This week on the Boagworld Show we finish the season with talks on finding inspiration in the physical world, kick off checklists and overcoming the post conference blues.
Paul: Hello and welcome to the Boagworld. The last boagworld show of the season. The podcast about all aspects of digital design, development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag and joining me for this final show as always is Marcus. Hello Marcus.
Marcus: Hello Paul, I feel a bit podcast-fatigued.
Paul: Yes, so do I actually. You get to the end of the season and you go, thank crap for that.
Marcus: And we always come back in a couple of months later go, yeah, brilliant!
Paul: I think the listener feels like that as well.
Marcus: ‘I wish they would just shut up’.
Marcus: I am feeling genuinely fatigued this morning though. It was a lovely bank holiday weekend with lots of lovely weather and drinking and eating but it was my sons first day at work today and I said as taking to work because he still hasn’t learned to drive. Third test next week, fingers crossed. So I said I take as it was his first morning. Basically I did three hours driving this morning so I’m a little bit tired. Beautiful weather beautiful countryside as I had to drive down to West Sussex and back across to Winchester. Very lovely.
Paul: I’ll weep for you. See this is exactly the kind of thing that the listener gets fatigued of, listening to us.
Marcus: I like to think that they feel like they got a little window into our boring lives, a bit like a soap opera they want to know what happens next.
Paul: Most soap operas seem to consist of murders and incest and things like that. Not you driving your son to his first day at work.
Marcus: I know I would have mentioned him graduating a few shows back and now he’s started work at Tesla.
Paul: Oh no, it’s not capitals THE Tesla, is it?
Marcus: It’s the Tesla that makes giant magnets that go in MRI machines and the large Hadron Colliders – big engineering place.
Paul: I remember my first day at work at IBM. That feels like forever go.
Marcus: That’s because it was Paul.
Paul: Good point. Well made there, Marcus. It was a very long time ago. I had to wear a tie. That didn’t last.
Marcus: Surely not everybody wore ties at IBM unless you are in sales?
Paul: No they didn’t but for some reason I felt the need to wear a tie.
Marcus: When I worked at Arjo Wiggins which was my only big firm experience, everybody wore a suit and tie unless you were in maintenance. I can remember they used to have a dress down Friday once a quarter and there would be letters and notes from certain people saying that they thought standards were slipping and it shouldn’t happen. That was 20 years ago. I suspect things have changed.
Paul: We were actually working in buildings next one another without us knowing one another, weren’t we?
Marcus: Where is IBM in Basingstoke? It is next door isn’t it?
Paul: It’s next door to the Arjo Wiggins building. I can’t remember the name of it now. It had a roof garden.
Marcus: They were both built at the same time and ours was the one nearest to the AA tower and yours was the one nearest the town centre. Fabulous building. That place had a canteen we could have a full English breakfast the 10p (exaggeration) and they had a bar with a snooker table in it.
Paul: Isn’t that weird mind that we ended up working next to each other before we even knew each other existed?
Marcus: I know, small world as they say.
Paul: I suppose the probability isn’t that amazing as if we had lived on opposite sides of the planet we probably wouldn’t have ended up working together later, would we really?
Marcus: No I guess living in the same county was a start but it still is quite a coincidence.
Paul: So it’s been a good season hasn’t it?
Marcus: I’ve enjoyed this on my favourite talk is on the show today. Oh no, I must say that. One of the talks is my favourite one.
Paul: That’s really interesting is the same can be said for me.
Marcus: I’m not going to say which one is.
Paul: I’m going to say which one it is. I wonder whether it’s the same one? That’s really interesting. Let’s be honest, the quality of the talks has been incredibly high don’t you think?
Marcus: Yes, wonderful.
Paul: We’ve had 35 talks over the season and bearing in mind the vast majority of people have never done a talk before, I think the quality is brilliant.
Marcus: I think it’s something that should be revisited and we do it again into a three seasons time.
Paul: I agree, it’s definitely something worth doing again.
We ought to push on though as we have three talks to do this week so there’s quite a lot to get in. So the first one is from Sophia Voychehovski.
Sophia is the founder of ReWired which is a UX studio based in Atlanta. She has done loads of cool things but the thing that jumped out to me is that before she said that up, she worked for huge organisations like AT&T and various other people including the Australian tax office. There was somebody that seems to be working in the US mainly that seemed like a bit of a weird one but what she did do is the CNN responsive election night experience into 2012 and again in 2016 which I had heard of, so she is Internet famous in my mind. That election might the knee was really quite impressive.
What she’s talking about here is really interesting. Her talk is called caveman UX and it’s all about the physical constraints of the physical world and whether that should be carried across into digital. But before we listen to her talk if you want to check out a little bit more on how you can find out more at ReWiredUX.com. There is loads of information on her there and what she does.
So, let’s listen to her talk.
Play talk at: 08:17 – We humans evolved in the unfortunate constraints of the physical world. But digital spaces don’t have to follow all those petty rules of physics. Awesome! Right?
Even though our digital world is liberated from physical constraints, perhaps UX and UI designers should hang on to some of those rules that the physical world has to play by. Mainly, we need to pay attention to what humans are always going to assume about any space—physical or digital. This talk introduces a set of principles for intuitive digital design that aligns to human instinct.
Before founding Rewired to focus on the little guys, Sophia led UX efforts for Goliath clients such as AT&T, Napa Auto Parts, the Internal Revenue Service, the Australian Tax Office, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. She also designed CNN.com’s responsive election night experience in 2012—and again in 2016. Visit Sophia’s agency at rewiredux.com
What is it really mean for a designed to be intuitive?
We user experience designers will often say the design is intuitive if it behaves how user expects it to behave. So the next question which may or may not be obvious is, what do users expect? What are their assumptions? Here is where it gets a little fuzzy. We might say depends on the contexts or depends on the product or the user or the users experience with other products all the time of the day. Will say we need data and we need usability testing to tell us what our users are going to expect from a given product. This all might be true but I believe there is a baseline of expectations that we UX designers are just not talking about enough and these are the assumptions that any user, any human will have about any space they enter. Whether that space digital or not.
So, for an example. If you have an iPhone get it out and if you happen to be driving and listening to this, pause the audio and pull over – don’t do this while driving! Actually you can just imagine the pulling out your iPhone and thinking through the interaction that I’m about to describe. You know your iPhone pretty well so you can probably just follow along in your head on this one.
What I want you to imagine doing is turning your volume up and down on your iPhone. That was pretty easy, right? For non-iPhone users the volume control is just two buttons on the side of the device on the left-hand side and the top button turns the volume up in the bottom button turns the volume down. So of course this is a very simple interaction but what if I told you that this could be even easier? That this could be even simpler?
So, iPhone users, what visual feedback did your iPhone give you as you were turning the volume up and down with the physical buttons on the side of the phone? Did the visual on-screen indicators move up and down mimicking your physical motion?
No.. No they didn’t. The graphic representation of the volume moving up and down actually goes right to left and the assumption that I can make or the guess I can make about this is that it’s perhaps a vestige of right and left visual indicators perhaps on car stereos or other older stereos where perhaps the volume is turned up and down with a dial, which actually does require a physical right and left motion when you turn the dial. So that visual rights to left indicator actually would make a lot more sense. But on the iPhone the user pressing up and down buttons actually doesn’t mimic the effect which is the right and left graphic bars and actually the body going up and down.
This is a beautiful and simple example of an intuitive design and its an intuitiveness traces back to the fact that the digital interaction does not align with what users have evolved to understand about the physical world.
So you might be thinking, no big deal, I barely even noticed this and it’s never affected my ability to turn the volume up and down. But I think that over a couple of million interactions a day across all iPhone users turning the volume up and down, that this adds up. We probably losing a mental power as the tiny bits of cognitive energy is wasted on iPhone users translating this physical input to visual feedback. Our brains have involved in this physical space and as we design with bits of pixels, this removes products from the constraints of that physical space. So that is actually not always a good thing. Our brains come with baggage through all those years of working with mainly rocks and dirt. We have these really deep-seated beliefs about how things should operate in space, pushing something up should make it go up, not move to the right. But when we enter digital spaces and use digital tools, the laws of physics no long apply. UX and UI designers can disconnect the on and the off and the right and the left’s and the up on the down and because they can, they do. They do it at Apple, they do it at Google and you or your designers on your team, they might be doing it on a project right now.
So we might say, well isn’t it the freedom from all of those petty rules of physics? Isn’t that the very best thing about the digital world? You can teleport with hyperlinks and 1 million people can read the same article without killing one tree. You can be in three places at once and you can auto correct your terrible spelling and you can undo and understands and even unfriend. And in the second you can find all the blue sandals in a warehouse of 1 million shoes. Is this freedom from physics in this digital space that makes the magic of digital possible.
But, for some real talk if it’s not done right, magic is scary and it’s confusing and it’s disorientating that even though our digital world can be 100% free physical constraints, that doesn’t mean it should be.
So when is it okay to break the laws of physics and when should we hold true?
That’s my big question. That’s what I’m working on right now. I’m working to outline a set of principles and in the next few minutes and is going to explore two of those principles that I’ve been working through.
So, the first one that I want to talk about is a belief that humans are always going to bring any environments or product, and that is belief that an inverse action is always going to have an inverse effect. So, in the real world if I lock the door by turning a key to the left, I should unlock that door by turning the key to the right. That’s what I’m going to expect. If I turn a tap on by moving the handle up, I’m going to expect that moving the handle down or turn that tap off. If I move a dial to the right to make the temperature hotter, dialling it to the left is going to make it cooler, et cetera.
When industrial designers create physical products, this is actually easier to make things like this true then not true. But the designers of digital products, is really just as easy for us to design and develop these parent interactions that are actually separated from each other because there is no lever or switch, there are no physics to be beholden to. This gets us in trouble.
To illustrate this and pick up the iPhone one more time. If you have an updated iPhone you may have discovered a new shortcut to getting to your camera. From the lock screen you can just swipe from the right to the left to open up your camera. So what happens though when you perform the inverse of that action? Swiping left to right while you are in your camera? The assumption here, if we take this idea of turning the key to the right locks the door and turning the key to the left unlocks the door, what we might try to do swipe from left to right to actually we lock the phone. Instead we actually switch to video mode because the camera app has its own swipe interaction.
So about one in three times that I’ve tried to close my camera after entering from this method, I accidentally switched to video. I tested this with several users. I’ve showed them an iPhone on its locked screen, I open up the camera and I ask them how they would return to that locked screen that we were just on. All of them said that they would swipe in the opposite direction.
So Apple didn’t think about the full loop of the interaction. But I would encourage all of you to do exactly this. Think about if your interaction had an inverse. Have you designed how your system is going to respond to that? And if so, would your users expect this response?
So, let’s look at one more belief that humans are going to bring with them to your design. That’s the belief that when I return to where I came from, I’ll end up the space that I was previously. So in the physical world, to give an example of what I’m talking about here, if I exit the living room and go to the bathroom and when I exit the bathroom I’m going to expect to be in the living room. Especially if I exit through that same door. If I exit through that same door of the bathroom and end up in the backyard, that’s going to be very disconcerting to me. But in digital spaces this type of navigation happens all the time.
So this time instead of picking on Apple again, let’s pick on our friends over at Google and specifically Google photos. When I open up Google photos in the browser I see a stream of all my photos that have been synced. The most recent photos are there at the top just breaks it down day by day. So if I scroll down a bit and I see some photos that I want to add to an album to organise those photos. So I select those photos and I click the add button and I tell Google that I want those selected photos to be added to a new album. Google photos very nicely oblige and they take me to this new album that has just been created and here I can name the album for example, Honeymoon. So here’s my new Honeymoon album I can see all those photos that I’ve selected are there. I actually rearrange the photos and then in the top left corner there is a checkmark. I seem correctly that this checkmark means I am done here so I am clicking that checkmark, I exit edit mode and I am still there in my Honeymoon album my Honeymoon album is now just in the view mode.
So far so good, everything is cool and I have created a new album and I’m feeling pretty good about it. Now where the checkmark was there is now an arrow that points to the left. Most sane people in the modern world would call this a back button. So where exactly should this take me? Should it maybe take me back to where I was, to all photos and hopefully even scrolled to exactly where I was when I left off. So in the case were maybe scrolled all the way back to 2013 and made that album and I went there and made some edits to that album and then I exited that album, by clicking that little back button I would hope that it would take me back to right where I was in 2013 so I wouldn’t have to scroll all the way back there and continue picking up where I left off.
But this is not what happens when I click the back button. Google photos actually takes me to the all albums screen – a list of all of my albums. This is a screen that I hadn’t even touched within this web session. This is a room that I’ve not even been to since entering Google photos house. So to Google, that actually meant a level up in the site map. So if I’m in an album, Google is thinking back to all albums for you. For me, back something completely different. Google didn’t think about the user’s path through the environment and what backward mean to the people that are actually moving in that space. So it’s fine to have teleporting it digital space, and is actually really awesome that I can if I wanted to design my system in a way with a wormhole from the foyer to the attic in just one click. But what we want to do is make sure that our user knows and intends to go through that wormhole. We need to label our wormholes very clearly. And the back button? Well the user is going to expect to go back to where they came from, not back to the previous step and perhaps your happy path user flow or up a level in the hierarchical site map that’s printed and pinned to your boss’s bulletin board. So think about what back or out or exit means to the user and to the experience that they are having.
So there are many more assumptions that we can use to actually create this baseline for digital design, for intuitive digital design. Generally just avoid designing these environments that feel like M C Escher drawings! So on top of watching out for those nonsensical inverse interactions and avoiding surprise teleportations, there are so many more things we can do.
So if you like what you’ve heard here and you want to hear about all the principles for caveman UX, please follow me on Twitter at @SophiaVUX and you can also check out all of my content on objectory UX at www.rewiredux.com/ooux.
Paul: So was this your favourite one Marcus?
Marcus: No, it wasn’t.
Paul: Now that is weird as this was my favourite talk of the entire season.
Marcus: I don’t want to be coming across as critical but I just found it a little bit, this is stuff we get, we understand how to do certain things without having it highlighted to us? Do you see what I’m saying?
Paul: I do see what you’re saying but you’re wrong.
Marcus: Okay, tell me why I am wrong Paul.
Paul: Well. For a start this is really a sad reflection on me but when Sophia said about the volume button on the iPhone I actually gasped out loud. That’s how sad and easily impressed I am. Honestly, I was like, oh yes! It really does! Wow!
Marcus: We’ve got enormous brains and we can deal with it.
Paul: Yes we can and I agree with that and I do see where you’re coming from but all of these little things… You know how you go to some websites or you’re using an app and it annoys you…
Marcus: Absolutely and I couldn’t agree more with the general principle.
Paul: …and you can’t put your finger on one thing that annoys you about it? It’s because of these little things adding up. It’s like death by a thousand cuts.
The Google back button example!
Marcus: See, I don’t agree with the iPhone thing. Yes okay, why is it going from side to side when you were going up and down? I can understand the logic behind why that possibly isn’t great UX but I disagree. We are doing an action and it’s showing something changing. We can instantly work out with our big brains what that means. Whereas the Google photos example, I couldn’t agree with more. That is spot on. But that is more like a good information architecture, it’s good user journeys and ensuring that we understand that if somebody goes into a particular process at a particular point, they might have a different in and out point to somebody who starts at the beginning of finishes at the end. So absolutely right.
Paul: What about the camera one? Because I’ve done that camera one where you flick right to left to get into the camera app and then you go to flick back exits and it goes to video mode instead. That drives me nuts.
Marcus: I agree with that one but I don’t think it’s not been thought about, I think it’s probably a case of Apple’s designers making that decision thinking that people know that if they want to go back to home or locked screen, that they’ve got two buttons. One will take them back to the locked screen and one will take them to the home screen.
Paul: I know that and absolutely agree. But I still flick instead. I still do what she says because you don’t do those things on a conscious level. I agree with volume one, although it’s ridiculous it doesn’t stop the usability. You don’t find yourself making a mistake. In fact the fact that I quite happily used the volume for years and never even noticed that problem shows that it’s not a big issue. It is an inconsistency and it is silly and it should be the other way, it she is right that it’s wrong but it doesn’t damage the experience in any way.
But with the camera one I actually do find myself switching in the wrong direction because I’m doing it at a purely instinctive level. And that I think is the point that she was driving home about, is that so much of our interactions, certainly with things that we use on a regular basis, is done at a subconscious level. It’s like driving. You don’t think about driving, you just do it once you’ve got used to it.
If something isn’t intuitive and something doesn’t work in that subconscious way then you start to have problems.
Marcus: I don’t disagree with the camera example, I think it’s probably a case of a choice needing to be made, this would be ideal but it’s not completely unusable if we expect people to use different buttons.
Paul: Well why couldn’t you have swiped up and down instead of left and right?
Marcus: I don’t know.
Paul: Exactly. That’s the point. As an individual if you have a lot of those little problems within a site or app then you start ending up thinking, I don’t like this but I don’t know why. But then there is the other aspect of it which is when you are working at scale, which you have to remember that Sophia has done for a big part of her career, that a little annoyance like that adds up hugely. You know the classic story about the boot time on the first Mac? Do you know the story?
Marcus: I will do when you remind me of it.
Paul: So the story with the Mac is that when Steve Jobs saw the Mac for the first time before it had even booted up he was complaining, saying it was taking too long to boot. The engineer said is not taking that, what’s your problem? Steve said he needs it to be 10 seconds quicker. The engineer replied 10 seconds doesn’t make a big deal, what’s the big deal about 10 seconds? And Steve said, let’s say we’ve got 2 million users booting up twice a day, at 10 seconds a time that adds up to lifetimes of people. You’re actually killing people by taking so long to boot up.
Marcus: That logic doesn’t work. It’s an individual 10 seconds for each user. You can’t add them together!
Paul: I know what you mean and yes of course, you’re not really killing people but when you are dealing with scale, when you are dealing with a lot of people those little things do matter because they do inconvenience a load of people.
Marcus: With that particular example I think there was a point and it might be different for different people, when you think this is taking too long. And I suspect that is what was the case. Although this must have been in the 1970s. What was the benchmark to measure it against then? I’ve noticed that Macs are taking much longer to boot up and shutdown now than they did five years ago. But that’s because Steve isn’t around anymore to complain.
I’m not disagreeing I guess I am playing devil’s advocate a little bit on this one because I don’t think that there is anything wrong to a certain extent in allowing people to use their brains and learn how to use something.
Paul: Something should be as simple as it can be. I’m not expecting an aircraft cockpit to be simple, it’s got to be as simple as it can be for what it is trying to do.
Marcus: I’ll mention Leigh’s yellow steering wheel as I have told the whole story in the past. He used that as an example of someone who’s never driven a car not needing to have steering wheel made yellow with a sticker saying steer the vehicle written on it. It’s obvious.
Paul: Yes it’s obvious by its nature. I agree you are right when it comes to the volume, I think yes, it is a yellow steering wheel example but that doesn’t mean the indicators shouldn’t go up and down. It should for a consistency point of view. Perhaps that is my OCD kicking in then?
Marcus: Yes we all have different versions of that. I know we shouldn’t be rambling on that I was doing a crossword on Sunday afternoon and my brother in law filling it in and he misspelt a word, writing an E instead of an I and then overwrote the correct letter on top. I said you can’t do that! Rub it out, turn the pencil over and rub it out. Sorry I’m a bit OCD as I don’t like messy crosswords. So he rubs it out and with the brother he rubs little bits of the black squares out which makes me then want to fill the bits back in on the black ones! Different types of OCD Paul.
Paul: That was awful but yes. Okay we really need to move on. We were supposed to be doing these quickly done really badly.
Let’s talk about Fullstory. I’m not going to rush this section is full story have been sponsoring us all season and they are lovely. I love Fullstory and this is my last chance to say to you, for goodness sake go and give them a go! It’s absolutely free and there’s no need to enter a credit card, you get 1000 sessions recorded per month. He got no excuse not to. Please, please try it yourself because it is absolutely cool. It’s much more insightful than Google analytics, we’ve talked so much about them but I don’t think we need to say a huge amount but you can learn so much about somebody’s behaviour through watching these sessions playback. Being able to watch the user interacting on your site in real-time in the natural environment, not like a usability test session where you are bringing them into a lab and they know they are being watched. It’s great for diagnosing problems with your site and you can drill down as well, you see someone doing something weird you can ask if there was anybody else doing that same thing and you can easily find out without having to worry about event handlers all the crap the you have to put on something like Google analytics. This is just absolutely brilliant. Please, please go and try it. It’s Fullstory.com/boag. If there ever was a project I could get excited about, it’s Fullstory.
Right, Matthew is back. We had him on the show a little while ago.
Marcus: Yes, this confused me. I’m thinking Paul sent me the wrong one.
Paul: No, you see he submitted two talks, there’s nothing wrong with submitting two talks. And he was really good wasn’t he?
Marcus: Well done him.
Paul: His last talk was really good. So getting him back again to talk again makes a lot of sense. He is a product designer based in Brooklyn and he works primarily with large enterprises on both mobile and desktop products. You can find out more about him. I’m going to spell… Let’s go for his Twitter ID this time. Last time we said his website, this time we can say his Twitter ID. So if you want to follow him on Twitter find out what other stuff he is up to it is @Matty652 on Twitter. He is writing a book at the moment about this kind of stuff and it looks like it’s going to be a really good book. So it’s definitely worth following him. I had a little chat with him, he wanted to ask me some questions about the book he was writing so we had a little chat recently and it looks like it’s going to be a really good book. So he is talking about a product design kick off checklist. So if you are designing a product, what needs to go on your kick-off checklist. And yes, this is what he had to say on the subject.
Product design kickoff checklist
Play talk at: 37.02 – Making sure you have all the things you need to successfully design a product.
Hi, my name is Matthew Voshell and I’m a designer in New York City this lightning talk I am going to talk about my idea for a product design kick-off checklist. This is the information designers should make sure that they have to consistently make amazing products. This can actually, after completing a project where I tend to always perform a retrospective from a design aspect to understand what I could have done better. A lot of the time the issues I discover tend to be challenges that other designers and companies are also dealing with. The main issue I have noticed lately is the products that flop, they fail because they tried to build a solution before truly understanding the problem. Now, stop me if you’ve heard this before but if you truly define the problem, what info do you really need? Where do you even start? Your goals in the initial stage involves answering the following. What is the problem statement, who is going to use it, and what are their processes? Obtaining this data is often seen as a “waste of time” or something that delays wire frames or designs from being created. In a sense, yes, in attempting to answer those questions you may indeed annoy your project managers and make your stakeholders anxious but like amazing food at a five-star restaurant good things wait come to those who wait. The research collateral that you will have at the end of this process is a product story, personas, workflow diagrams and a product story map. These items will play a pivotal role in establishing the foundational understanding around the problems that you should be solving with this product. Now matter how hard you are pressured as a designer you should never attempt to design a product without having at least a cursory understanding of the statements that I said earlier around what’s the problem statement, whose going to use it and what are the processes? Now, let’s talk a little bit about the deliverables, the product story. What is the target for this product? What problems is it going to solve? In a meeting known as the kick-off the product teams, stakeholders and users should usually establish a product story. A product story should be about one or two sentences and consider this the products elevator pitch. I love Trello’s and Trello’s says quote “Trello lets you work more collaboratively and get more done.” It’s a very, very short very to the point, you know exactly what this product is going to do from a very high level. This story will set the scope and the target for what this product should actually do and will serve as a Northstar to what you are eventually going to design. Now, the second are personas. Who’s actually going to use this product. Understanding the users and their behaviour, both quantitatively and qualitatively will impact the usability and functionality of your product. Building personas will come from data obtained through contextual user interviews and kind of the adage I always tend to use is that if you are designing for everyone, you’re designing for no one. A lot of people will actually say that but I believe me that is pretty true. The next are workflow diagrams. This really gets to understanding how do users work, what are their processes? This is also obtained through contextual user interviews and are illuminated through email diagrams that you can use Lucidchart or Visio or whatever tool you like best, even Sketch. These steps identify what the persona is taking to complete a task or reach some certain goal. This is really informative in understanding what needs to be shown when. This is to the point I made in another lightning talk that you should really conform the software to how the person is working instead of trying to conform how the person is currently working to the way that the software works. Finally, the product story map. Which features, which use cases should be considered within the product design. The product story map helps understand the epics and user stories that should be considered. It is referred to as situational design by Don Norman and living with complexity a book that I love and if you haven’t read I absolutely tell you you really should read it. But the product story map is a master backlog. It is kind of a living document for all the use cases matched to a personas workflow that are required to be addressed by the design. Now, there are kind of little titbits and things that you should understand about when you are doing this. So when you are really trying to solve what the problem is the product is solving, if you know it and it is being given to you by the stakeholders, great. If it is not you really need to sit down with the stakeholders, with people in the strategic positions, product managers and such and really sit down and try and understand in a very cohesive way what you are trying to solve. The second, who are you designing for? Do you know who these people are, if you haven’t you should sit down and try and identify those roles and personas. Next, if the personas already exist that’s great, take them and use them in your design. If not, then you need to actually go put those personas together by performing contextual user interviews. If you are working with a company and they already have personas made make sure you check the source material they used to create the personas. A bunch of times I have seen people tell me “Oh yeah, we have personas,” or “Yeah, we have user stories.” I go and read them and motivations are missing or business requirements are missing. So make sure that whatever the source material that was used is actually valid to actually create those personas. Next, how do they work? A lot of times especially from the stakeholders side they have an expected way that they should work but nine times out of 10 when you actually perform those user interviews you’ll find out that thiers is actually a reality to how they work. If you know how they work create diagrams from the interviews. If somebody has already given you diagrams, great, then use those workflow diagrams to understand and formulate your information architecture and usability. Also, what are the user goals? This is really kind of understanding user epics and their journeys. If you know, start filling it into a product story map. By the way if you don’t know what a product story map is Jeff Patton has an amazing book about it, around it. I really suggest that you read it. Have you identified the epics and journeys themselves? This is actually kind of a little bit of a difficult task as well and you need to sit down again with stakeholders and users and really try to look from a strategic level to understand the big epics that they are trying to accomplish. These things will all kind of end up in the product story map. Lastly, what are the requirements. So these are really going to be coming from the stakeholders or from the users. This is where you need to define the acceptance criteria, as I call them, for each of the each user story. Doing it in a product story map allows you visually to understand, especially using Post-it notes of different colours, where your epics are or where your journeys are, where your stories are and a lot of times I can see very quickly, visually, that maybe two out of the 40 stories actually have requirements and that tells me okay, we need to sit down with the stakeholder to make sure that we are hitting the requirements needed otherwise we are just going to be spinning our wheels and designing and designing and designing and not really getting anywhere at all. For more on this please check out my website, medium.com/@mvoshell. And look for the article described product design kick off checklist. Thanks a lot, and good luck.
Paul: So there you go, that is Matthew’s thoughts on product design kick-off checklists. Try saying that fast! It was good.
Marcus: Yep, very good. I’m not going to say much, I’m going to be quick. A couple of things that I got out of that. One was that kind of… He talked a lot at the start of it about the importance of research which we all should know anyway, but it reminded me of a previous talk that I went back and looed up who said it, which was Megan Hartman about the idea of doing, kind of, pre- user research where you are in “Listen only” mode. In air quotes. Because I can remember at the time saying “That’s great, we must do that.” And then I forgot. But it reminded me of it again. It’s kind of like phase 0. Just go and listen to what users are saying in Facebook groups and stuff like that. So I thought that was great. The other one was epic’s.
Paul: Did you know what an epic was?
Marcus: I had to look it up and I have learnt something so there you go.
Paul: So an epic, for listeners, because he talked about epics without describing them. So basically an epic is a collection of user stories, right? On a similar theme. So, a user story is something very specific like… I can’t think of one now, my brain is gone completely blank! You know, I am a, whoever. I want to, sign up for a newsletter so that I can get spammed. (Laughter) Not a very common epic, sorry, user story. But then you can kind of… But another user story might be I am whoever, I want to unsubscribe from a newsletter so I stop being spammed. Right? So, together those two would both be part of an epic about newsletter signups and management. All right? Makes sense? That makes sense doesn’t it?
Paul: Did I get that right?
Marcus: I think so based on what I looked at. All about human centred design processes.
Paul: Yes. One thing that I hadn’t come across before was the idea of a problem statement.
Paul: I have many problems that need stating. No, I mean I had come across, obviously, when I do empathy maps I always talk about what problem you are solving but I hadn’t… I like the idea of expressing an entire product that you are producing in the context of solving a problem. That is good.
Marcus: Yes. And that helps legitimise all your subsequent designs decisions, you keep referring back to it.
Paul: Exactly. Yes. I also liked his whole thing of if you design for everybody you designed for nobody.
Marcus: You’ve said that before Paul.
Paul: Well, no, I say a slightly different thing. I say “Design for somebody, alienate nobody.”
Marcus: Okay, shows you how much I listen to you!
Paul: Yes. (Laughter)
Marcus: Well, it does show that I listen but not very carefully!
Paul: Exactly. So, it was a good talk by Matthew, I liked that one. Right, let’s move on to our next sponsor. I’m speeding things up now.
Marcus: Well done Paul.
Paul: Our next sponsor is Freshbooks who have been a huge support on this show, not just on this season but previous seasons as well. It is an intuitive and, I was going to say an intuitive and easy-to-use, but isn’t that essentially the same thing? I think it probably is.
Marcus: Ooo. Well, based on what we were talking about earlier…
Paul: Maybe not.
Marcus: Intuitive is the steering wheel, not the yellow one, just a normal steering wheel. Easy-to-use could be something that needs to be explained. So, hmmm. They are different.
Paul: Hmmm. They let you send invoices. In a easy-to-use intuitive and simple fashion.
Paul: So it only takes about 30 seconds to create and send an invoice which is pretty fast. Perhaps I should have said fast? Anyway, getting distracted now! You can also customise it with your logo, colour scheme, all that kind of thing that you would want to do. Your clients can pay online which can seriously improve how quickly you get paid, trust me. You also know when they have seen your invoice. “Oh no, we didn’t receive the email.” Bollocks you didn’t! And you can automatically send out late payment reminders which is very nice so you don’t have to spend hours chasing down clients. They have got a deposit feature which enables you to take a deposit upfront, which is always a good idea kids! Never have payment on delivery. Bad. You can go and try all this out, give it a go, see what you think. You get a month of unrestricted use, anybody who is listening to the show can get that without even having to enter a credit card, which I’m very anti. All you need to do is go to Freshbooks.com/boagworld and when you sign up please enter Boagworld UX show in the “How did you hear about us” section. Because then they love us all the more.
So, our very last talk of season 18, our open mic season. It seems kind of appropriate, and I’ve held it back, sorry Wayne, I’ve held Waynes talk back, which is not nice of me really because I felt like it was a good one to finish the season on. It is about overcoming post conference blues, right? So it’s the idea that you have learnt a load of stuff at a conference and you go back to work and nobody gives a shit! Right?
Marcus: This is my favourite talk.
Paul: Oh, this is your favourite talk!
Paul: I just think this is such… And even listening to this season of the podcast, it can feel a bit like that. You have heard some great talks, you have heard people talk about lots of interesting things but now, how do you persuade people to actually do any of it? So that’s what this is really all about. Just a little bit about Wayne. He looks like he’s been… Sorry, I need to reword that!
Marcus: (Laughter) Shall I edit that bit out Paul?
Paul: I was going to say he looks like he’s been doing this almost as long as me!
Marcus: Oh, that’s kind of all right. Because that makes you, well, it I don’t know, it depends on how old he is! (Laughter)
Paul: There is…
Marcus: If he is 25 then that’s an insult Paul.
Paul: Yeah. I’ve got his photograph here, because we always put those in the show notes. He looks of a comparable age. I’m really sorry Wayne if you are like, young! But he does say he’s been programming for many years. So there you go. I can’t read the URL, no, I can do actually because it’s medium.com/@ T H U M E C O. It is where you can find out more about his kind of stuff, where he writes about all kinds of things that he writes about. Which I don’t know what that is, stuff to do with programming probably, I’m guessing. But this isn’t about programming. This is about overcoming post conference blues. Ladies and gentlemen Marcus’s favourite talk.
Overcoming Post-Conference Blues
Play talk at: 52.09 – How to deal with the reality of coming back to work after a successful conference and the frustration of not being able to sell your company on some of the great ideas you brought back.
I’d like to talk about overcoming post conference blues, or bringing the excitement of a conference back to work with you. Have you ever been to a conference that inspired you so much that you wanted to go back to work and change the world? That happened to me at the very first smashing conference in New York City. I don’t think I slept for four days. Both the conference and New York City excited me. One morning I left the hotel at 5 AM with the intention of walking through Central Park before the conference. It turned out it was much larger than I imagined. Over 778 acres. Over three hours and several miles later I emerged from the top of Central Park to find that I was over 4 miles away from a conference that started at 9 AM! I had to take a cab and I really got my adrenaline pumping because taking a cab through New York City at rush-hour is something of a treat that you don’t want to miss. That was the perfect way to prepare my mind for the inspiration, creativity and excitement that followed. I returned to work ready to share that knowledge and push forward some ideas I had for improvement. At first it went well, I gave a presentation to a small group of people in marketing which was received well. Then I presented to my team at work and wow, what a bunch of stone faces they were. Nothing changed, I had changed but I had not been able to supercharge my co-workers in any meaningful way. What can you do in a situation like this? These are the three steps that I took. Tolerate, innovate and wait. Let’s talk about the first. Tolerate. When I came back from my first conference, the smashing conference, my boss stopped by to ask about my trip, let’s face it most conferences are more informational than they are inspirational. If they weren’t at a cool location most of us wouldn’t want to go. So my boss was expecting a three-minute summary. When I was bursting with excitement he gave me some extra time at a team meeting to talk to the rest of the group. It’s all but impossible to distil the ideas and energy from a successful conference into a single meeting. But you really have to try. Most of you aren’t going to have the advantage either that the speakers at the conference did of standing up on a stage while having your thoughts projected on a giant screen behind you. Talking is very important, I like the idea that Paul Boag had of encouraging us to speak more because that’s really the only way we can tell our managers that we are actually doing something. Your best strategy is to try and get as much time as possible to share your ideas with your department and others. You’ve got to plant the seed of an idea in management’s mind. You may only get a mild reaction but don’t let that discourage you. Speaking is important because it forces you to summarise your experiences, pick out the best of what you have seen and that lays the foundation of the work to follow. Use the last bits of your post conference energy to push your ideas out into your company. Some of the best ideas from the conference may not work at your company. For example, at one of the smashing conferences I attended a workshop held by a graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister. He shuts his entire company down every seven years for a year long sabbatical. It energises him and the employees so much that they have ideas for the next seven years and they are just as much in demand when they return. I work for a very large corporation and as much as I would like they are not going to shut down the company every seven years so that we can all have a sabbatical! This is all part of the tolerate stage. I summarised, wrote and presented the parts of the conference that excited me the most. I planted the seeds. I had to accept that some of the ideas were not possible in my current company. I had to tolerate the lack of change that followed. Now it was time to innovate. At this point I really felt like I had failed at energising my co-workers but that didn’t mean I couldn’t start incorporating some of the things that I had learnt at the conference into my own work. I started taking typography more seriously, I practised sketch notes, I worked to incorporate beauty into my designs, I expanded my interest in my company beyond my department. My company builds and rents apartments in places like New York City. I went to a talk at the American Institute of Architects about new uses of structural steel in multi family housing. It sounds a bit dull but it was really very exciting. My boss immediately questioned this since he said “Wayne, this really has nothing to do with anything you do at work.” I am a web designer and he said “I don’t want to discourage you but I don’t think the company is going to be able to reimburse you for this.” I went anyway and I learnt about some great building techniques used on buildings in New York city. One of these buildings was just a block away from two of our properties in New York City. Now I know little bit more about our company and the types of challenges and competition that we have. My expenses were fully reimbursed. Maybe I couldn’t change the company but I could innovate and make my own worklife much more fulfilling. That gave me the patience to get through to the last phase which was wait. I continued to innovate at my desk and during the year I would occasionally send to co-workers and marketing some articles or websites that I found of particular interest. As I mentioned before, at the smashing conference, or one of the smashing conferences I went to a workshop by Stefan Sagmeister. It was entitled “How to touch someone’s heart with design.” We had this exercise where we were supposed to create something that would touch the heart of a co-worker, that we knew very little about. I worked just outside of Washington DC and I picked our marketing director. The only things I knew about her was she was from New York City, she missed New York City and she had a dog. So I drew this cartoon of the manager and her dog playing with a ball in Central Park. The New York skyline was in the background and I wrote “New York misses you.” When I got back I was supposed to give this card to her and I was very uncomfortable about doing this. I hardly knew the person. I went up to her office hoping that she wasn’t going to be there but she was. She surprised me by asking immediately about the conference and how it was. So that gave me a little bit of courage and I handed her the card. She was so touched when she saw the card that she got up out of her desk walked around and gave me a big hug. That was something I was not expecting. I’m really not much of a hugger so I kind of stood there awkwardly while she was… had her arms around me but wow, what an impact it had on me. I had no idea that something small like this could have such a big impact on a person. She told me she couldn’t wait to share it with her fiancé and co-workers. Because of that I was then asked to speak to the entire marketing departmentc including the vice president for an hour at a lunch and learn. So I had an hour to talk to marketing. This is what I had been waiting to do. I put a huge amount of effort into this and it was very well received. People approached me afterwards with follow-up questions and the vice president of my department was informed about how much marketing appreciated the talk. This year marketing has already asked me before I’ve even gone to the conference if I would speak to them afterwards. They also think that the talk should be opened up to a group beyond marketing and my boss in my department agrees. It was really a long wait but I am pleased with the results. I have established a reputation as someone who can think outside of the box and now I am getting the kind of projects that excite me. Tolerate, innovate and wait. That is the formula. Don’t lose the sparks of inspiration generated at the conferences you go to. Save them, share them, use them and wait. You won’t be disappointed.
Paul: So go on then Marcus, justify. Why was that your favourite talk?
Marcus: Umm, for many reasons but the best bit was the end bit when he took it on himself to basically go and see the marketing director, and I can’t even remember who it was. And she ended up hugging him. And it was like, that’s was how you really get things done.
Marcus: It’s about using your brain, caring, understanding what makes people tick. All of those kinds of things. Rather than this expectation of “I’ve been to a conference and I’ve learned stuff and you must listen to me because it’s brilliant.” I suppose that was his wait bit but it wasn’t really, it was the fact that he did something out of the ordinary and suddenly everybody is listening and paying attention and just, wow, I thought that was… That was a real human moment.
Paul: It’s also, yeah, it’s that empathy moment as well. Instead of it being, yeah, like you say it’s that kind of… It’s easy to go back and go “We should be doing all of this.” But by applying it to other people, by showing other people how it could have an impact on them and being human about it. You know, it’s like… It reminded me, this talk, for some reason, it’s not a direct link, but it reminded me, this talk, of Jared Spools article about how you can’t convince an executive to care about UX. How he says what you’ve got to do is find out what they already care about. I often think that that is the same principle when you hear a talk. You have to not just tell them the talk and what happened but apply that talk to how it could benefit them in their job and in their situation. You know, this is obviously an area I’m really into because this whole idea of motivating colleagues, that led to my UX culture cards that I send out. You know, that kind of thing. Also, another thing I am a fan of is drip feeding bits and pieces from a conference rather than hitting everybody… Rather than hitting people with it all at once which can be a bit overwhelming to instead drip feed bits. So it’s like most speakers at a conference either have written on a similar subject at some point, you could send articles to your colleagues over a period of time. Also, a lot of speakers put their talks online as well so being able to actually send those to people as well is a really good thing.
Marcus: The second reason why I like that talk so much which is it, the first part was the most important part but the second one is it reminded me of great talks that I’ve been to in conferences that were really inspirational. That the most inspirational of all was, I think it was my first SXSW which was I don’t know, 2008 maybe? And it was Jim Coodle?? and Brendan Dawes just talking about being creative really and Brendan Dawes was talking about his film things that he did and Jim Coodle was talking about a couple of different businesses he had set up. One which had flopped, and one which had went on to do quite well. It was just the way they, I think this is because I am effectively a business owner, they were talking about having the freedom to do this sort of thing. We’ve never really… We’ve tried loads of things over the years at Headscape, you know, stuff that I’ve learnt about how other people run companies. We’ve tried four-day weeks here and things like that and that didn’t work. That’s fair enough, but it was just that particular talk by Coodle and Dawes got me thinking about that kind of thing. At the time it was hugely inspirational and I still think about things in the way that they, you know, their presentation, their talk was in the style of. And that was 10 years ago, nearly. Yes, really important stuff it can be. Very, very inspirational. But that’s more just a personal thing to me rather than kind of idea of getting the feeling across when you get back. That’s a different thing entirely. It was just great to be reminded of that kind of thing.
Paul: It does remind you about how important it is to go to conferences every now and again.
Marcus: Oh yeah. I’m going to one in Barcelona Paul. I’m looking forward to that.
Paul: Hmmm, so am I. Not long now, I probably ought to prepare something for that! But I’ve got a holiday soon, that’s more important. I’m going off to Canada, yay!
Marcus: That’s nice. Any particular reason why Canada?
Paul: We were going to take a cruise up to Alaska and see the glaciers and all of that kind of stuff which is very cool. And also Cath and James have never been to West Coast of Canada so… I went there on a business trip a few years back and I really wanted to show it to them. So yeah, so that’s what I’m doing.
Marcus: How lovely.
Paul: Which is why we are finishing this season. Talking of which…
Marcus: I’m going to Cornwall.
Marcus: Which is lovely.
Paul: It is lovely, especially this time of year. It’s the weather is like it has been at the moment it will be blooming great.
Marcus: I know.
Paul: I did try and transition there into…
Marcus: I know, I wasn’t going to let you.
Marcus: Because you had a holiday thought so I had to have one too.
Paul: Oh, okay, fair enough. It’s like so competitive, aren’t you?
Marcus: No, not really!
Paul: No, not when you come back with Cornwall! Although actually I suspect people in many parts of the world would dearly love to go to Cornwall. Arthur and, you know, the roundtable and all of that stuff.
Marcus: Is that Cornwall? That’s more Somerset isn’t it?
Paul: Is it?
Marcus: Yeah, I think so.
Paul: Oh well, anyway, whatever.
Marcus: I think Camelot, nobody really knows but they think it was around Glastonbury way, which I’m sure is Somerset.
Paul: Was it actually a real place? I thought it was all ballshit.
Marcus: Ner, I’m not sure.
Paul: Right. Anyway, the next season of the podcast was what I was going to talk about. It’s going to kick off on 12th October so we’ve got a break now until the 12th October. The next season is going to be on content marketing which is very cool. We have got loads of stuff lined up, we’ve already got a few guests. Our first episode, when we come back, is going to be about podcasting. We’ve never talked about a podcasting on the show.
Marcus: Are you sure?
Paul: Umm, no. I’m not sure! (Laughter)
Marcus: Because we have done about 5000 episodes now so I bet we had talked about podcasting at some point.
Paul: Ah, but we haven’t talked about it with Colin Gray. You don’t even know who Colin Gray is do you?
Marcus: Is he the guy based up in Scotland who had on the show about a thousand episodes ago?
Paul: Oh, did we! Have we had him on the show before?
Marcus: I don’t know, I’m making that up!
Paul: You’ve got the in Scotland bit right, so yeah, maybe. Anyway, he is an expert in all things podcasting.
Marcus: We can ask him, have you been on the show before?
Paul: Yes, because then we’ll know whether we’ve talked about podcasting before.
Paul: So we will find out. Anyway, we are kicking off on 12th October. If you fancy supporting the show, like our wonderful sponsors this season or even if you are slightly curious about podcast advertising and how it might help your business you can find out more at Boagworld.com/advertise/podcast-sponsorship. I’ve never said that before, I’ve never actually asked for sponsors. I am asking for sponsors! There we go, Marcus, you’ve got a joke to finish us off on?
Marcus: I have. This is from Martin Fraser on the Boagworld bad jokes channel. “Jokes about white sugar are rare, jokes about brown sugar, Demerara.”
Paul: Demerara! If you too want to see the quality jokes on the Boagworld slack channel you can go to Boagworld.com/slacking &and sign up. But really…
Marcus: That’s a good joke, come on!
Paul: That is a good joke. I do like that one. The only reason I didn’t laugh more to be honest is I saw it on the bad… I need to stop looking at the bad joke slack channel.
Marcus: Yeah, don’t look.
Paul: I won’t look because it ruins it. You don’t get a real reaction from me. Anyway, that is it for this season. Thank you to all 35 speakers that contributed to this season’s show. I’m really pleased that we managed to squeeze everybody in which has been great. It has been a really nice standard. I’ve been blown away and we will definitely return to this format in the future. But for now thank you for listening and goodbye.
Links mentioned in the show
- Sophia Voychehovski – ReWiredUX.com
- M C Escher drawings
- Matthew Voshell
- Don Norman – Living with complexity
- Jeff Patton
- Wayne Thume
- Stefan Sagmeister
- Jared Spool
- Brendan Dawes