Let’s add some ethics to design

Why? Because we can.

A playful answer, but more often true than not. If something works, why not keep doing it? Marketing and sales are areas where this attitude is so entrenched that some people never question it. "Always be closing", "sell sell sell". Why are we pushing this grandmother to buy an android device she’ll never use? Because we can.

We put all the responsibility in the hands of the recipient, the buyer, or the clicker of ads. Often rightfully so, in my opinion. As good balance to douchy sales tactics is that if people simply don’t buy, the salesmen will quickly stop and try something else instead. Other fields are not so clear cut though.

As designer we believe it is our mission to delight users. To make the product easier to use, more entertaining, and always more sticky. Last week my favorite gamification researcher, Sebastian Deterding, posted a keynote where he questioned this idea; Why is it our job to make things more sticky?
I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly. No matter if work with web or apps, you are providing either tools or entertainment. There really is nothing else. Entertainment should of course be entertaining, and I wont rant about game design in this post. But should tools be fun? Should they be sticky?

Steve Jobs once described the computer as a "bicycle for the mind". A tool to reach farther and faster than a human could without it. But are computers living up to this promise? I would argue no, and it’s because of us. As designers, we’ve perverted the idea of tools. Creating hammers people really like to use instead of ones that gets the job done. We’re not looking for the best way to solve a problem any more, we’re debating how to make our users engage more with the product. Again something which is fine, if it’s entertainment. But if it’s a tool, this is a douchy sales tactic.

I think we need to stop talking about delighting our users and get back to trying to build the best tools for the purpose. No matter how good we dazzle our clients, eventually the sales pitch will end and the users are left holding chocolate hammers.

Building web apps with WordPress and BackBone.js

Gave a talk today at WordCamp Norrköping on how to build web apps using WordPress, JetPacks REST API and BackBone.js.

A short presentation on the why and how to use BackBone.js and WordPress to build interactive web, apps or otherwise. My slides are available below and you can find the demo app on GitHub.

Medium’s new embed feature

Medium.com is quickly shaping up to a great reading and writing experience. A recent surprise feature is their story/collection/user embeds which let you bring medium with you anywhere.

JesperBylund

Odd to see what is basically an iFrame experience from such a design focused company. One can only conclude that they see some great experience behind this. Can’t wait to find out what it could be.

The surprising effect of boredom

I’ve spent years trying out all the tools and tips for increasing productivity I could lay my hands on. Hundreds of apps, and services. Tips for sleeping. Hacks for staying focused. They all worked.

Each one increased the number of todos I checked off my lists. At least for a day or two. After that the search was on for whatever could help me improve more. I’m not even sure now if the methods failed as novelty wore off, or if I just got bored and started looking for my next fix.

The problem is that time went by and I wasn’t actually getting anywhere. My todos were demolished but poured in ever faster,and I never really achieved what I wanted.

I had become an efficiency junky.

I’m not sure when the turning point came. But over the last few years my projects are reaching further, quicker. My todo lists shrank, as did my working hours, but my output increased.

What did I spend the rest of my time on? Being bored. Nothing I’ve ever tried has increased my output or my mood as much as being bored. Boredom has a bad reputation, but it seems to focus my mind.

I’ve come to enjoy being bored. Even try to find time to be bored. Not that I enjoy the actual boredom, but I do enjoy the simplicity that comes after it.

Like meditation but without the training. Being bored for a few minutes, by yourself, can make all the difference in a stressful day.

Try it. It’s free.

What’s keeping the Apple TV

A fully fledged Television or a very updated Apple TV box, the rumors about Apples entry into the living room has been growing steadily since the introduction of the iPad.

I recently saw a concept for a user interface of the Apple TV, and to me it clearly showed just why Apple is not in this market yet. Apple is missing a core piece of technology.

The missing piece

Apple clearly puts a lot of thought into their User Interfaces. The iPod, the iPhone and the iPad all changed how we interact with these types of devices. The same has been true for OS X, their PC operating system. But in classic Apple fashion, one of the hardest problems to solve has been delegated to the future by working around it. User Management on all of Apples devices is still pretty poor.

login screen OS X

On the Mac it works fine, log out of your account and log into another. But sharing apps and files across accounts is a nightmare. Accounts work almost as completely separate repositories. Which might be good from a security perspective, but is crazy for usability.

On iOS accounts simply are not available. The machines are made to be so personal you can’t really hand around an iPad for fear of people messing up your settings.

A lot of families work around this issue by simply sharing an account. But this makes iMessages and many other Apple features difficult or impossible to use. Clearly there’s something missing here.

On the concept at the top of this post the Apple TV is shown receiving a notification. Who for? The person that set up the Apple TV probably. But that would cause no end of problems for most users. A TV simply is not a single user device.

Apple won’t chance an entire new market without some solution to this problem. But this means their entire infrastructure needs to be upgraded to support group accounts.

Think about the problem of making a family login for iTunes. How will the rights be managed for a shared account? How will movie execs be sure we’re not all sharing a single iTunes accounts?

Today, rentals are locked to the device they are rented on. This might be a short time solution, but with AirPlay and the increasing amount of TVs in a single home it becomes restrictive and hard to manage.

Apple needs an entirely new way to manage users and material rights. And they need it in place before they can launch a full living room device.

Personally, I can’t wait. My Netflix account on my Apple TV is overrun by my partners odd choice of shows to watch.

How to plan UX, the right way

The most common gripe I hear from UX designers is that they’re not invited into the process early enough. This is absolutely a problem. If you get on board when the code is done and time is running out, there’s only so much you can do. But there’s another common problem, rarely talked about. Getting on board too early.

Subtle project fail

Many companies I talk to today want to plan their UX in advance. Basically they want sketches of how the end user will interact with the finished project. Several things can go wrong with this approach:

  • You get locked into what the project was supposed to be and you can no longer change it for the better.
  • The sketches might not be technically sound. Small details can often be the largest technical hurdles.
  • There might not be enough time to realize the planned UX, but it’s just so tasty that your iterative process becomes a linear project doomed to miss the deadline.
  • The designer(s) fall in love with an ideal, and are less open to change.

All of these issues, and all the ones I did not list, can be summed up in this sentence:

Premature UX is like masturbating before sex

No one is satisfied, it doesn’t help you with the actual project and worst of all: The people involved in the pre-production process feel they’ve done some real work. Worst case they might feel that their job is already done. Just as the real work starts.

When and how to plan UX

Instead of trying to plan out a theoretical product of a project, find the parameters:

  • Define a problem that the project is trying to solve, without actually proposing the solution.
  • LIst the key issues and responsibilities the project must adhere to.
  • Set measurable targets for the project, then divide by half.

This way the problem solving is a part of the project, and the project may run more smoothly. It also forces UX to be a part of the project process instead of just something to check off before the project starts.

As always, the key to great UX and design is iteration. Having UX as a part of the development process, without the limitations of a set goal, makes a vast difference.

The next step for Apple

With the launch of the iPhone Apple changed the world of computing forever. Since then Apple has fought a war against Samsung, Google and others over the dominance of the mobile market. But not a lot has really changed.

Android comparison

 

Apple introduced the high pixel density display, Samsung launched larger displays. All the companies have introduced all sorts of bells and whistles to try to catch the interest of the consumer, but to little real effect. The basic model hasn’t changed all that much from the original iPhone.

iphone comparison

Many people are thinking about and desperately trying to predict the next step. Google is launching Glass, a smartphone-like display that sits in the corner of your eye and is controlled by your voice. Most companies are working on watch-like devices based on the rumour that Apple is making one.

That got me thinking, this is an odd assumption. Why should reinventing the market require a new device? The iPhone was certainly not the first phone, nor smartphone. It was just radically smarter then the competition. Instead of launching a new type of device, what if Apple would drastically improve the devices they already have? What could they do?

The next generation: Real Touch

The central feature of the iPhone, and the iPad, is the screen. When Apple added the Retina screen the other companies scoffed and smirked claiming it would only decrease battery life. But after they got their hands on it, the entire market rapidly went with high pixel density displays.

What if Apple would add high density touch displays next? You can still use your finger as a primary pointing device. But also a stylus without lag or stutter. Maybe several people could draw and sketch together on an iPad.

The scoffs and smirks

Very few people will read this and go “wow! What an amazing and novel idea!”. Most will remember the failed styluses of yester-year and think I’ve fallen off the wagon. But what if, just like with the retina screen, there would be no down side to these screens? What if they simple worked as magic paper?

Wacom

Wacom has the technology already. Now it is just a question of price and if Apple believes the market wants this. I say Apple, because even if Samsung and Microsoft could also do this I think their implementation of it would be lacking.

Sneak Peek of Event Monitor

Working long and hard hours, one deserves a hobby. So what does a UX developer do when there’s an hour a night to spare?

Create something.

My latest project is Event Monitor. A dashboard for events and happenings showing beautiful statistics all rendered in SVG (so it works great on any platform).

Please check it out and let me know what you think!

 

The definitive guide to value creation

In my youth I dabbled with dark arts. I thought experimenting wouldn’t hurt, so I tried a little, but little became a lot. My addiction took up all my spare time and heavily impacted my social life. I became alienated by friends and had a hard time talking to people close to me.
That’s how I spent six years studying economics.

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