just no podcast etiquette. (Laughter)

Leigh: I haven’t, sorry for that. I beeped you at out. But you probably couldn’t hear me beeping you out. I was inserting a handy beep so Marcus could see it on the timeline.

Marcus: It’s okay. I can see it anyway! Because we leave a little gap.

Paul: Thank you for your help Leigh.

Marcus: Do you think we can carry on now?

Paul: I don’t know.

Marcus: It was such a good idea getting Leigh on wasn’t it! (Laughter)

Paul: It was a bloody terrible! The show is going to be way too long, I’m going to get in trouble with my wife Who by the way… You know we did the whole…

Leigh: Oh yeah!

Marcus: The end of the one the couple of weeks ago.

Paul: She loved it!

Leigh: What was that long word again? (Laughter){Transcribers note: Yeah, yeah Leigh. No chance!}

Paul: There’s no point in saying it, right! She basically said to me, is that the best we can do!

Leigh: (Laughter) Oooh. Some German maybe?

Paul: German? That’s a good idea. Well I just thought, you go with some really long complicated techie phrases that she doesn’t even know how to start writing. You know, if we talk about… Especially some of the made up services that are around here, you know, these days. What are some of the jQuery libraries where they have all got stupid names. That would be a good way to go.

Marcus: Phoof, I don’t know! (Laughter), I hear them but they just woosh over my head and then they are forgotten about for ever.

Paul: Anyway, we are supposed to be talking about Laura’s talk.

Marcus: Yes, yes, move on. Designing emails.

Paul: So Leigh, did you actually listen to this?

Leigh: I did, yes.

Paul: Because I have to say I think this is where your calling is. You never really wanted to move on to CSS-based design did you really.

Leigh: Well, you say that…

Marcus: That’s a bit mean there isn’t it Paul?

Leigh: Well, come on let’s face it CSS makes no sense whatsoever. How many years I’ve been doing it for? It’s just full of quirks and stupid things that break whatever you do. Not that table design was much easier! But no, in fact email is that last bastion of table layout isn’t it. When I have had to do that in recent years I’ve ended up just having to go with Mailchimp or using their templates. I think it’s all of the testing that has been done on those templates that hasn’t been done on my kind of, new code, my new table layout, tested in two browsers and two email clients!

Marcus: So, just going… Why is email still tables? Is it because of just Outlook or…

Leigh: It’s a good question.

Marcus: … You know, do some email clients support CSS and others don’t?

Paul: Yeah, it’s not actually just tables these days. You can do, I mean as you heard from Laura’s talk, you can do some quite amazing stuff now in email. In fact the idea that you could do things like interactivity just blew my mind.

Marcus: I didn’t realise that.

Leigh: No. No, I didn’t.

Paul: No, neither did I. But from what I understand it a lot of the holdback that email is experiencing, some of it is because, you know, Outlook is built on Word or whatever, I don’t know whether it is any more but last time I checked it was. I haven’t touched this for years to be honest. But also there are… a lot of stuff is stripped out or overridden by the email client for security reasons and various other things. Because you wouldn’t want JavaScript running so that as soon as you click on an email you could run blooming anything couldn’t you. So, there are certain sensible constraints there as well. But a lot of it is that there are just so many different email clients. All built on different systems and the result is chaos. They need the equivalent of a web standards group for email. I know that that kind of thing has happened in the past but it never really quite caught on in the same way as it did with, you know, the web. So, but actually I was a bit sad in a way. I think Laura misunderstands good me a lot. Well, no, she didn’t misunderstand me.

Leigh: Like everyone Paul!

Paul: I’m misunderstood. It’s the story…

Marcus: You are misunderstood.

Paul: …It’s the story of my life. No, she had the impression that I was very anti-email. There was a stage, I did go through an anti-email stage and I don’t really know what my justification for that was. Just because I felt there was too much email in the world and I still feel like that but no, I’ve kinda come round to email. I think it’s an important part of your kind of digital marketing mix really. Even for me my newsletter, my email newsletter that I send out is probably the most powerful tool I have, or certainly one of them in terms of reaching my audience. So…

Marcus: That’s what she said, wasn’t it. She said that email generally. It is the most powerful marketing tool.

Paul: Yeah.

Marcus: You know, we’ve talked about… Somebody did a talk on writing nice emails didn’t they. I apologise, I can’t remember who that was.

Leigh: I thought about Paul when I heard that one.

Marcus: …And it’s just, because it’s not just about marketing. We as human beings, we all, well, not all of us but a lot of us use email all the time so I think it’s really important. I think it should… It shouldn’t be the poor brother, or whatever the right comparison is, to browsers. It should be a, you know… There needs to be another committee like the web standards group. Definitely.

Paul: Hmmm. I mean…

Marcus: I was surprised, sorry Paul, I didn’t realise that there was this huge active community in email design.

Paul: No! I had no clue!

Marcus: I had always assumed it was web developers who don’t want to do it. That’s who do email design. And it’s like “Wow, there’s a whole community of people who do this.” I didn’t know.

Paul: And conferences and everything. That just went completely over my head. I couldn’t believe it. So there you go.

Marcus: That’s a start though isn’t it? So maybe if there is a big community and conferences et cetera maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Leigh: Yeah, it’s got to get better when you are putting stuff into, you know, you’re feeding it directly into people’s brains then you know, there’s an area to be explored there and to be made better, definitely.

Paul: Is that how you see email? When someone emails you it goes directly into your brain does it?

Leigh: Well, it’s coming to you. You are not going out to get it. It is kind of coming into your life, isn’t it? I think most people just have too many emails coming into their life which is why a lot of people feel oversaturated by them. You just have to go through and sort of pare out anything that is just getting in the way.

Marcus: Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe.

Leigh: I go through mad fits of unsubscribing. And those that are left are emails I actually want to get and want to read. They are still trying to sell me things but I chose to have that.

Marcus: World guitars, and things like that.

Leigh: Yes, they are actually quite exciting!

Marcus: Ooh, shiny!

Leigh: Deal of the week!

Marcus: Yeah.

Leigh: If it was deal of the day it might get a bit annoying so yes, I think the repetition is… The timing is important.

Paul: Yes, it is very much so. The other thing I think is really important which Laura touched on is this idea of you need to be able to reply. You know, instead of having no reply email addresses. That is one of the things that I love most about, and why I so like my newsletter because I can actually have an interaction with people. I can talk to people and they write back to me and it’s really lovely. I love that back and forth that we get every time I send my email out.

Leigh: I didn’t know this. I didn’t know that was a thing. Sorry, I was talking over you.

Marcus: We can annoy you now Paul.

Paul: Yeah!

Marcus: When the email comes in, “Hi!”.

Leigh: I didn’t know you could reply to that. That’s really clever.

Paul: Yeah, did you not know you could reply to me?

Leigh: No, I think I just now assumed that you can’t reply to any newsletters ever.

Paul: Yeah, no I actively… It shows how much you have ever read my emails because I always say at the end.

Leigh: How do you know? You say it? Oh right! Probably never got that far.

Paul: You see, the other thing that I really like about them is that it actually, you know, if I compare it to the conversion rate of something like a social media update it is so much higher. You know, I sent out a social media update to what is it? 41–42,000 people that follow me on Twitter and I get less response to that then I get to sending an email out to 7000 people. So it is incredibly high. Also, the quality of the interaction that you can have is much higher. You can be a lot more in-depth, you can have a much more interesting conversation. So yes, you can tell I have come to hate social media and I have replaced it with email.

Leigh: Are you being polite on your email now Paul? And saying “hello, how are you today.” And things like that.

Paul: I am.

Leigh: “Thanks very much, goodbye, Paul.” Not just a one-liner with no intro and no kind of out-ro.

Paul: Well, I’m still very torn over this. I have tried to be more of a human being but it doesn’t come naturally if I’m honest. Also, the trouble is is that you want to write what you want to receive don’t you? For me, I don’t give a shit. (Laughter) When people say “How are you?” They don’t mean it. They don’t want me to reply how I am!

Marcus: “I’m feeling a bit depressed today” (Laughter)

Paul: Yeah.

Leigh: Yeah, but it’s just part of being polite isn’t it. It is part of our culture.

Paul: Yeah well, it’s stupid.

Leigh: When you get a one word reply from an email it’s just like “Yes.”

Marcus: There is a difference isn’t there. If you write “How are you?” Then that is just asking for trouble in that people won’t believe that you care.

Leigh: No, I wouldn’t. You say it the other way round. “Hope you are well.”

Marcus: Hope you are well, yes. There’s nothing wrong with that. See, there’s a way to do it Paul.

Paul: But my mum told me not to lie and I don’t give a shit one way or another whether they are well, as long as they give me what I want.

Leigh: You do, because if they are not well and they are dead then they wouldn’t be able to buy your book Paul.

Paul: Ah!

Leigh: That’s why you need to care.

Paul: I need to care whether they are well or not because otherwise they won’t be able to do whatever it is that I want to do in the email.

Leigh: Exactly, your bidding.

Paul: I finally get it Leigh. Thank you.

Leigh: Yeah, there you go. It just needed framing in a certain way didn’t it. (Laughter) A monetary way.

Paul: Yeah! (Laughter) Such a low opinion of me. Anyway. (Laughter) By the way, dear listener, if you email me I am not the horrible evil person that Marcus and Leigh are making out to be. If you…

Marcus: You are lovely Paul.

Leigh: You were just saying that you didn’t give a shit about people Paul!

Paul: Yeah, but they know that I was joking.

Leigh: They know you were joking! It’s all a big joke isn’t it.

Paul: Yeah,

Marcus: Life’s just all a big joke! Moving on.

Paul: My whole life is a big joke. Right, so thats Laura. Have you got anything else to say on Laura? I don’t feel that we have really done her talk justice and I blame Leigh for that.

Leigh: Sorry.

Paul: I think…

Marcus: So do I.

Paul: I liked the idea of dynamically checking weather. I thought that was a good thing. I liked the idea that constraints encourage creativity. I absolutely agree with that. I think we’ve covered everything else have so we did do better it was just in a very rambling way.

Marcus: As usual. Even more rambling than usual.

Paul: Let’s talk about Freshbooks and then we can move on to the shitty second talk that we’ve got!

Leigh: Oh no, not that one! (Laughter)

Paul: It’s just embarrassing.

Leigh: Scraping the barrel, now.

Paul: It is, it really is. Right, it’s nearly the end of season you see. Although Laura, actually i think hers was one of the early ones and I managed to get them out of order.

Leigh: Yeah.

Paul: See now I have just dug a hole because the implication is…

Marcus: Yes you have! (Laughter)

Paul: … All the talks.

Marcus: So really, really awful ones next week then Paul!

Leigh: It’s that ordering again.

Paul: Oh!

Marcus: Look what you’ve done!

Paul: It’s not even true. I just talk!

Leigh: I said scraping the barrel to be fair.

Paul: Words just come out of my mouth, I’m not responsible for them! This is why the sponsored sections I have written down, to stop me kind of getting too off track. So yes, Freshbooks. Freshbooks is a really easy tool for creating and sending invoices. It’s really straightforward you can send an invoice in about 30 seconds and you can obviously customise it with your own logo, colours and all that kind of stuff. Your clients can play online which can seriously improve how quickly you get paid, fairly obviously. And it also, you can see how your clients are interacting with your invoice and whether they have opened the email that you sent with the invoice and whether they have viewed the invoice itself and all the rest of it. Freshbooks can also send late payments reminders which is really great because you can send a snotty email and then blame Freshbooks for sending it automatically and “Oh yes, you shouldn’t have received that. That’s far too pushy for your situation,” but actually you meant every word of it! You can also use Freshbook deposit feature which is really good for taking deposits upfront. Now, I have a confession to make which is that I don’t actually use Freshbook because I use a UK centric tool. Although Freshbooks works perfectly well with UK, you know what it’s like. You get stuck in the certain way of doing things. The tool that I use doesn’t offer the ability to do deposits and it’s really irritating. So I love the fact that Freshbooks does this and when I actually find some time I might seriously look at moving because that drives me bloody round the twist, it really does. Because it’s always good to get deposits if you possibly can. Freshbooks also is… Yes, you need to try it for yourself. You know how these things are. So they have offered a month of unrestricted use to everybody who is listening to the show. You have no need for a credit card or anything like that, all you need to do is go to Freshbooks.com/boagworld. And if you do us a favour that when you sign up you enter Boagworld UX show in the “how did you hear about us?” section then we get credit for it. So I really appreciate them supporting the show and all of the people that have sponsored the show this season because finding sponsors is an absolute blooming pain in the arse but it does help cover the costs of running the show and all the rest of it. And paying these really expensive speakers that we have that we don’t pay at all! People like our next speaker who is some bloke. Leigh, you can justify… It’s Leigh that’s speaking next if you… I’m not being rude about random people, I’m only being rude about Leigh! Leigh , why does your bio say “The son of a sculptor and toy designer.” I mean is that really the kind of thing that we need to know about you?

Leigh: Definitely. It’s really, really quite crucial to my being.

Paul: How does being the son of a sculptor and toy designer influence your design process?

Leigh: Well, I think it’s seeing things as a bigger picture rather than just web design, you know, design led from all different aspects. Where does it say that anyway? On my website?

Paul: On your website, yes.

Leigh: I right, that hasn’t been updated for years! (Laughter)

Paul: Ah!!

Leigh: I had no idea. I think it was going to link to their websites. That’s why. It was going to link to each of their websites.

Paul: Right. And it doesn’t. So that worked well then.

Leigh: I probably haven’t finished their websites to be honest!

Paul: So you haven’t finished their websites, you haven’t updated yours in ages and you are now expecting the listener to take you seriously?

Marcus: Thats because we work him so hard at Headscape.

Leigh: Yeah.

Marcus: That’s all it is.

Leigh: Too much work.

Paul: He’s just so busy working on high flying client work.

Marcus: Absolutely.

Leigh: Yeah, no time for me.

Paul: Go on, Leigh name some cool clients that you’ve worked on. (Laughter)

Marcus: Cool, hmmm.

Leigh: I couldn’t divulge that kind of information. All the really cool stuff is top secret.

Paul: They are too secret you had to sign NDA’s.

Leigh: Absolutely. Can’t tell the likes of you.

Paul: That’s a fair comment Leigh I can’t argue with that. So, although the last time… Leigh was on last week and he was talking about recording videos to show off design. Pretty much he claimed that that was his idea which it blatantly wasn’t. It was blatantly my idea that he then riped off massively. But this week what he’s suggesting is actually his idea. He did come up with it and although it pains me deeply it is a really good idea. It is the idea of using… Getting clients designing a reception area in order to establish some of the kind of direction of your design. So, let’s hear what Leigh has got to say on this one and yeah, over to Leigh.

The Reception Area Exercise.

Play talk at: 45:13 – Kickoff meetings have slowly transformed into ‘workshops’ over the years. In this little talk Leigh explains a little exercise he came up with to get people talking about design in terms they are familiar with, to start exploring how their brand might be applied to the web.

Leigh Howells: The Reception Area Exercise.
Son of a sculptor and toy designer. Designing Webs since 1994. UX Design Consultant at Headscape Ltd. Writes & Talks at Boagworld. In Smashing and .Net. Visit Leigh’s site at leighhowells.com

So I’ve been designing for the web for nearly 25 years now and working as a designer with Headscape since it was founded in 2001. In the early days of project kick-off meetings I remember really quite low-key events, maybe a couple of hours at best sat around a table with one or two people and the client. With smaller companies this was probably, you know, the top guy themselves, herself. We would kind of kick around ideas in a very informal and casual sort of way and I’m not really sure that design even got touched upon very often. Slowly as the clients got bigger and kickoffs became bigger and loads of people suddenly started turning up and they had to be, a person from this department, that department, every man and his dog. To be honest it started to be getting a bit nerve wracking for someone like myself who isn’t a natural speaker in front of an audience. As these kickoffs and projects got bigger and longer so did the accountability of course and the need to get things right as soon as possible. Slowly but surely kick-off meetings transformed into workshops. Once something becomes a workshop these are kind of, well, these are different things and expectations and requirements are different. Talking about design in a meeting format, loads of people around a table, doesn’t really work so well. We know the dominant voices tend to steam roller everything. People need to look at things and reflect and, you know, think about things in smaller groups. Slowly but surely there was more and more leaping up out of our chairs and sketching things on flipcharts and whiteboards and putting yellow sticky everywhere. Greater attempts were made to kind of get everybody in the room more involved. So more formulated exercises were borrowed from others. One book that really springs to mind for me is “Gorilla UX” by Kenneth Bowles.{Transcribers note: Should be “Undercover User Experience Design.” The wrong title was used in the audio. This is the correct link.} I will put a link to that somewhere in the notes for this. That outlined some really good exercises to get groups into isolation so they could air their ideas and there are some great exercises in there that you can follow. So, exercises like “Six up design” and “Cereal box”, both in Ken’s book, were added to much simpler ideas that we had originally. Like if your organisation was a famous person who would it be? Which invariably produced Stephen Fry and in more recent years Brian Cox, every time. You can rely on them. Though these exercises were really good for helping to prioritise content and touch on layout ideas we still didn’t really have anything for helping to extract ideas about look and feel or the mood of the website, how’s it going to look? So there are three exercises that we often do. You’ve probably heard about a couple of them which are collaborative group mood boarding and word pairs but the main one I want to talk about here is an exercise I kind of invented and I’ve never seen it anywhere else and that is called the reception area exercise, or waiting room exercise. I invented this with a workshop looming on the horizon. It was designed to kind of extract thinking from people that don’t necessarily know how to express what a website should look like, whereas everyone knows or at least thinks they know about decorating a room. Whether they’ve done it themselves in the past or not. Basically it is a page of questions that anybody can answer to get their design thinking juices flowing. I wanted people to talk about design for their company or institution in a non-web related context. It has evolved a bit over time. It started off as about two sides of A4 but is now a single side of A4 with eight questions. So, it starts off with a little description; You must design a reception waiting area for general visitors who know nothing about you, insert client name here optionally, or the work it does. The room must communicate the personality and the ethos of your company creating an atmosphere subliminally instructing, influencing and informing your visitor.
So the first question is what format or size would be? And then a little helpful text; tiny and personable, huge and intimidating? Does it have windows, is there a view? So the idea here is to kind of see whether it would be a more personal space or whether it would be some grand room which they are, you know, trying to make an impression with. So that can give a few kind of ideas about what they are hoping for. If it is a massive room full of space and light maybe they are trying to impress people so maybe that’s one of their aims.
So, question two; how would the walls be treated? Painted, what colour, paper, what pattern? Cork, tile, shelves, other? So here’s the first kind of hint at what kind of colours they associate with their organisation. Now, obviously if their brand colour is luminous yellow they might not want to paint a reception area luminous yellow but then again, they might. If it’s a kind of young hip trendy company maybe that’s exactly what they would do to get that brand across. So this is just a little way of trying to start exploring what colours are important to them and if they are so important they want to put them everywhere. Also you might be able to tease out different ideas about patterns, textures that kind of thing.
So, third question; what decoration would you have on the walls? Photography, of what? Paintings, of what? Abstract, sculpture, nothing? So again, this is trying to start to tease out some of the imagery that might be important to them. So what’s important in the reception room then there will be decisions and choices, reasons behind those choices, we need to start exploring what they are. So if they are going to have photos of abstract puddles oil or something you want to know why. And kind of starting to work out are these going to be appropriate for the site later on? Whereas if they don’t have any photography but abstracts are more appropriate for whatever they deal with within their organisation that might be something that starts getting reflected in the site to. If they don’t have anything at all, well that could say heaps. Maybe imagery just isn’t them, isn’t necessary and isn’t part of the key message or the key information they are trying to get across.
So, question four; would your logo be visible anywhere? Where, how big and what style? So the idea here is just to sort of start teasing what they think about their brand identity and how important they think it is. We’ve all heard “make the logo bigger” so I’m trying to get to whether that is so important to them as an identification of who they are that they want their logo everywhere. Or whether, conversely, it is actually quite a subliminal thing that can be more muted and put in the background and isn’t quite so important to them. So this is just a chance for me to start exploring how the people in the company, organisation think about their own logo.
Five; what furniture would you choose? Traditional, utilitarian, ultramodern, big, small, soft lighting, office standard lighting? So here I am trying to get to what they consider appropriate in terms of the design that goes into, sort of, furniture and lighting. So people have opinions on furniture and lighting and what that says about themselves in their own home. So I’m trying to apply that kind of same design thinking extraction here. You know, do they consider a leather Chesterfield as being what there organisation is all about or maybe a hard glass edged steel table, that might say something different. You know, is it softly lit from above with modern down lighting or is it a kinda low lamp over a table? I’m just trying to get to what kind of general mood in terms of furniture design, lighting design that they consider is appropriate for them. That can help influence how the design goes later on.
Six; what might be on a table. Annual reports, magazines, general information, artbooks or books on, and inserts relevant thing for the client here. So something relevant to them. So in this one I am kind of trying to tease out whether they are more interested in information about themselves, presenting that to people waiting or kind of general information about the sort of area that they deal with. So if they are a charity who deals with insects do they just have general insect books on the table or whether it’s just information about them or whether it’s something completely off the wall, a book on art or something like that, just to relax people. Is that what is more important to them? Not sure this has had a massive influence on how design goes later but it can be interesting to tease this kind of information out.
Seven,; in one word what general atmosphere would you like to create? So I added this question fairly recently. I just wanted to get to a single word like airy or relaxing. Just to kind of understand what they were trying to get at in all the above questions. That can be a useful word to help guide how we deal with the general mood when we do moodboards as a next step.
So when I do this exercise I tend to work with pairs. Give this sheet to pairs or groups of three or four if there are a lot of people. Give them about 15 to 20 minutes. I also say on the back they can sketch the room if they want to, that’s more of a time filler than anything else, if they finish quickly. Not something that I really find useful looking at the sketches but it can be nice to keep people busy for a little minute whilst people are finishing the exercise of. Whatever you do don’t do this per person. I did this once, I gave a room of like 15 people, I had enough sheets so I thought “Oh, I’ll give everybody one.” However, the room went completely silent and everyone did it like a test, and it was really awkward! So that was quite horrible, don’t do that again, Leigh! So, I wouldn’t recommend giving individuals workshop exercises ever really because it just doesn’t create the right atmosphere.
So, reporting back what they have done, sometimes I have just let people kind of read out their sheets per group and write down key words so you can kind of tally up on a flipchart or whiteboard when the same words come over and over again and then that adds to be a kind of priority keyword list in the end. It’s also really useful to share what they have done on a screen. So I have done that more and more lately, Evernote or I think Apple photos does the same, Evernote’s camera function is really good, it grabs the page instantly, resizes it, crops it and auto contrasts it and it synchronises it up to my laptop version of Evernote so I use my camera or tablet, take the pictures quickly after I’ve grabbed the sheets from people and within a minute or two they are up on the projector, so that it can be really nice to review back. It’s nice for the person reviewing back, you know, giving information back to the group as well because the focus tends to be on the screen rather than on them. So if they are not as confident all eyes aren’t on them which can be a bit intimidating in a big group. So, these exercises are great when you follow up later, present your design and wireframe work et cetera. You can kind of interject the output of these exercises because each of these has some kind of visible output that you can then insert into presentations or videos and it helps support the ideas and how you got to where you got to in the design rather than you just sat there alone and plucked it out of thin air in a creative moment of genius! Before I worked in web design I got sent to a few conferences and things as part of my first job. And there were workshops and I can’t say I really enjoyed them, they really seemed a bit contrived and you would sit round in a circle and have to talk about yourselves, I really didn’t like that. But actually in the web they have got a lot more fun as there is actually activities that I enjoy doing. So even though I am not experienced at giving workshops or, you know, I’ve got no background in teaching. I mean it can be daunting when you are actually responsible for sessions in a workshop. But when you’ve got well structured activities, timing and techniques then that is the secret really. It helps you structure the session and keep things rolling along. And I’ve learned they actually can be fun and you can get results. I mean you’ll be dealing with adults not a bunch of school children who I’m sure are lot more terrifying to deal with. So try and get what you can from people in the kick-off meeting it is probably one of the few times that you will meet them and somewhere between their combined brains is the design. You just need to extract it from them.

Marcus: Before we go any further, there were a couple of mistakes at the start of that little talk, Leigh, that I need to pull you up on. Main one of being Headscape didn’t start in 2001.

Leigh: I could have sworn it did. Are you sure I haven’t been working for Headscape since 2001.

Marcus: 2002.

Leigh: It feels like 2001 to me!

Marcus: Also, the book “Undercover UX design,” nothing to do with gorillas…

Leigh: I think UX gorillas would been a much better title for it!

Marcus: …was written by Cennydd Bowles and James Box.

Paul: Yeah, poor old James always comes off very badly.

Marcus: He always gets forgotten doesn’t he?

Leigh: It’s that in depth research I did! That’ll be it!

Marcus: Other than that marvellous talk Leigh. Yeah, fantastic as ever, you know, based on all your Headscape experience. Wonderful. (Laughter)

Paul: Leigh,

Leigh: Hello.

Paul: You know… with the reception room you know that you kept talking about the questions you got in a worksheet, do you still have that worksheet? It would be good to include that in the worksheet in the show notes. (Transcribers notes; no sheet was provided)

Leigh: I sent you a link.

Paul: Oh, did you? Never read what you write! (Laughter) okay so…

Marcus: He’s the same with everyone who sends anything to him.

Paul: So, Catherine, Catherine, my wife I’m talking to you now, who is transcribing the show. Make sure you get a link from me to the reception room exercise because actually it’s quite a good fact sheet that Leigh uses. I’ve got to say Leigh, this is a really good exercise. How the hell did you come up with it because it works so well?

Leigh: I think it was desperation because I knew I had to do a slot in a workshop and I wanted some other design exercise which, as I said in the talk, kind of covered design but not from a web point of view.

Marcus: I think I can remember exactly when it was. And I said “Leigh, this is your slot in the next hour.” Probably two weeks in advance. When we worked for Dick Steen five years ago or something like that.

Leigh: Yes, I think it was. I think I went through a few ideas, a car and various other things but none of those were really something that everybody has… Everybody has a waiting room or reception room in the company and it reflects the company you are. What you do with it. Even if like most people, very little, you can imagine what you might do to reflect your brand.

Marcus: We’ve done loads of these over the years since. What we have found is that everybody says they want a nice light bright airy space. So it’s the surprises, it’s the things that you are not expecting people to say that are the most useful things to come out of it. You know, everyone is working to some kind of style guide that they have got a load of words that you kind of need to think about when putting mood boards together around the words that they associate with their brand. But you might get one or two that comes out of this reception area that nobody has thought of before and thats fantastic and that they work really well.

Paul: And also, I’m not sure but a lot of style guides don’t contain a list of words. You know, they just go “Here is the colour palette, here’s the logo.” For me what I love about this exercise is that people are talking about what is going on… what pictures are going on the wall or whatever and they say “Oh we want something colourful and dynamic.” Well, Colourful, dynamic. You can test against those words later which is so useful. And most importantly, and this is the bit that is most useful, when you present the design, going back to Lee’s previous week, you can say, you know, some of the words that came out of the reception room exercise that you completed, the words that you selected were dah, dah, dah, you can see how I’ve used those in the design. So it makes the clients and stakeholders feel like it is their design and it means they are less likely to reject it. It is genius. It really is.

Marcus: Genius Leigh, you don’t hear that every day.

Leigh: Nope.

Paul: Not from me you don’t. (Laughter) are have I never encouraged you Leigh.

Leigh: Ah, come on Paul. You got me started in web design.

Marcus: Ahh, we’re going to get all nostalgic now.

Leigh: I’ve got so much to thank you for! (Laughter) Nah, you encouraged me tons Paul!

Paul: That’s the funny bit. I get that a lot. I was at some conference. Have I said this on the podcast? I can’t remember if I said this on the podcast. I was recently at a conference and I was sitting next to another one of the speakers and he lent over to me and said “Do you know what, I am so chuffed to be sitting by you.” It all sounds like it’s going great and its going to make me sound great. He said “You have been a real inspiration to me Paul, I got into web design because of you. I used to listen to your podcast on the way to school.” (Laughter) It was going so well until that last line. Then it’s like “Oh great, thanks. Great.”

Marcus: We’ve just got to accept it Paul. Just look in the mirror and it will remind you. You are middle-aged.

Paul: It’s also the fact that he is now my equal, he is now my peer. Do you know what I mean? We are both speaking at the same conference and he’s, like, half my age. What have I been doing with my life Marcus? Where has it all gone? Where is it all gone?

Marcus: I don’t know! In motorhomes and things.

Paul: That’s true. I’m quite okay with that, now I think about it. So that’s good. So okay thats Leigh’s talk. Have you got anything else other to say than to say other than it’s good.

Marcus: Well, well there was one thing that you said at the end, it summarises why we do all of this research stuff which was, you said “Extracting the designs from their combined brains.” Which I thought was “Yes, that’s it.”

Leigh: That’s how I now see kickoffs. It’s all in here. These people have got it in their brains in this room. Get it out of them before you leave! Otherwise it’s going to be a long protracted process. Do it now.

Marcus: Yes, fantastic.

Paul: Yeah, I really liked that.

Leigh: Did I say in the talk, I can’t remember, about just warming people up about talking about design. I think it’s a good warmup exercise. Even if you get nothing from it they start talking about design using words. Even if all the other exercises that follow are more precise about content and everything else.

Marcus: That’s actually the last point I would make on it. It it’s a really good starting point. All of the other stuff is much more precise and you are getting more into detail. But this is just the general, yeah, warming people’s brains up. Thats a good way to describe it.

Paul: Cool, all right then Marcus do you want to finish us off with a joke?

Marcus: This is one for you Paul

Paul: Ooo. Okay.

Marcus: You won’t like it but “Insomnia is awful, but on the plus side only three more sleeps till Christmas.” (Laughter).

Paul: Oh gor.

Marcus: That’s from Adrian White. Thank you Adrian.

Paul: That’s not funny when you live with it but yes, it is funny. Okay. That’s it for this weeks show thank you Leigh for coming and joining us. And of course you Marcus, I don’t want you to feel left out.

Marcus: I don’t at all. The more the merrier.

Paul: Okay. Back next week for the last in the season.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: We’ve got three talks to fit in in order to finish of the season, it’s been a good one. So thank you everybody who has contributed to the show.

Leigh: Save the best ’till last though, right?

Paul: I didn’t hear that.

Marcus: You saved the best till last apparently.

Paul: Yes definitely. Yes the people next week are the best we have had in the season. (Laughter) Tune in next week for the best. Nothing is better than what we cover next week so tune in everybody. Bye bye.

Marcus: Stop now Paul!

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