The Problem With Digital Transformation

This post is in response to the writings of Simon Norris on The Problem with Digital Transformation on the Nomensa blog.

In his post he writes with a heavy focus on his opinion that businesses are failing with digital transformation projects because they don’t have ‘design’ in their board rooms, or that the business isn’t building things with a customer-centric focus.

I have to confess that I am not sure I’ve fully understood some of the things Simon has written. I’m not sure who his intended audience for it was, but I don’t think it was me and that’s OK. Regardless, I have some thoughts on this myself and you should of course read Simon’s post too.

Please, accept that design is not the answer to everything – thinking about what you’re doing, is.

Many digital transformation project failures can be attributed to the partners they engage with – digital agencies and platform resellers primarily. In my experience the majority of these suppliers believe digital transformation is another description for selling in systems and site redesigns using the ‘customer experience stick’ to drive their point home.

This is an element of the process, yes. We want to ensure that our services from a digital perspective are meeting the expectations of the people we want to use it and there, in that statement, is my problem with Simon’s post. Continue reading The Problem With Digital Transformation

Chrome’s full screen safety seems a bit odd

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 21.11.14

If you’ve ever clicked on a video embed in a page to go full screen you will most likely have encountered this (see above). An irritating alert bar informing you this site wants to go full screen – is this ok? But isn’t this closing the gate after the horse has bolted? Why doesn’t this notification appear prior to the video going full screen and block the action.

Advice on Learning UX for Junior Designers

Whilst looking through the status updates on LinkedIn I began responding to a question from a Junior UX Designer in London, but for some reason, as I pressed comment her post had been removed.

I am currently mentoring two fantastic individuals at very different stages in their careers. The subject of learning and training in UX Design comes up often, not just with them, with many people I speak to. That’s why I wanted learning UX Design skills to be an integral part of the service from We Are AFK.

The original question was, could anyone recommend conferences or courses to do?

Option A: The Pantomime

There was a time that I thought conferences were the best resource for learning; after all, these are the greatest minds in our industry. Aren’t they?

If you want to learn how to do something, a conference may not be for you. Many people go to conferences today to be able to walk away feeling confident that what they feel, think or are already doing is right. this can come from not having anyone around them they can validate those feelings with. There’s nothing wrong with this, we all need some reassurance from time to time, but for someone starting out it can be overwhelming, with so many talks on ideas, theories and observations leaving the individual with a head full of stuff and no way of actioning any of it. That, can lead to work-life frustration.

A lot of the time, speakers have written lengthy articles on the subject they’re talking about, or in some cases entire books, which you can retain in your head for longer so look out for those when you’re reviewing that speaker list.

Option B: Get Your Hands Dirty

In terms of actually learning something that you can do tomorrow, look for anything that is workshop based training. In 2015 I ran a workshop at UXBristol. It’s a fantastic day which I hope to return to this year. The group is relatively small with 3 workshops running simultaneously, but there’s never any over subscription. You can easily have a conversation with your fellow classmates and have access to the tutor to ask more. Most important, is that I believe every workshop gave me something practical that I could use the following day if I wanted to.

I’m happy to see this year that there are more of these hands-on workshop based events happening. It is still worth keeping an eye out on Lanyrd for new User Experience Design Workshops. You should check your local meet-up groups too, many of them now run workshops as one-off events and you’ll also have an opportunity to meet people who are working at companies in your area that you can talk to and share with and see if others are feeling the same.

Option C: Alternative Education

If you want to learn how to code, or using specific applications like Photoshop. For the past decade many online courses have emerged giving you practical hands-on lessons. Sites like Lynda, Treehouse, Khan Academy, Code School, and more recently Udemy and Udacity.

I’d always wondered whether it was possible to teach User Experience Design skills in the same way, as it doesn’t have such a defined ruleset, there’s no language to speak of or an application you do it in. Then in 2014 an email went out from IDEO, to gauge interest in an online University focussing on Experience Design and its many facets. IDEO-U was launched in 2015 with their debut course Insights For Innovation.

I took part in this first course and highly recommend it. It was a perfect blend of theory and the practical application of it. There are a number of courses now being run throughout the year with real course leaders (members of the IDEO team) who are on-call as your tutor, and they regularly run webinars and hangouts during the course to see how everyone is getting on and have opening discussions.

If you’d like to learn more about UX Design, or talk to someone about the sort of areas you want to gain more experience and knowledge in, contact me at hello@werafk.com.

This was originally posted on the We Are AFK Blog.

Agile In Design With Jon Aizlewood

My good friend Jon Aizlewood recently wrote about his approach to keeping ontop of design patterns that emerge during an agile, or sprint based design process for a project on his blog http://jonaizlewood.com/articles/visual-inventories-for-agile-design.

In the years that I was at Clearleft, I got to work with Jon the most. As with any collaboration, after a few projects we really found a rhythm, and shared with one another our approaches and methods. Jon’s technique in Sketch at first seemed like insanity with this giant canvas and loads of things sprawled across it, however as he mentions in his post if you scroll out you get this incredible 30,000ft view of the design construct, very much like looking at a teardown photo or unboxing that have become so popular in recent years.

Disassembly photo of a bicycle by gizmodo
Disassembly of a bicycle Source: Gizmodo

As the part of the duo that focussed mainly on the content aspect; and order of the structure, I was really there to provide Jon with real content that he needed to stress test his design language. This ability to zoom in and out of the page types and having this scratch pad of emerging patterns and where they currently appear meant much faster development of new page & content types as we progressed because I had this option to zoom out, and search for whether we have tackled a similar problem in a previous sprint and whether it can be either re-used, or extended.

Find a base and extend it’s use

This idea of extension becomes much easier to sketch out in rough once you have an understanding of what the base component can be. There’s nothing in my portfolio I can use to illustrate this, however if you were to look at penguinrandomhouse.co.uk You’ll see that Jon and I developed this idea of a card based system for housing certain types of information. This evolved over a number of sprints by being able to look at the content pattern and then add to it new data, this is how you go from a person card, to a building card, to a book card. The core design principle for housing this data is ultimately the same, but we’re extending it to include a new data attribute.

Without the ability to look at all the patterns that are emerging within each sprint and viewing each page type this not only could have taken longer, but we may have exhausted time developing design patterns which we thought were unique when they were in fact just an extension of an existing one.

The Right Way To Present A Proof Of Concept

This cropped up on Reddit Video and I had to have a listen. The original poster was making the point that despite not being able to play a single instrument, Michael Jackson was always credited as being a song-writer in full on his records, with session musicians being brought in to perform the arrangements – even though he also could not write a note of music. Continue reading The Right Way To Present A Proof Of Concept

A/B Testing – Mistake?

This post is my response to the article: 11 Worst A/B Testing Mistakes According to Experts published by Usability Tools via Medium.

The benefits or purpose of A/B testing I’ve always found to be questionable. Even when you have been able to provide the right kind of hypothesis for running it, you’re failing to consider so many other variables. The same person could have different opinions on that thing based on what they ate for breakfast [that day] let alone connection speeds or any of the other many factors that may be within your control to create that engaging converting experience. Continue reading A/B Testing – Mistake?

Vehicle tax renewal – the greatest online experience?

I’ve just renewed the tax for another six months of glorious motorcycle lifestyle; although the number of weekends I’ve been out are outweighed by the number I have.

Now we no longer require a visible tax disc in the UK, the ability to pay online has become even easier, so much so that the only thing the form requires is the payment card details! It was truly amazing experience and was over in less than 5 minutes. It asked me if I wanted to provide my email address and my phone number, both of which were optional, and only if I wanted to receive a copy of the payment receipt; which you can print at the end of the transaction if you wish to.

300 seconds Enhance Enhance

On Wednesday I spoke at 300 seconds at the ODI in London. A series of 5 minute lightening talks which originally started as a movement to encourage women to speak in public about topics they’re passionate about, in true feminist fashion it has now evolved to promote inclusion with the speaker line up for any given event a 50/50 split on gender.

Slides for Enhance Enhance on Slideshare with notes.

Building Prototypes is not enough – people need to use them

There had been rumours for a while that something big was about to come out of Harley Davidson, the American motorcycle manufacturer known the world over as the vehicle of choice for leather vest wearing hairy bikers that don’t go very fast and make the most noise.

The motor industry was shocked to say the least when towards the end of June Harley D’ launched Project LiveWire. A prototype electric motorcycle, inherently silent, economic, and to be honest, it actually looks quite cool too.

Why is this so significant? If the fact that the fuel guzzling giant is investing in electronic vehicles isn’t enough for you their approach to how this will come to market should ring a few bells, or at least make you think differently about how you approach business.

As you can see in this episode from Motorcycle.com the team are focussed on using this prototype to gather feedback from riders, to further refine their offering and then they will put it on general sale. They’ve taken their expertise in design and manufacture and are now taking the prototype on tour to almost every Harley dealership across the United States and booking in riders to take it out for an hour and give them honest blunt feedback.

President Matt Levatich notes that they want customer feedback first and foremost, roll that into the next prototype and do it again and then wait for the technology to advance – hoping that in doing this and getting real people to try their product the technology will improve exponentially.

In the space of just a few weeks, Harley Davidson has become one of the most talked about brands on the planet, all from trying something new; something out of their comfort zone, but crucially because they’ve been completely honest, upfront and set expectations – this is not a machine we will see on sale in a few months time, it may be a few years.

There is a great deal we can learn from this. Being more aware of the impact we have on the world we live in and working towards reducing it. Accepting that being an expert doesn’t make you God, that your only an expert if you’re providing knowledge that makes a difference to another person. Seeing the value in really talking to the people you are wanting to help, listening, and considering what you can do next to reach their goals over your own, because ultimately, they’re will both be achieved if you get the first bit right.

This year I have worked on a few projects where I have developed prototypes. When some people talk about prototypes, they only think of a facade, intended to get a general idea of whether something works. But I’ve taken it further, in the same way that Harley Davidson have with Project LiveWire I have built services that can be used by people in order to gather more information before updating and repeating. As a result it has helped speed up development, by reducing the number of dead-end roads we could go down, determine whether our design style fit with the expectations of people that would potentially sit in front of it for hours a day, and in a surprising outcome, gave us an opportunity to rethink a key aspect of the service.

We have so many of these so called prototyping tools, applications designed to quickly simulate a thing. For sake of argument let’s call it a website. Well, that’s great. You can quickly make something that looks like a website, behaves closely to a website, but why not just build a website? Why not do it with the technologies you are likely to do it with? Prototype holds many insights, one of which is research, not just researching whether your idea works, but researching how you can achieve it. What use is there in creating an application in something like Axure, only to find you can’t make it a reality? It’s wasted effort and why I believe Harley have gone down this route unlike others who are now moving into the market space.

Remember that prototyping isn’t just about speed, it’s about learning something new. Use the opportunity to teach yourself a new skill, and listen to what people tell you in return.

response to images – responsive day out

During Owen Gregory’s talk at Responsive Day Out he touched on the theory of the Golden Ratio in design and how you can still use traditional design theory in a fluid world without compromising on form.

Many others throughout the day had discussed the current issues we face when approaching the use of images in design and content in designing for a fluid web. There were discussions on file sizes, how to serve up images, what kind of image files we should use and when to use them, the types of images, are they for context or decoration?

Bruce Lawson went through the ideas of serving up entirely different versions of an image to align with a particular layout. In His example he showed an image where a dog sat centrally in a photograph. Using breakpoints, he presented different crops of the same image citing that these were better contextually based on the viewport size. I disagree with this, but that’s another story.

What nobody questioned however is whether images themselves are actually the plague on good design when it comes to the web? Are they the devil we know that can never be changed?

Last year I was working with Paul Swain on a project which we knew was going to be heavily lead by imagery. During the wireframing stage Paul was placing image placeholders in that used a 16:9 aspect ratio. I asked him why he kept putting them in the layout? His response was that 16:9 gives more data in an image. For example in a sports scene it allows for the subject to be the focus with his surroundings given extra space to breathe. He also noted that when designing a fluid site we should consider that the screen sizes are all moving towards widescreen, columns are going to become wider than they are long.

I couldn’t let this go. As a photographer, I have never owned a camera that shoots images at 16:9; I have a FlipHD handheld video camera that shoots in 16:9 but none of my Nikon SLRs do. All I could think of was somebody having to spend more time shooting with a taped off back screen (see below) and more time editing before getting a story out on a news site for example. I brought this scenario to the table and we removed the placeholders exchanging them for 4:3 placeholders, if the image was in a widescreen format, they had a bounding box they could fit it into.

It did get me thinking as to whether the likes of Nikon will completely lose their minds and do away with the 4:3 ratio we are all used to? Of course, there are other image sizes that are still commonplace today notably instagram with it’s square images in a homage to the Polaroid and the hipsters do love their Lomos.

Owen Gregory questioned why we have these ratios in our devices that do not meet with the golden ratio? Modern displays, flat screen televisions and monitors use a16:9 ratio whilst older displays were set at 4:3 as are most cell phones, the iPad and many other tablet devices such as the Kindle and Galaxy Tab. In 2012 Apple The iPhone5 is 16:9 and along with the Samsung S3 and Nexus 4 are evolving handheld devices into the widescreen HD era.

How did these ratios come to be and can we ever have visual perfection?

Well, it isn’t but that is where it all starts, with William Dickinson and Thomas Eddison creating a concept of a roll of film and a loader for a camera.

Edison and Dickinson wanted to create images which gave the same level of detail as when looking straight ahead; minus the periphery. The human eye has a field of view which is 155oH x 120oV (4:3).

Their film wrapped around a spindle with sprockets gripping it in place. The frame needed to meet the 4:3 ratio and finally they concluded the ideal size was 35mm wide and 3 perforations high (the distance between the sprockets).

Does it have legs?

Naturally, when artists started considering moving pictures the starting point was to use 35mm film and lots of it. There were experiments with other formats as the movie makers started to look at how to make a more immersive experience. As with all good art, the marketing people had other ideas, how do you get more people in front of a film and make more money per show? The natural solution? make it wider. Wider screen = more seats.

The most notable movement came from France where the Paris film scene was booming. In 1897 Raoul Grimoin Sanson patented Cineorama, a widescreen film format, it never took off.

Other concepts emerged during the early 19th century including cinemascope which was costly to produce requiring two camera operators and further time editing. With the Depression came cut backs in Hollywood and the anamorphic format given with most widescreen solutions was dropped, returning to the cheaper 35mm 4:3 systems.

Alfred Hitchcock refused to shoot in cinemascope citing that it created an unnatural and displeasing image, instead favouring VistaVision which could be adjusted to suit a number of aspect ratios.

The Golden Age turns to Pyrite

As televisions found their way into more and more households in America Hollywood started to feel the pinch. Here is where we see history repeating itself (see 3D in 1915, 3D in the 1950s, 3D in the 1980s, HD and 3D again in the 2000s). Film studios began experimenting with dimensions again purposefully shooting in wider ratios that needed new projectors in the cinemas affiliated with the film studios and providing a cinematic experience which clearly set it apart from television.

It caused chaos. Letterboxes became a visual cue to what kind of film you were watching and ensured that every cinema could syndicate the movies into their theatres without needing to upgrade their equipment.

Many of us will remember (I’ve actually seen it in France in the last month) the frustrations of watching a film bought by a television network where the titles are chopped off left and right and you can’t help but wonder whether you’re losing important plot points to the outer limits of the shiny pastic surround encasing the liquid crystal display.

Thankfully, Dr Kerns Powers rallied for some kind of standardisation to be formed. Eventually 16:9 was agreed upon, not because it is the most pleasing ratio to experience moving pictures, but because it is the middle ground in a muddy film landscape. This is why even now with your HD (or even UHD/4K) screen you will see letterboxes when watching certain movies.

How do ratios fit into responsive design?

I have on quite a few occasions attempted to mimic another film format to the one I am shooting with. Back in 2009 (the golden age of Flickr?) I was inspired by Dustin Diaz’s 365 project where the majority of his shots were 16:9 and letterboxed. I spoke to him at the time about how he was doing this and tried it myself.

Perhaps we can start thinking about this in our web design. Can we use margins and padding in the same way as to create faux widescreen experiences, or even bring widescreen back down to 4:3 after all, isn’t this what we’re doing every time we set body to margin: 0 auto?

Originally posted on avangelistdesign.com