This week on the Boagworld, we discuss how to keep up with the dizzying pace of change in digital. How can we tell which technologies, platforms and techniques we should invest time in and where to place our limited attention?
Paul Boag: This week on the Boagworld Show, we discuss how to keep up with the dizzying array of change in digital. How do we tell which technologies, platforms, and techniques we should invest in and where to place our limited attention. This week's show is sponsored by TeamGantt and EyeQuant.
Paul Boag: Hello, welcome to the Boagworld Show, a podcast about all aspects of digital design, user experience, digital strategy, working in the web, and digital … I'll say digital a few more times. My name is Paul Boag. Joining me as always is Marcus Lillington. Let's get this thing done because I don't want to be here.
Marcus Lillington: Oh, Paul. You actually sounded a bit drunk. You were sort of saying … Digital technology.
Paul Boag: At the moment I have so much cold and flu medicine in me that it is entirely possible I'm high. So, there we go.
Marcus Lillington: Cool. You don't sound like you've got flu or cold. You don't sound like you've got the flu. You had the flu you'd be in bed dying. I had flu once in my life. It was horrible. Didn't know where I was for about three days.
Paul Boag: Oh yeah. Yeah. Proper flu. I'm not saying I've got proper flu. I've got man flu.
Marcus Lillington: You've got a cold.
Paul Boag: Yeah. I've got a slight sniffle. Well, I've just come back from Egypt.
Marcus Lillington: Oh yeah, yeah. How did it go?
Paul Boag: Well, a little bit frustrating if I'm honest.
Marcus Lillington: Okay.
Paul Boag: It's really interesting. It's something I've noticed come up more or more these days. That … Not more or more. Perhaps I'm just more aware of it. The older I get, the longer I've worked in this sector, the less I'm sure of. The less answers I feel I have. Do you know what I mean?
When you …
Marcus Lillington: Yeah.
Paul Boag: When you start off in your career and this-
Marcus Lillington: Your blind arrogance is going down little by little.
Paul Boag: Yeah. Exactly.
Marcus Lillington: It's getting worn away over the years by actual, real knowledge.
Paul Boag: Exactly.
Marcus Lillington: That's probably what's happening.
Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly. And when you say to this group of people that I was presenting to, they're very much starting out on their digital journey. They're probably about, I don't know, 15 years behind us. Something like that. That's no criticism of them, they're very smart people, but, investment and their country situation, et cetera. They're at the stage of wanting definitive answers to everything.
To improve my website, what specifically do I have to do? They want to know what they have to move where and how to do it. I think it just doesn't work like that in the real world, does it? I don't know … I can't just look at a website and go, "You need to do this, this, this, and this." I mean, I can to an extent, but when you're talking to a whole group of people, you certainly can't do that because every website will have different nuances to it and different challenges associated to it.
It will depend on a myriad of different factors that are influencing what they each individually need to do. I was trying to teach them processes to get to that. Usability, testing. But, they all the time, they wanted, no, no what specifically do we need to do? And I couldn't answer it, and it's a frustrating thing because they look to me as this kind of expert in the field, which I am.
Marcus Lillington: You should have all the answers, Paul.
Paul Boag: Yeah. And that's the kind of expectation they had.
Marcus Lillington: Maybe you should.
Paul Boag: Should I? Oh, right.
Marcus Lillington: Yes.
Paul Boag: Do you have all the answers then?
Marcus Lillington: No, but I don't claim to be internet famous Paul Boag.
Paul Boag: Well, nobody's into that famous Paul Boag except me. Right?
Marcus Lillington: Good point. Well made.
Paul Boag: But, that principle is a frustrating one, so it was a bit of a battle.
Marcus Lillington: That's a … Yeah. Well, did you get anywhere? Did you get anywhere with it? Did you sort of start, as you were teaching them more about process and that, what works here might not work there and you have to apply knowledge. If you were getting somewhere, then that's cool.
Paul Boag: I think I was. Yeah. I think I was. I was getting somewhere with them, but of course, the pressure that they're under, because they're at the stage where they are the web team. One person per … These were, by the way, universities.
Marcus Lillington: I got it. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Paul Boag: So, remember when we started working with universities where it was one web master that was just responsible for everything. A lot of them were even doing IT support as well. You know? They've got … Not only are they in a very difficult, and as I said to them, an impossible situation, but they've got impossible expectations based on them or required of them.
Because their management teams are basically going, we need to be like Oxford and Cambridge and we need to be able to compete on an international level. Please make that happen.
Marcus Lillington: Because, all the high ranking academics will be saying that to the management team who will then be picking it down to them.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Great fun isn't it? I wish I worked at an university. Not. I've just been at one for two days. I'm going to talk about it in a minute.
Paul Boag: Oh, are you? All right. Cool. So, really-
Marcus Lillington: No. I'm talking about that on next weeks show.
Paul Boag: Oh, right.
Marcus Lillington: I'm getting confused.
Paul Boag: Yeah, well, it's because we're doing two shows back to back, isn't it?
Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Well, not quite back to back. We're doing one tomorrow.
Paul Boag: So, yeah. It was … I felt like I was talking to the wrong group of people, that I needed to be talking to senior management within these organizations. And that's often the way, isn't it? I mean, the number of times I go into an organization and … I did, in the end, I actually, I kind of redid it, because I was doing two days of it, basically the same thing twice over two days. And the second day, I did change it quite a lot in order to kind of make it much more well, at least you can start by doing this, this, and this within the constraints that you've got.
But again, it wasn't move this from the homepage, it was basically saying, the first thing you've got to do is significantly reduce the number of pages you're supporting. Because, when there's just you, you need to be handling a small number of pages. I was talking to them in those kinds of terms.
Marcus Lillington: And you must have evidence.
Paul Boag: Yeah. All of that kind of stuff. It was a bit difficult. Then, obviously, because I was going away to another country and in the planes and things like that, I came back with the snuffles.
Marcus Lillington: Sick boy.
Paul Boag: The answer is to never leave your house and never interact with other human beings. Seriously, it's the way to go, which is normally what I do.
Marcus Lillington: Live in a bubble.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: Like an oxygen temple. I can see it. I can see you in one of those crosstalk 00:07:47. You're taking a turn and say, what was the eccentric billionaire?
Paul Boag: What's that?
Marcus Lillington: Howard Hughes.
Paul Boag: All right.
Marcus Lillington: He had a … What's the word when you have to keep washing your hands all the time.
Paul Boag: Obsessive compulsive behavior.
Marcus Lillington: Yeah. He got more and more that way to the point where everything had to be cleaned all the time and whichever room he was in it was always being cleaned and all this kind of thing.
Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah.
Marcus Lillington: That's going to be you, Paul.
Paul Boag: Yeah. No. What I want, because, I'm not a billionaire like him. What I want is one of those absorb balls. You know those big plastic balls where you can roll around like a giant hamster wheel? Have you ever seen them?
Marcus Lillington: Yeah.
Paul Boag: I want one of them.
Marcus Lillington: Yes, I've seen them. You might be too old for one of those, Paul. I think you might hurt yourself or be sick or something.
Paul Boag: I've always, for as long as I've ever seen them, I've wanted to go in one. But you're saying, that I'm probably too old now.
Marcus Lillington: I think I'd like to do it, but not on a very steep slope. A little, gentle incline. A steep slope I think I'd do myself a mischief.
Paul Boag: Absolutely. Right. Okay.
Marcus Lillington: Yes.
Paul Boag: We're talking about … Yeah. How you work out and assess what's worth your attention, how do you assess the new, new techniques, new tools, new technology, new whatever really. We're going to get into that a little bit. But, you wanted to talk about something that we'd already touched upon or something you've got a thought for the day?
Marcus Lillington: No, not today.
Paul Boag: Oh, no. That's tomorrow.
Marcus Lillington: Next week.
Paul Boag: What are you talking about today then?
Marcus Lillington: Well, the very grand title of The Ethical Implications of Taking on Certain Work.
Paul Boag: Oh, this is very in in the moment. Don't get me started on ethics. Gets on my nerves.
Marcus Lillington: Anyways. So, a client of ours popped up the other day and said, "We'd like our site to work with AMP. And I was like, "Yeah, AMP. I remember that. I had forgotten about it, but wasn't there something up with it so everyone kind of walked away from it?" So, went back and had a look. Here's a bit of background on AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages, which was introduced by Google in October 2015 and the idea being that it speeds up the loading time of web pages on mobile devices.
And of course, having a faster mobile internet with content that loads instantly sounds really good. But, there is, or there was, or there still is, I guess, a lot of concern about it. There's a fair bit if you want to go and read about why that is around. And I picked up on this article written by a guy called Dan Buben, which I guess we'll leave the link in the show notes, that summarizes it really well, and I picked out a few of the points from his article and I'm now going to talk about it a little bit more.
Obviously, I think this was written a couple of years ago, so things may have changed a bit, but I think generally speaking, these are the issues with AMP. One of the first problems is, the concept … Sorry, start again.
One of the problems with AMP, with the AMP concept is that content built utilizing AMP is served through a cache on Google servers rather than actually linking to the original page on the publisher's website. Google is publishing your content. This means that the reader, and this is kind of more from a kind of earning money from your site point of view, it means the reader is spending more time on Google's site and seeing Google's advertising as opposed to any paid advertising on the content provider's site. More money for Google, less money for the content creator.
Now, the point is, because AMP is a very stripped down version of your original content, you're at Google's mercy when it comes to how and even if your content is actually displayed. You give up the overall styling of your page in return for a really quick download. Excuse me.
I'm put drink in me, Paul. Look at your drink, I didn't bring one in. crosstalk 00:11:47. Basically Google is forking the web into a version of the internet that looks exactly like Google wants it to. And pages, if you've seen the, all look very plain.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: Because AMP strips down content to the absolute bare bones that it hosts, everything starts to look alike. This means that you can have fake articles and phishing click bait stories appearing right next to legitimate news. So, that's one of the issues. In conclusion, Dan says, "While we can all agree on the fact that a faster mobile web experience is better for everyone, the cost of implementing AMP may be just too high. If you have a well designed, responsive website that optimizes images and video, you really don't need to worry about AMP."
The biggest thing, really, is Google having control.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: Google is pushing it to AMP adoption and by their regular means of propaganda it says things like, "AMP sites will make you rank higher on Google," which is true.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: Which is why our clients are asking for it. But, we could end up in an AMP dominated future where everything uses search for will be served them from Google's portal. Air quotes. And we won't really have the web of inter connective websites anymore. I think we all agree that that's really bad.
I went back and I had to remind myself of what it was and it's an ethical thing.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: It's kind of like …
Paul Boag: Well, I don't …
Marcus Lillington: I haven't finished, by the way.
Paul Boag: Oh, right. I don't know whether I would describe that as ethics or whether I would describe that as what kind of web we want.
Marcus Lillington: Yeah, all right. Maybe I'm going too far. But, as you mentioned at the start of this, there's a lot of this kind of thing out there. So, don't do bad things as a designer slash developer. You've got the extremes of somebody like Mike Monteiro, sort of calling to arms over somebody's going to design Trump's wall. Is it going to be you? Sort of thing.
But another point, another thing that made me think about this. I'd read the engineers at Volkswagen that went through the emissions fiasco thing were … the senior ones were blamed and charged even though it wasn't their idea.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: But they knowingly let it happen, so in theory, they should carry the blame. I guess you have to bear in mind that just because you're carrying out someone else's request could still mean that you're liable if it turns out to be a bad thing.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: Question is, should we agree to do something just because our client asks for it? And of course, the answer is it depends. Some things are really easy to refuse, you're not going to do violence, racism, sexism, porn, that kind of stuff. But other things are less easy to decide on, and this is a good example, AMP, I think.
If a client wants to pay for something that gives them an advantage, then surely that's just capitalism, isn't it?
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: I guess it's down to whether you're thinking short-termist or bigger picture or maybe to a certain extent, whether you can afford to or not to do something.
Paul Boag: I think that's what … that last one is what it actually comes down to. If we're entirely honest to the stuff, this is my slight problem with the whole ethical debate, is that all of the people that are championing ethics in design are somewhat privileged in the fact that they can pick and choose their clients. They can pick and choose what they work on, what they can't work on. It's their definition of what's ethical and what is not. I don't think …
I think you have to be very careful. Perhaps I'm just a out of touch old man over this, but I think you need to be very careful about putting that pressure on other people of saying what they can and can not do, what is right and ethical for them to do. Ultimately, I think it comes down to a decision for Hebscape to make. I don't think it would be for anybody else to make a judgment one way or another over that.
I think your judgment will be in part of whether you can afford to turn this client away if it's something that alienates them enough to drive them elsewhere. I would agree with the assessment of our article, personally, that I think it leads to a more Google-ized, controlled, internet, but you have to be a pragmatist in life, as well.
We tolerate other things with Google. We want to rank highly on Google. We all use Google products. We're all searching on Google. We're all drawing a different ethical line about how much we're willing to let Google to get away with. That is a line we all have to draw individually.
Marcus Lillington: What I've done is basically let the client know what the internet is saying. They can then choose to come back and say, "Nope, we want this," or "Actually, not so sure." If they come back saying, "No, we want this," then we have to make a decision. At the moment I've batted it back.
Paul Boag: Yeah. And I think that's … it is about educating clients. As designers, we always work with clients. We've always got somebody we report to, somebody else who's making a decision over it. I think the emissions example you gave was a very different one, because with the emissions example, they were doing something illegal.
By falsifying their information, they were breaking the law.
Marcus Lillington: Absolutely.
Paul Boag: By using AMP, you're not breaking the law.
Marcus Lillington: No, you're not. But, it's degrees of things, isn't it? I suspect … I think there was a bit of outrage about why these people had been brought to charge over it because they were just doing their job, kind of thing. But actually, they knew what they were doing was the point.
Paul Boag: Yeah. And I do think if that involves … if that does involve breaking the law, then that is … That for me is, obviously, a very solid line that I would walk away from and whether or not my boss told me to break the law or not is irrelevant in a situation like that. But with something like AMP, I mean, I've avoided it. On my own website I looked at it the same as you have and I decided, no, that's not something … That's not a game I'm willing to play.
In the same way, I'm not willing … For example, I rank number one on the term Customer Journey Mapping. But I don't appear number one on Customer Journey Mapping because of all the adverts that people have taken out. That rank higher than me.
Marcus Lillington: Of course.
Paul Boag: And, I'm not playing that game. I won't pay for the advertising that would get me the ranking that I organically should be deserved. Or, another example of that. Google now, people are having to take out ads for their own brand names so that they rank number one on their own brand names, which is ridiculous. And also, the other thing that Google have got terrible habit of these days, is they extract bits out of your websites and give it as an answer on their own website. They are very much-
Marcus Lillington: They're on everything.
Paul Boag: Yeah. Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: Right at the top.
Paul Boag: Yeah. Exactly. They very much are trying to keep people on Google these days. And, for me, I'm in the privileged position where I can go, well, to you. I'm not playing that game. But, I know I'm in a privileged position to be able to do that. That's what it comes down to, doesn't it?
Somebody's just asked a question. Who is it? I can't remember. Oh, that's Chris, isn't it? Yeah. Has just asked the question of how much it weighs on the find-ability scale. Well, of course they don't tell you that, do they? That's part of their proprietary algorithm.
Marcus Lillington: That's the issue here.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: It is proprietary.
Paul Boag: Yeah. Totally.
Marcus Lillington: It's not this lovely shared interconnected web of websites or net of … You know what I'm trying to say.
Paul Boag: Yeah. The web has gone in an interesting direction, isn't it. But, there you go. Such is life. That was a really interesting one. I like that one, Marcus. That's been my favorite thought for the day. I think you've done so far. So, thank you for that. I don't know what the answer is. We didn't come to any conclusions to it.
Marcus Lillington: I don't feel I need to provide answers.
Paul Boag: No.
Marcus Lillington: Their discussion topics.
Paul Boag: Exactly.
Marcus Lillington: If I have them, I may provide them. But not that one.
Paul Boag: So actually, it's quite a nice one because it leads nicely on to our topic for today, which is assessing the new. When something like AMP comes along, we all need to make … form an opinion about it. So, that's what we're going to look at today, because it doesn't matter what your role is.
Often, when we think about assessing the new, we're thinking about assessing new technology, but actually, we're not just talking about technology here. Digital continues to evolve an enormous rate and there are, yes, new technologies coming along, but there are also new techniques. Who knew about design thinking five years ago? Or, customer journey mapping? Yeah, these things have been around for maybe a long time, but they haven't necessarily had the word and they haven't been in the consciousness quite as much.
So, there's new techniques. And then there's new tools all the time. I'm addicted to Product Hunt, which is a website that or an app that describes the latest new tools and apps that are being launched and I'm obsessed by it and I'm always looking at it and going, "Oo. It's useful, can I make use of that?"
Marcus Lillington: Shiny.
Paul Boag: Yeah, new shiny thing. It's something that we all have to pay attention to. I talk about shiny things in a minute, Marcus, so you're all right. But, of course, the balance of all of this, you've got the digital that's evolving at this kind of exponential rate all the time, and then, we've only got limited time to look at this new stuff and learn this new stuff.
So, how do we know what's good? How do we know, even once we know something, like, say AMP, how do we know whether it's right in a particular situation or not, whether we should be using it or shouldn't be using it in that situation? How do we know whether that thing will last the test of time?
For example, going back to your AMP, it might be that Google drops it in three years. In which case, all of the effort and dilemmas about whether or not you need to invest in it go away. But we don't know. Being able to identify what to pay attention to and what to ignore, actually is an incredibly important skill.
One, that you are able to produce better work if you get the right tools to do the job. Two, it means you can give clients and stakeholders better advice. Three, you can work smarter and not longer if you've got the right tools in place. I mean, I've got some great tools that save me hours and hours of work every week, and I would be lost without those tools. I wouldn't be able to do as much as I do, or be as lazy as I am.
And it also, being able to assess a new, places you in a better position for progressing your career as well. I mean, classic example of this would be myself and Flash, Adobe Flash, right? When Flash came along, I had to play around with it and I liked it and it was interesting, but something didn't sit right with me about it. I think it was possibly almost like AMP in a way, that it was a proprietary piece of software that undermined the fundamental nature of the web.
Marcus Lillington: You needed to have it's player slash software and it's USI.
Paul Boag: Yeah, and it wasn't accessible, and it wasn't relying on HTML and CSS and all those things. I didn't … I looked at it briefly. I spent a bit of time fiddling around with it, but basically I didn't get involved and there was a long time of me going, "Oh crap. That was a mistake." And I would've been playing catch up if I decided to start learning it at that point. And I was going, "This was a bad decision."
Now, as it worked out, it was a good decision. I think about all the people that invested so heavily in learning Flash and working with Flash, and then, Apple comes along and basically wipes it out overnight by not supporting it on the iPhone. But, those are the kinds of things, and am I claiming that I had some great insight into that or I … Absolutely not. I just got lucky. But, it does kind of prove the point that we need to be aware of these things and we need to be assessing them.
Intro/Close: Bit, bit, Bitcoin. Bit, bit, Bitcoin.
Paul Boag: We're going to look at how we go about assessing things. And some of the things that we should do, and some of the things that we shouldn't do, but before we do that, I want to talk about today's sponsor, who will need to assess and decide whether or not it's a tool that's right for you. It's a tool called TeamGantt.
One of the things that a lot of us spend time doing is trying to manage our projects and there is a lot of project management software out there. We've all used certain software that I shall not name because it is that evil and disgraceful that I hate with an absolute passion. But, there are some very good software out there, software that's well designed, well thought through. And TeamGantt is an excellent example of that.
I made a throwaway comment on a previous show that I don't like Gantt charts, and actually, that's not true. I don't like Microsoft Protect. It's the truth of it, and I probably shouldn't even mention it.
Marcus Lillington: Project is all right.
Paul Boag: Oh, God, I hate it. Hate it. So badly designed. Awful, awful tool. Anyway.
Marcus Lillington: No, you haven't seen it … Sorry. You haven't seen it in a long time. Not that I have, either. Probably not the right time to be picking out Microsoft Project.
Paul Boag: No. We're supposed to be talking about TeamGantt. Which-
Marcus Lillington: I think it's just a little … It's a bit like SharePoint, just Microsoft has got this, and it deserved it, but it had this bad reputation for ages. Then I think quite a lot of it's products are considerably better than they once were.
Paul Boag: Oh, yeah. No, no. I accept that. I accept that, yes. They are better than they were. But there are a lot of … The trouble is, with any big organization, which are working on a lot of different software products, they become so obsessed with integrating all these different products together that actually, it causes more harm than good.
What I like is companies that focus on one thing and do it extremely well and TeamGantt is a brilliant example of that. If you've tried … The trouble is, is these other tools, you end up with this feature bloat. We've all heard it. You have to wade through bunches of pointless features that you're never actually going to use and just make life harder. I want a nice streamlined tool that does something really well and that's why I'm really excited to have TeamGantt on the show.
It's project management made simple. If you like to create things to be more streamlined, more helpful, then yeah, try this out and to Microsoft project. That's twice I've gone-
Marcus Lillington: We got to try … I'd like to try it out, actually.
Paul Boag: You ought to. Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: Because you absolutely … I don't use … I use a kind of free of the shelf Mac thing, which is kind of, it's too far the other way. It's a bit ugly and two simple, but you're right. The problem with MS Project is it's got too much going on under the hood. It's like, we're going to build a new motorway, so, we need MS Project. But actually, we don't build motorways or new infrastructure of city projects.
It's kind of like, there's just too much going on in there, so you end up only using 5% of it. If I could have something that did that 5% brilliantly, then yes, that would be a cool tool for me.
Paul Boag: It's … The other thing I really like about going with products that are … I like TeamGantt. It's the made up … These companies that produce products like this are made up of helpful human beings that actually really like their product and they're really passionate about it. I think you can talk to.
Marcus Lillington: Actual humans.
Paul Boag: Exactly. If you have a problem with Microsoft Project, you're stuffed, aren't you, basically. It's like, time to visit the knowledge base and we know how crap that works out. They've got this customer team. I wish they wouldn't call it a customer success team, because it always gets something I know. Customer success.
There are nice people in the company that are there to help you. Normally they respond in about five minutes within weekdays, so they're credibly fast response way, and they've got something like a 4.8 out of five star rating for their customer service.
Marcus Lillington: That's really cool.
Paul Boag: On G2 Crowd, I've never heard what G2 Crowd is, but obviously it's-
Marcus Lillington: That rings a bell. It'll be a …
Paul Boag: So, go and try it. We spent too long talking about this sponsor. Go and try out TeamGantt. TeamGantt.com. But here's the test. Send an email to Brett@teamgantt.com and see if you get a response. Now, try sending an email to Microsoft Project.
Marcus Lillington: Quite right. I had two fantastic examples of customer service today.
Paul Boag: All right.
Marcus Lillington: One was with a huge company AVIVA.
Paul Boag: Oh, right.
Marcus Lillington: They bought out all this.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: Then I spoke to three different people who put me … I was trying to track down old stuff I'd lost. And basically, they were all brilliant, all really helpful, and I also spoke to John Lewis Broadband today who are also super helpful. These people are out there.
Just bigger. Well done.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: I'm currently trying to talk to PayPal.
Paul Boag: Yeah, not so good. Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: That's not good at all.
Paul Boag: No. But you know it's really-
Marcus Lillington: That's what we all complain about, but sometimes you really do get a good experience.
Paul Boag: And it's-
Marcus Lillington: We should go yay.
Paul Boag: It's particularly impressive when you get a good experience from a company the size of John Lewis or AVIVA, or someone like that, because the bigger your company gets, the more complicated it gets to do good customer service. With all due respect to TeamGantt, one of the reasons they can provide a great customer service is because they're small. That's brilliant. I'm really pleased.
Marcus Lillington: Yay.
Paul Boag: Yay. I really hope people do email Brett because I'm fascinated, I bet he's really on the ball. He's a nice bloke, so I bet you'd get a really good response from him. Okay.
Oh, he also said, by the way, that he's happy if you drop him an email, he'll give you two free months of their advanced package, which has got things like time tracking and things like that. It's worth emailing him for that alone.
Marcus Lillington: I thought you were going to say time travel then.
Paul Boag: Time travel. Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: The advanced one's got time travel in it.
Paul Boag: Yeah. It's a new technology that they've developed especially for this. Sign up for TeamGantt and you will have time travel. There you go. That's who Doctor Who uses. Mysterious fact.
Marcus Lillington: There you go.
Paul Boag: Doctor Who uses time … to Africa … TeamGantt. I was going to say Time Gantt there. Okay. Well, let's rebrand it then and increase their feature set. Right. It's really ironic, sorry. I've just written a piece … I'm on the very last chapter of my book, and I'm kind of wrapping up and one of the things I've just written about is over promising when you sell and how you need to not do that. Don't promise time travel unless you can deliver. Anyway. Right.
Okay. How do we assess the new? Right, let's start with the big problem. One of the first things I think you need to do when you confront … This is me telling you what to do without actually doing this myself. So, do as I say and not as I do.
Marcus Lillington: Okay, Dad.
Paul Boag: The very first thing you need to do is question your motivation for being interested in a new piece of technology or technique or whatever else, because we are … If you're anything like me, we are suckers for the shiny and new. I'll give you … I will give you a great example of this this morning.
I was looking on Product Hunt. As I'd said, I'm addicted to it. And, there was this great thing. Great thing. In adverted commas.
Marcus Lillington: Thing.
Paul Boag: Thing. It basically, it gives you a little card like a business card, which you can just tap a phone against and it transfers your contact details across to that person. If the phone's got NFC, if the phone doesn't have NFC, it's got a QR code on the back. I bought it before I even thought about it. And actually, I have no use for it whatsoever. But it was like, "Oo, that's a good idea. Click."
It was cheap as well. I'm a sucker for this stuff. It's terrible.
Marcus Lillington: Price points. Yeah. It's the science. Price points.
Paul Boag: It is. It is. Don't just jump on board things because they're shiny and new. Learn from a man who has got too old to learn new tricks and can't stop his deviant behavior. Also, the other thing that I see people do, and I don't suffer from this one, but I do see other people do it, is they adopt techniques and technologies and new stuff because there's somebody cool uses it and they want to emulate that person.
And it's not always a person. Sometimes it can be a business. A great example of that is Design Sprints. Don't get me wrong. Design Sprints have their place. But, so many people are doing Design Sprints because, well, Google made it up, so therefore it must be good. Do you know what I mean?
Marcus Lillington: Totally. We've been doing Design Sprints for years, we just didn't have a name for them.
Paul Boag: Well, yes and no. You say that. You haven't really, because a Google Design Sprint lasts a freaking week, right?
Marcus Lillington: Yeah, I guess the longest … I've done week long ones where they would have included-
Paul Boag: Oh, have you? They're quite there.
Marcus Lillington: They included discovery as well.
Paul Boag: And the trouble is, is that, it's like a whole week for many organizations is totally inappropriate. Right? Yes, it works in Google because of the type of organization Google is. My point is, you can't always just blindly emulate the people that you admire. Sometimes, those of you who are supposed experts in the field, we get it wrong or it doesn't … what we do doesn't take off.
And I'm going to pick on poor Jeremy Keith at this point. Jeremy-
Marcus Lillington: Oh, that's mean.
Paul Boag: I know it's mean and I don't mean it meanly because Jeremy has got an incredibly high success rate. And, he's one of the people, and I'll say this, one of the people that I do follow to keep up with what's new. But, he threw himself majorly into micro formats a while back, and they really didn't go anywhere. Really great piece of technology, and he was right in the sense, to support them and to say how great they were and how they need to be adopted, but they never really got the traction that they should have. We don't always get it right.
Next thing, I would say, yeah. Yes, we need to question our motivation is what I'm getting at there. I also thing we often stop, when we're looking at new stuff, we start from the wrong premise. It starts with hearing or seeing a piece of technology or a technique or whatever it is and going, "Is that useful to me? Can I make use of that?"
When actually, we should be starting the other way around. We should start by saying, "Is there a problem that I've got or a situation that I'm dealing with and then what technology supports that?" I'll tell you why that's the case. It's because, let's talk about a new piece of technology comes along, let's go with virtual reality.
Sure enough, there are lots of really cool things that you can do with virtual reality or machine learning or whatever you care to mention. Yeah, there are lots of cool things you could do. You could create an amazing virtual … We could turn Boagworld into virtual reality where we're doing these podcasts live in a virtual reality environment, and it would be amazing and it would be very exciting and very cool. But, why?
Marcus Lillington: But pointless.
Paul Boag: Yeah. But pointless.
Marcus Lillington: Utterly pointless.
Paul Boag: Utterly, utterly pointless. There is no problem there that we're trying to solve and we get seduced by the power or the opportunities that this opens up when there's not actually a real problem at the heart of it that you're trying to solve. I think it's really important to have a clear idea, to make sure that there is a real problem that you're overcoming.
Marcus Lillington: Then I agree with that, and I do, I think that is absolutely right. And I actually think that's probably the difference between whether something is going to be successful or not if it can solve a lot of people's problems. I also think that people want or need to keep up with the new so that they don't get left behind.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: It's part of the conversation, I suppose.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: And that might be … That might not necessarily … It's about knowing what's there rather than rather you're going to use it or just knowing about stuff. Is that what we're talking about that today or is it just actually adopting things?
Paul Boag: Well, I'm kind of … yeah. I'm more concentrating on the adoption of it. We will touch in a minute on how to find out about this kind of stuff. That's kind of what we're going to look at after the second sponsor. But, what you're saying there, actually, you have, I think, an excellent point there, which is, yeah, you want to keep up.
You want to be doing the latest things. But one of the problems that I observe is that, okay, the latest thing is machine learning or the latest thing is artificial intelligence, therefore, we need to do it. But if you haven't addressed the more fundamental things, then you're not keeping up. You're just doing the latest thing. You got to get the other bits in place first. It's like it's the old thing you can't run before you can walk.
There's no point in addressing these nice to have, fancy pieces of technology if there are not more fundamentals in place first. No point of us doing Boagworld in virtual reality if we still don't manage to do a professional podcast, which we don't.
Marcus Lillington: Have we ever done a professional podcast?
Paul Boag: Exactly. That's my point. We need to first-
Marcus Lillington: I do quite like … I like the sound of Boagworld VR.
Paul Boag: I know.
Marcus Lillington: There's something about that.
Paul Boag: Yeah. I know, and it's tempting, but, until we're capable of creating a perfectly good professional and useful podcast, then there is no point of us going into VR.
I wrote an article a while back, which, it's about prioritizing the work that we do. We're actually going to touch on it in much more detail in the next show. But basically, if you look at your average website, your average website has to be first and foremost accessible. If people can't access the content, then, it doesn't matter how good the content is, does it?
Marcus Lillington: Correct.
Paul Boag: Once it's accessible, then it needs to be relevant. If it's not relevant, doesn't matter whether it's in VR or it's in audio format or whatever. Then it has to be usable. People have to be able to actually interact with it. Only then can you start worrying about whether it's persuasive or-
Marcus Lillington: Pretty.
Paul Boag: Pretty or personal or any of those other things. I think that's the problem, is often you get … Well, let me give you a real example. I'm working with an healthcare provider at the moment. A big pharmaceutical company, enormous pharmaceutical company. I'm talking to a guy that who's a really knowledgeable guy and very talented, knows his stuff, but he's become fixated on VR.
Marcus Lillington: I can feel it. It's starting to happen to me.
Paul Boag: Yeah. Because I've been talking about it a lot.
Marcus Lillington: It's your fault.
Paul Boag: His job … The job of his team, is to engage and use technology as a way of engaging and interacting with healthcare professionals to help them understand what their products and services can do, so they're talking to doctors and people like that. He sees huge opportunities in virtual reality for being able to actually look inside of bodies and do all that kind of thing.
He's a 100% right about that, right? It really does. That is one of the rare situations where I can see real value in virtual reality. But, they've got much more fundamental things to get in place, first, like basic email campaigns and creating content of value for healthcare professionals and these kinds of things that would be far more influential engaging with these healthcare professionals than some fancy VR app.
Sometimes it can be, "Yes, this is a useful technology. Yes, it is relevant. But it's not right for us now." I think that can almost be the hardest situation to identify. With a new piece of technology, I always ask myself, is it supporting … Is it supporting what we're doing and where we're at in the business?
But, there's another question, similar question, which is, whether it supports one of the fundamental pillars of best practice like usability or accessibility or is it proprietary? That's exactly what happened to me, going back to the Flash example. And why I didn't want to adopt Flash is because I felt it was going against some fundamental principles of how the web works. And AMP is another example of that.
Often, not always, but more often, technologies or techniques that undermine those fundamental principles of back practice in digital don't survive the test of time. Now, it's always possible for a new technology or a new technique, or a new tool to come along and disrupt existing best practice, but that's more of an acception that a rule.
As a result, normally you got you ask yourself, well, is it compromising one of the fundamental principles of the web? An actual fact, AMP actually scores reasonably high on most of those criteria. It is more accessible. It is more usable. It is faster. It is all of those things. It's probably got a better chance of succeeding than maybe something like Flash has over the longterm, but it is fundamentally undermining the nature of the web.
And you see that sometimes with web apps, as well, which break up the fundamental page model that the web is built around. It's fighting against that intrinsic nature of the web. That is going to reduce its chance of success, I think. The other question you need to ask is how widely adopted it is. There's this perception that we're supposed to be at the cutting edge and I call bullshit on that.
I never want to be at the cutting edge of anything, because, being at the cutting edge then there is an increased chance of things going horribly wrong. I want to be a step behind it. Sorry, Marcus, you sound like you want to say something.
Marcus Lillington: Yeah, but that's not true. You always have bit aversions of operating software and all this kind of stuff and it breaks.
Paul Boag: Yeah, it does. But I never use that-
Marcus Lillington: So, don't do it.
Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But I never use that on client stuff. There's a difference to what I play around with on a personal level. And yeah, I'm terrible. I installed all the latest operating systems and yeah, you're right. It breaks horribly. Which kind of proves my point, really, doesn't it?
Marcus Lillington: It does.
Paul Boag: But on a commercial basis, when I'm talking with clients, you never … I'm not even talking to clients about things like machine learning or Chatbox, even, for crying out loud. In most cases, because-
Marcus Lillington: We're talking about them. But, yeah.
Paul Boag: About Chatbox?
Marcus Lillington: Yes. Yes.
Paul Boag: Yeah, I kind of-
Marcus Lillington: When it's relevant to do so.
Paul Boag: Yeah. Yeah. And that goes back to the point about, it's not relevant for all clients. And you're right, actually, I'm lying with Chatbox. I've talked to clients about Chatbox as well, so, that's bullshit. But I'm not tending to talk about real cutting edge stuff because I want to see how it pans out. There's no hurry.
An actual fact, in a lot of cases, those people that are very early adopters or are at the cutting edge of something actually fail. Take Apple, for example. We say all the time, Apple wasn't the first person to create smart phones. They weren't the first people to create MP3 players. They let the market mature. It looks like Apple are going to move into VR soon with … but they've waited quite a long time before they've done that.
They've let everybody else make the mistakes before they've stepped into it. Go back to the VHS vs Betamax. That's another example. Betamax came first, but VHS won temporarily before it went away in time. So, yeah.
Marcus Lillington: What are Apple going to do in VR? Glasses?
Paul Boag: Glasses. Yeah. I don't know.
Marcus Lillington: Cool.
Paul Boag: We don't know. There are a lot of rumors. But again, they let Google go first with that with their VR glasses, which made you look like an absolute numpty. You know? And then through up privacy concerns and all the rest of it. So, Apple could just sit there looking at Google make all the mistakes, learn from that, and then correct them. There's no hurry to adopt new.
Then finally, you got to consider your investment vs the reward. Going back to my healthcare example. Creating a VR app that allows people to look inside the human body is freaking expensive. And yes, they're a pharmaceutical company, can afford that, and much, much more. But they would get a much higher return from investing in other areas.
We really do need to be very careful where we look, when we invest, and be very careful in how we consider all of that, I think. Perhaps … I'm just sounding like a grumpy, old man, aren't I really?
Marcus Lillington: No. It's very wise and I think that this is a subject that you know a lot about, Paul, because you are, as you've already pointed out, somebody that can't often resist the new, so you've learned over the years.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: My problem is that I breeze along and things just go whoosh, whoosh. And I've relied on this show an awful lot over the years to keep me informed. So, you do need something-
Paul Boag: That's great.
Marcus Lillington: And that's fine. It does its job.
Paul Boag: That's actually what we're going to come on to immediately after we talk about this next sponsor. I'm going to talk about, how do you find out about that stuff? How do you know about it? Where do you look?
Intro/Close: Bit, bit, Bitcoin. Bit, bit, Bitcoin.
Paul Boag: But I do want to talk about this sponsor, because this is an example of cutting edge. But not.
Marcus Lillington: so, we need to ignore them, then, Paul?
Paul Boag: No, no, no, no.
Marcus Lillington: I'm joking.
Paul Boag: Right. Let's take … The two things that these guys use is they use AI, machine learning, and neuroscience. They bring those three things together. Now, individually, those things, maybe not neuroscience, but machine learning and AI. Companies say, "Oh yes, we should be investing in AI and machine learning." No, but you might need to be learning in tools that utilize that to solve specific problems.
It goes back to the problem thing, again.
Marcus Lillington: Yeah, exactly.
Paul Boag: The technology in itself has no value. It's what the technology can provide that's the interesting bit. The product, anyway, is called EyeQuant. At the simplest level, this is … One of the reasons I love these guys, is because they've got a great way of taking something that uses machine learning, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience, and distilling their offering down into it's a spellchecker for the designers.
How do you take all of that really complicated stuff and reduce it to something that's that easy to grasp? We all use spell checkers. We all use tools like Grammarly and stuff like that. Now, we don't expect … Now, don't shake your head, Marcus. You use a spellchecker. Don't give me that. You don't use a spell checker?
Marcus Lillington: No. I turn it off. Drives me mad.
Paul Boag: Don't you have auto correct? You turn it off?
Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Paul Boag: Bloody hell. I couldn't survive. I feel betrayed now.
Marcus Lillington: I have it on mobile devices, it's brilliant, because, obviously, you type things wrong all the time. But no, I turn it off and-
Paul Boag: Yeah. All right. I stand corrected.
Marcus Lillington: … Got a proper size keyboard because it tells me all the time that I need this when I don't need that.
Paul Boag: Okay. So, mere mortals tend to use spell checkers, but they're not always right, we don't always listen to them. We choose, sometimes, to make different decisions. That is exactly like EyeQuant. Basically what it's doing is it's using AI and an enormous data set of eye tracking and usability studies to predict where people will look at a design.
It's simulating an eye tracking study, which they're not unique in that. There are other people out there that do this. Go on, Marcus. Were you going to slag off something?
Marcus Lillington: There's something about … No, no, no. No, no. I just said there was something that did that years and years ago. I can't recall what they were called though.
Paul Boag: I'm not going to tell you the name because they're a competitor.
Marcus Lillington: Okay, fine.
Paul Boag: But, what I will say, because EyeQuant paid me money and these other guys didn't, so stuff them. But, I have to say, EyeQuant is better than the competitor, because they go a little bit further than these other competitors in the marketplace. Others will basically focus on clarity. Do people look at the right things? Are they seeing the right things?
Marcus Lillington: Yes, yes, yes.
Paul Boag: Well, EyeQuant will also provide a rating for visual clarities and exciting-ness, how engaging the content is. And they do this … This is a proper high end solution. The other one that we talked about years ago, there are even free ones out there that supposedly do this now. What I'm talking about here, this is a professional, high end, good solution. All right?
Marcus Lillington: When I used that, the one that I can't remember the name of, which is a good thing, I didn't believe it.
Paul Boag: No.
Marcus Lillington: I just dismissed it. To use something that is better designed would be interesting.
Paul Boag: Yeah. And, everything about these guys, it's an enterprise tool, if I'm honest, this one. It's using AI. It's using neuroscience. It's got incredible algorithm behind it. Even they only claim an 85% accuracy compared to doing a real usability study. They're not claiming that it's perfect. They're not claiming that it replaces usability testing. It's not claiming that it knows better than a designer.
It is a tool to help designers. It looks at things like layout, contrast, size, colors, faces, all those kinds of things in order to predict where people will look.
Now, bearing in mind it's not … It's a spell checker, not replacement. It's not going to replace designers any time soon. What is it good for? It's great for impressing clients, if nothing else. But it's also, of course, great for validating design. You can get into these endless iterations and discussions and debates about what good design is and what not, but if you've got a tool that's using this kind of data set to decide this, it saves so much disagreement and arguments and endless iterations. It's great for getting design sign off.
It's speeding up that entire design process. It's a very, very useful tool to have. If you want to know more about it, I absolutely love it, it's called EyeQuant. E-y-e as in eye. Q-u-a-n-t, a-n-t. Yeah, I've got that right. Dot com. All right? So, check them out and give it a go, because it's a really great tool.
Okay. That's that one. Right. The last bit we're going to look at is where do we stay on top of the new.
Marcus Lillington: Listen to Boagworld.
Paul Boag: Well, absolutely. I mean, there are, I think we all have gate keepers, people that we use that we know pay attention to certain areas. And I would be one of them. That's how you use me. You use me to do the hard work because you're a lazy bugger. Right?
And I've got my own set. So, for technology, I pay attention to people like Jeremy Keith and Vitaly Friedman from Smashing Magazine. For project manager-y stuff, I tend to pay attention to people like Brett Harned, who actually is the Brett from Team Gantt, I mentioned earlier.
Marcus Lillington: Yep.
Paul Boag: And Sam Balms. When I'm paying attention to things like usability and strategy and that kind of stuff, it's people like Jared Spool and Gerry McGovern. And with design it might be somebody like Andy Clarke, right?
There are different people I kind of follow in order to pay attention to what's going on. That said, it's almost a bit counter intuitive. And this, again, is another do as I say and not as I do moment, of don't try too hard. Don't pay too much attention. That's in some ways where you're right, Marcus, because you don't want to be hunting new things down.
What you'll find is that they'll naturally bubble to the surface. As long as you're occasionally reading some industry publications and you're following relevant people on social media, you'll start to hear about these things organically.
I didn't decide one day, "Let's go and see what new techniques are out there," and discover customer journey mapping. It just kind of … I heard about it. And I ignored it the first time I heard about it. And I ignored it the second time I heard about it. But when I heard about it three times, I was like, "Perhaps I ought to look at this."
There's something to be said about actually your approach, Marcus, of being a lazy bugger. So, there you go.
Marcus Lillington: Yeah.
Paul Boag: It's a fine line.
Marcus Lillington: I'll go with that. Yeah. I'm utterly lazy at heart. It's kind of, you know that if you start to hear something more regularly, then it's got a bit more weight than somebody just kind of testing an idea out.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: And we've only got so much information that we can carry.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: So, use up your space with care.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: Your internal hard drive.
Paul Boag: Exactly. Or, the other way thinking of it is, you've only got so much time to look at all this stuff. Something has got to appear several times before it's worth giving your limited attention to.
Marcus Lillington: Yep.
Paul Boag: I would also … Where you are paying attention, so I've listed some people that I follow, but there are also organizations I pay attention to, as well. But, actually they're maybe not the same organizations, that you think I'd be paying attention to. Actually, I'm not very interested in what's going on at Google or Facebook or Twitter or any of those tech joints.
The reason is, is because, those kind of companies are radically different to the kinds of companies I deal with. I deal with pre-digital companies, that haven't grown up in the digital world. They've got very different problems. I'm much more interested about what, say, the British government are doing, or what IBM are doing, because those are well established companies with legacy and bureaucracy and culture and all the kinds of challenges that I face working with my clients.
It's very tempting to look at these cutting edge companies and go, "Well, what are they doing, we need to be doing that." But, you're better off paying attention to companies that are approximately the same size as the kind of clients that you are dealing with and are facing similar problems, even if they're not necessarily in a similar sector. What are these organizations doing? That's where I tend to pay attention.
Anyway, we've gone on for quite long enough.
Marcus Lillington: Good advice.
Paul Boag: Oh, thank you, Marcus.
Marcus Lillington: It's true. That's the reason why it's good to go to … This is less from a size point of view, but it's good to go to conferences. We attend HE conferences a lot because we both work in HE, because you start to understand the issues that HE is suffering from across the board and then that means that you're turned into things that might help them specifically.
Paul Boag: Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: It makes sense.
Paul Boag: So, Marcus.
Marcus Lillington: Yes.
Paul Boag: You've just complimented me, does that mean I have to compliment what is no doubt a terrible joke?
Marcus Lillington: This is a terrible joke.
Paul Boag: This is a really bad one, is it? Even you think it's bad.
Marcus Lillington: I found this last second before we went online here, because I'd forgotten to find the joke. It's one from Darryl Snow, and he seems to either be awesomely good or really bad. Guess which one this falls into.
Paul Boag: But you're going to use it anyway, because you put-
Marcus Lillington: Yeah.
Paul Boag: … zero effort into this show. Yeah.
Marcus Lillington: I quite like it. But anyway, here we go. Did you hear about the first person to invent garden shears?
Paul Boag: Go on.
Marcus Lillington: This is so relevant. They were cutting hedge technology. Technology. Yes.
Paul Boag: At least it was relevant to this show.
Marcus Lillington: Exactly.
Paul Boag: The only good thing that can be said about it. Oh, dear me. All right, well, that wraps it up for this week's show. Thank you very much. Next week's show, we're going to be looking at how to prioritize. We have already done a show on organizing, which I didn't realize until I prepared this one anyway.
But, I'm going to argue that this is a radically different subject that deserves it's own separate show and isn't just rehashing what we've already covered previously. Or, I could just accept that-
Marcus Lillington: Okay.
Paul Boag: Or, we could just accept that every show we do now is just rehashing what we've covered previously, because we've been doing this for so frigging long. So, you got it.
Marcus Lillington: You could argue there are different types of prioritization. How people prioritize their stuff is …
Paul Boag: The next show is less about personally organizing yourself and more about compartmentizing projects and workload and that kind of stuff. It is different. It is different, honestly. A tiny bit. Tiny bit.
Let's think of it as expanding and going more in depth.
Marcus Lillington: Part two.
Paul Boag: Part two. Yeah. There we go. It's the sequel. Let's just shut up now. This show is going to die if we don't stop it.
All right. Thank you very much for listening, and goodbye.
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