What3Words may have a good publicity operation, but as Terence Eden points out here, there are many problems with it. It’s not open, it’s difficult to work across languages, and at times it’s even culturally insensitive.
Archive — Link
An excellent piece on the damage caused by conflating bad behaviour with mental ill health.
Conflating mental illness with cruelty adds to the stigma of mental illness…
Excusing horrible behaviour for a mental disorder makes it seem as though being horrible is the norm for people with mental illness. And that’s not okay.
After completing the top tasks survey and the card sort as part of the Learn Foundations project, our next step was to create a prototype information architecture and test it.
This post is about how a policy (crashing out of the EU) that will do nearly everyone harm and some great harm seems to have considerable, albeit still minority, support…
You either have to assume that a third of the population has gone mad, or instead see this as a fundamental failure of information. The UK is a failed state because the producers of information have made it fail.
According to Simon Wren-Lewis, this information problem is being facilitated by the media.
In one sense, the idea that people don’t have enough information to make an informed decision is nothing new. As I’ve written in the past, ignorance is inevitable.
But there does seem to be something particular going on in Britain right now that is causing something even worse than mere ignorance.
It’s always great to see advice from Indi Young. Here are tips on how to better identify and synthesise patterns in qualitative data.
…when you’re looking at data, don’t group things together by noun. Group them together by verb. I’ve done a lot of work with the healthcare industry, and one thing I often see research teams do is bring together insights that are all about a noun — here is all of the data that we got about how people feel about the doctors. But when you do that the intent behind what people are really saying ends up all over the place.
A very good piece about why fears around grade inflation and the like are spurious. Even if everyone meets high standards, people continue to call for the standards to be made higher still. Moreover, people exhibit a damaging compulsion to rank.
But boy, do we love to rank. Worse, we create artificial scarcity such as awards — distinctions manufactured out of thin air specifically so that some cannot get them. Every contest involves the invention of a desired status where none existed before and none needs to exist. This creates an adversarial mentality that makes productive collaboration less likely, encourages gaming the system, and leads all concerned to focus not on meaningful improvement but on trying to outdo (and perhaps undermine) everyone else.
A fascinating study from YouGov around people’s understanding of what is meant by left-wing and right-wing, and what policies people who self-describe as left- and right-wing actually support.
The article sweeps aside the idea that politics is better seen through an additional authoritarian/libertarian axis. Presumably a study for another day.
But from a liberal perspective, and as someone who doesn’t clearly view themselves as either left- or right-wing, this makes interesting reading.
This study shows that the majority of people who:
- Want a greater redistribution of wealth
- Think the minimum wage is too low
- Want to nationalise the railways
- Want to nationalise utilities
- Think the criminal justice system is too soft
- Want tighter restrictions on immigration
- Support capital punishment
- Favour powerful government over individual freedoms
It’s almost as if believing the government should have more control over economic activity, and believing the government should have more control over people are… somehow… linked. 🤔
At this stage, I wonder how Helmut Marko gets away with this. His driver/vanity programme is a monumental failure. Pierre Gasly’s demotion to Toro Rosso after only 12 races is just the latest in a trail of destruction wreaked upon drivers ever since Red Bull Junior Team’s inception.
At Toro Rosso he joins Daniil Kvyat, who has also been rejected by Red Bull’s programme multiple times, only to be invited back due to the scheme’s utter dearth of talent.
Meanwhile, Red Bull lack the patience required to build their drivers’ confidence and skill.
Luke Smith’s tweet sums it up neatly:
This means a driver once dropped by Red Bull's junior programme replaces a driver dropped by Red Bull, who himself becomes teammates with a driver dropped by Red Bull's team and programme before being re-signed by Red Bull's programme #F1
— Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1) August 12, 2019
I’ve been using the Inter typeface on this blog (and other things) for 1½ years now.* I love it.
Rasmus [Andersson, the designer of Inter] did some research and experimentation and eventually realized there was no free, high-quality text typefaces for computer UIs. That felt backwards to him given how type heavy many UIs are. So he set to work creating one and released the first set of glyphs in August 2017. He’s been iterating on it continuously ever since.
What I really admire about Inter is the way it looks brilliant at both small sizes and large sizes. There really are not many typefaces you can say that about.
It also feels like it has genuinely been designed for our time, while seeming familiar like Helvetica or Univers. While those classics fall down somewhat as digital typefaces (no surprise given how old they are), Inter manages to improve on other digital-first typefaces like Roboto.
Incredibly, while Roboto has the might of Google behind it, Inter is one person’s side project. I have a lot of admiration for this project.
* Yes, that was just an excuse to use the ½ glyph.
I fear the writing is on the wall for Valtteri Bottas. It was bad enough that Toto Wolff has now explicitly said he’s considering replacing Bottas with Esteban Ocon.
But when even Bottas himself is talking about having a plan B and plan C, surely the game is up. It’s not just the fact that he’s considering it. That’s only sensible for anyone to do.
But in talking about it, he is exposing his weakness. A more driven individual (even if he is talking to other teams behind the scenes) would surely still say he is fully committed to Mercedes and, determined to retain his drive, and not thinking about anything else.
Talking like this just makes Bottas seem like he’s already thrown in the towel.
How we used card sorting to help us devise a consistent information architecture for Learn VLE courses at the University of Edinburgh.
775 students participated in the study — and no two students submitted the same card sort. This highlights the great challenge faced by the Learn Foundations project in attempting to create a more standardised template that meets the wide variety of needs across the University.
It has been found that having a conscientious spouse helps lead to an increase in income, number of promotions and job satisfaction. Why?
First, conscientious spouses handle a lot of household tasks, freeing employees to concentrate on work (“When you can depend on someone, it takes pressure off of you,” Solomon told me).
Or, put another way, if someone else is doing all the dirty work at home, it gives you the privilege to focus on your career.
I wonder if there’s research to say what the effect is if both people in a relationship share household duties equally. Hopefully if both partners are conscientious, both feel the benefits in their careers.
Support each other. Teamwork! 🐌🐢
You can support your spouse in supporting you. If you depend on his or her reliability, diligence, and goal orientation, don’t take those traits for granted. Maybe you’ve been standing heroically at the bow for so long that you’ve forgotten how much effort it takes to row. So sit down and row for a while.
✔️ Love stationery
✔️ Love workshops
This is a great guide to workshop essentials. I’m impressed that this kit contains a wider variety of materials, and yet seems so much smaller than the workshop bag we use at work. Maybe we rely too much on mountains of sticky notes!
I’d be tempted to add planning poker cards to this list. Planning poker is usually thought of as a technique for estimating work in agile projects. But it can also be used as a prioritisation technique in workshops.
In all seriousness, I’m impressed at the effort Mercedes have put in to celebrating 125 years in motorsport and their 200th F1 race.
While having all the team personnel (including mechanics!) dressed up in 1950s-style outfits looks fun, it surely must be distracting. Watching the mechanics working on the cars in the garage with their baggy overalls dangling all over the place, I had to think some of these mechanics must find it all annoying.
Lewis Hamilton certainly seemed to find his special gloves annoying during free practice 3 yesterday when he tetchily requested his normal gloves as the session was about to start.
As for the livery, Toto Wolff said:
“I can tell you it’s definitely not making the car lighter… In all the briefing sheets prior to this weekend the engineers pointed out ‘too heavy stickers’…”
I’m sure it’s a small thing, but I’ve always wondered if thick stickers have an effect on aerodynamics. If you look at the photos on the RaceFans article, you can actually see how thick some of the decals are.
I’m sure they wouldn’t do it if it was a problem. But surely thick stickers would be more of a factor than matt paint?
I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about co-design recently (as well as doing some of it too). This website, Beyond Sticky Notes, has provided me with even more food for thought.
I am particularly struck by the table describing various approaches from transactional to transformational. In this model, “Anything ‘centred’ — human, user, patient etc.” is little better than “Designer as expert”. Meanwhile, what I thought of as co-design may actually be more like participatory design. There’s so much more to do.
But one line of warning is familiar to any good user experience practitioner, and is worth repeating until the cows come home.
Co-design builds long term commitment. By contrast, consultation often gives the illusion we’ve bought people on board — only to have them then fall overboard. With consultation, we pay later — often in costly, public and damaging ways.”
Make sure you also see Mindsets for co-design, another enlightening article on how to do co-design better.
This website is in support of a book due to be published in 2020. I am now looking forward to it.
Thanks to Alison Wright who retweeted the latter article and brought it to my attention.
Apple contractors regularly hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex, as part of their job providing quality control, or “grading”, the company’s Siri voice assistant, the Guardian has learned.
Looks like Apple’s big claims on privacy are — like most things from Apple — a superficial marketing line.
Why the new Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson may be more pivotal to the future of the Conservatives than Boris Johnson is.
[W]hile the Liberal Democrat revival is taking Labour’s votes, it is costing the Conservatives more seats. Of the 82 seats that the Lib Dems hope to make their major targets, just three — Sheffield Hallam, Leeds North West and Streatham — were won by Labour in 2017.
On Jo Swinson, for what it’s worth, I’m very pleased that she is the new Liberal Democrat leader. I voted for her this time, and actually I really hoped she would become leader when Vince Cable did (although I recognise it wasn’t the right time for her).
As part of our programme of user research in support of the Learn Foundations project, we have carried out a top tasks survey to understand what students need when accessing course materials online.
What we found was that students value three items much more than everything else. Those items are all to do with lectures.
See the full post to find out more.
As part of the Learn Foundations project, we have carried out a programme of quantitative research to ensure a user-centred approach to solution development.
The Learn Foundations project team wanted to develop a new template using a user-centred approach. This template would be designed to introduce more consistency between different courses in Learn. But it also had to support a diverse variety of needs across different courses, supporting different schools, colleges and teaching needs. It also had to be developed quickly.
We took inspiration from a classic user experience diagram to ensure this new template could be built on firm foundations.
This post introduces the steps we took. Forthcoming posts will describe each step in more detail and some of our key findings.
It’s good to see this issue getting some more attention, from none other than Dieter Rencken. I’ve been saying this for years.
If the aim of the Junior programme is to develop F1 drivers such situations point to something seriously amiss with the selection process. In 20 years and over 350 grands prix, just three alumni – Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen – won grands prix. Of these only Ricciardo can be considered a fully ‘homegrown’ product of Red Bull’s system, the other two having been schooled elsewhere.
Dan Ticktum’s meltdown was seemingly brought about by the high-pressure environment of Red Bull’s driver programme. But this just the latest in a very long line of failures.
It’s easy to say this from the outside, but if I was a driver with some talent I would steer well clear of the Red Bull programme. The list of unnecessarily ruined careers is far, far longer than the successes.
How design can be used instead of traditional change management methods.
In the same way that design-led change isn’t just about hiring designers, it also shouldn’t be thought of as a specialist or localised resource (like a design team). Creativity and thinking about design as a state of mind is more a competence that should be part of the fabric of every 21st-century organisation.
My thinking on this has changed a lot over the years. In the past I might have thought that having a strong design team was the way forward. But that’s just creating another silo.
Now I see the real job as finding ways to empower the entire organisation to think like a designer, and help them make the right decisions for the right reasons.
Summarising the key findings from a set of user interviews I conducted with students on their needs around accessing course materials digitally. Just one of the strands of the Learn Foundations project, which I still have much more to write about.
After analysing and synthesising the insights gathered through the interviews, we built up a picture of how and why students’ experience with Learn varies throughout the year as students attempt to complete different tasks. This is presented as a semester in the life of students using Learn.
There’s a running theme here: unnecessarily expensive sh!t that almost no-one wants.
As usual, Christian Horner seems to be talking bull.
On the one hand, he’s bemoaning the damage being caused to cars by the kerbs. On the other hand, he’s saying they are “too inviting”. It can’t be both.
Horner believes they are “too inviting” for drivers. “They know they’re there, I just think the angle that they’re at, I think that’s what they really need to look at.”…
“It needs something either more substantial that is a real deterrent because the invitation is there for the drivers to try to use it.”
Damaging your front wing isn’t a deterrent enough?
Given this, and other recent events in Canada and France, I’m starting to wonder if F1’s biggest problem is that drivers have formed a sense of entitlement that they should be allowed to leave the circuit without consequence.
Business design can be very different to service design if it’s focused on the wrong things. But Ben Holliday notes:
Service design is business design when we focus on and care about designing for both internal staff and external user experience together as front and back stage of how a service works.
All too often business design is narrowly self-serving. If it’s not focused on ultimately improving things for your users or customers, it will do damage in the long run.
I especially like the points this article makes about why design needs to go beyond digital.
Even though I have worked primarily in digital teams, I have always believed in making things better not just digital. In health especially, we need to remember that people are complex human beings in a whole variety of circumstances and not simply a collection of user needs.
More food for thought as I begin thinking more about how we need to move beyond individual user needs and design for something that goes beyond that.
An interview with Khoi Vinh on the benefits of blogging.
Blogging has always been pivotal to my career. When I was offered my first ‘proper’ job as a web editor at the University of St Andrews, I only really had my blog to speak for. Yet it was enough to get my name out there, and to enable me to develop web skills.
Since then, I’ve had less and less spare time. Now it’s a huge challenge to find the space for myself to blog.
I’d done well last year by publishing something every day. But recently I fell off the wagon. So this line from Khoi Vinh’s interview stood out to me:
I think you’ve just got to do it consistently, repeatedly, and you’ve got to be undeterred by the time it requires and the inconvenience in your life that it generates.
I’ll try to be more tolerant of that inconvenience. It will probably pay off in some way I can’t imagine just now, like it did 10 years ago.
Jon Worth has noticed that the wrong sort of thing gets traction on Twitter. This isn’t a new insight, of course — and it’s not just about Brexit. But he suggests a solution.
Make judicious use of Twitter lists. Retweet sensible stuff instead of confirmation bias sustaining content. Retweet people who themselves have a small audience, and could do with more exposure.
I’ve often thought of this like eating your greens. I’ve found myself unfollowing people I agree with, if they have the wrong tone and a myopic viewpoint. I’d also suggest actively looking to follow people with different perspectives or those you disagree with. Engage with people who contribute meaningfully and respectfully.
A fascinating look at how jpeg compression works, with lots of interactive examples you can play with.
It’s worth learning about not just because it’s important to understand the technology we all use everyday, but also because, as we unravel the layers of compression, we learn a bit about perception and vision, and about what details our eyes are most sensitive to.
My awesome colleague Lauren Tormey wrote this blog post about a brilliant project she’s been involved in. She has been collaborating with our Information Services Helpline to reduce unnecessary support calls by iteratively improving content with a regular cycle of usability testing.
Over two summers, we had done work to improve content related to getting a student ID card. This was another case of turning long pages with giant paragraphs into concise step-by-step pages.
From July to September 2017, the IS Helpline received 433 enquires related to student cards. For this same period in 2018, they received 224, so the figure nearly halved. I repeat: halved.
On the incredible story about Hertz suing Accenture for a failed “digital transformation project”.
Alarm bells ring at the best of times when website redesigns are described as “digital transformation”. But to then completely outsource the product owner role — to the same management consultancy firm that was carrying out the redesign — underlines just how much the top brass seemingly didn’t get it.
Particularly important is this:
The private sector is NOT intrinsically better at these things than the public sector. Occasions like this and the TSB meltdown should never be celebrated but should surely be greeted by a wry smile by those of us who have been hearing about the incompetence of public service digital for years from some corners — and particularly why there was never any need to bring things in-house because all the expertise was with the big suppliers.
I would argue that this isn’t even just about digital. The idea that public sector organisations are inherently worse at anything than the private sector has long been spurious. Large organisations perhaps do find certain things more difficult — but in both the public and private sector.
An article published yesterday in The Washington Post demonstrates the danger of design’s failure to broaden popular understanding of our craft.
The article pinpoints Nest’s focus on reducing friction as the reason for their cameras’ weak security.
Khoi Vinh points out that…
…the concept of user experience writ large is not to blame here; what’s actually at fault is bad user experience practice.
The point being that good security is fundamental to good user experience. As any good designer would know, they are not in conflict. Quite the opposite, in fact.
It strikes me that Nest are using ‘reducing friction’ as a poor excuse for not implementing better security. I’m sure they’re not the only ones guilty of this.
On another point, this article got me thinking about journalism. Khoi Vinh refuses to blame the Washington Post’s perspective on “lazy journalism”, perhaps correctly.
But any time I read a mainstream/non-specialist journalist write about a topic I know a little about (motorsport, the web, whatever), I’m always astonished at how many basic errors are made. It’s a challenge if designers want the help of journalism when “explaining what it is that we do to the world at large.”
How the Guardian finally started making a profit, in three steps.
With a functionally infinite supply of free news available, the relationship your reader has to you has to be a lot more like the one public radio listeners have with their favorite station. They’re not buying access; they’re supporting a cause.
I’d also add that the Guardian has one major advantage over almost every other publisher in the world. They uniquely decided not to go down the rabbit hole of autoplaying videos, pop-up adverts, and other infuriating ways of getting in the way of what the readers actually came for.
This week I visited the Scotsman website, and one of the ads inserted a nasty redirect that my browser told me was taking me to an untrustworthy site. There are lots of news sites that I simply can’t trust for this reason. The Guardian is one I can still trust.
Change UK have changed their Twitter handle to something somehow even more incomprehensible. And in doing so, they have forgotten to protect the old account handle — meaning that someone campaigning for a hard Brexit now has control of it.
Even more unfortunately, anyone Googling the Independent Group to find out more about the newly formed party, will instead by directed to the hard Brexit account. And the party managed to lose its Twitter ‘blue tick’ which verifies that a user is genuine.
I’ll be honest — I thought Formula E already was a world championship. I’m a motorsport geek and I never even noticed Formula E didn’t have world championship status. Which makes me wonder what’s in it for Formula E.
Formula E seems to be doing well enough as it is without world championship status. It certainly seems to have a higher profile than, for instance, the World Rallycross Championship. And it’s definitely bigger than the FIA GT World Championship was, when that was a thing.
I’m no expert, but it seems to me as if there’s more in this for the FIA than for Formula E. I’m just surprised it hasn’t happened before.
Since September, my main focus at work has been to carry out a comprehensive programme of user research for a project aiming to improve services surrounding Blackboard Learn, the University of Edinburgh’s main virtual learning environment.
I wrote this blog post providing a high-level overview of all the work that’s taken place this academic year. More detailed blog posts about each of the strands of research will come in due course.
This is been a brilliant project to be involved in. We’ve been given a lot of time and freedom to do large amount of research in support of one of the university’s most important digital services, used daily by most of our students, and many staff members.
We have made some really important discoveries. This work is ensuring that improvements are based on a strong understanding of users’ behaviour and needs when working with course materials digitally.
Check out this video, where I describe the work and some of the findings in a bit more detail, and keep an eye out for the forthcoming blog posts.
Apple has been making it harder for people to use apps that help people spend less time on their iPhones. And they’ve not been making it clear why. Apple have their own tool, but…
He has found Apple’s tool more complicated and less restrictive. His children have already found workarounds to Apple’s web-filtering tool and, unlike the apps he had used, it has no kill switch to quickly disable certain apps on their phones, Mr. Chantry said.
“It didn’t make managing these new digital threats any easier,” he said. “It actually made it more difficult.”
David Allen Green explains how the usual sources of information on British politics have been useless at explaining Brexit.
A Brexit historian with access only to the front parts of UK newspapers and to government publications would be like the classical historian convinced that the Romans were pre-occupied with crockery.
He notes that Brussels correspondents have been more informative than their Westminster counterparts. His point about Irish journalism providing better insights resonates with me as well. They’ve seemed much more switched on about certain aspects of the Brexit shitshow.
British politics is in a huge a mess at the moment. Is part of that down to the fact that British journalism has got stuck in a rut?
I enjoy Wired’s periodic long articles about Facebook. They avoid the shrillness that most media outlets exhibit when writing or talking about Facebook. This article is all the more powerful for it. And unlike many self-publicists who spend a lot of time writing basic stuff about Facebook and acting as though they’ve discovered the story of the decade, this contains genuine insights and new information.
Personas are one of the most popular techniques in the user experience toolkit, but they also remain among the most controversial. It is often still unclear to some what value personas can bring, and how to avoid the pitfalls of bad personas.
This article brings one of the clearest explanations I’ve seen of how to make good personas. It is a lengthy but must-read article if you make personas and want to make them work.
This article is particularly useful at explaining why obsessing over demographics is bad, and why you should instead focus on “thinking styles”.
Statements-of-fact, preferences, and demographics frequently serve as distracting barriers. They kick off all kinds of subconscious reactions in team members minds.
I’m a bit concerned. The Hanoi Street Circuit rather looks like a cross between the Valencia Street Circuit and Korea International Circuit — two stinkers of circuits also designed by Tilke. As things stand, my hopes aren’t too high for Liberty Media’s first new circuit for F1.
Is convergence in design thinking problematic?
The problem I have with it is it models a form of Normality. You can diverge but, in the end, you must converge.
An interesting idea from Alastair Somerville. He explains his alternative design process:
Yes, there is a convergence to design a product that meets identified user needs. Yes, there are constraints around what can be made.
However, divergence is recognised through the process.
Dries Buytaert makes a very good point here. Time is the scarcest resource we have. This is making open source a closed shop.
Today, I’ve come to understand that inequality makes it difficult for underrepresented groups to have the “free time” it takes to contribute to Open Source.
He suggests some ways open source communities could take action on this.
Overall, being kinder, more patient and more supportive to others could go a long way in welcoming more people to Open Source.
The culture of coding seems nasty generally. I’m not sure if it’s specifically a problem with open source as opposed to developers generally.
But I always found it odd how unwelcoming, patronising and generally unhelpful people in open source communities (such as WordPress support forums) can sometimes be. Sometimes it doesn’t seem very open at all.
If you think the way they measure radio audiences is primitive now (and, by the way, it is), then wait until you read about the Audimeter. A great look at the history of radio ratings, and the early days of trying to measure the impact of advertising.
Required reading, whether you are pro- or anti-EU, from a Brexiter who is seriously considering that he may have been wrong.
I don’t agree with all of it. But it is a crystal clear analysis.
Amid the increasingly hysterical attitude from significant elements of both sides of the debate, this is a highly valuable contribution. This is the standard of debate we should be aspiring to.
My colleague Alex Burford from the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics has written this great blog post about some usability testing we have conducted in support of the Learn Foundations project.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with Duncan Stephen on this mini project. The feedback was informative, encouraging, and a call to action. I’m looking forward to embedding similar practice across the School for alternative platforms for content delivery.
Each month we are working with a different school to conduct usability testing in Learn, the virtual learning environment, to inform improvements to the Learn service.
This is just one strand of a huge amount of user research I’ve been carrying out for the Learn Foundations project. It’s been a fascinating and very enjoyable project to work on. I’ve been pretty lax at writing about it yet — but I’ll be posting much more about it soon.
An interesting experiment to place pedestrian crossing signals on the ground, “where everyone is already looking”. The Netherlands seems to be the place for experimental road safety design (see also: the squareabout).
This has got to be an improvement on the modern fad of placing pedestrian crossing signals at chest height to the side, where they simply get blocked by other people, rather than across the road where everyone can see it.
An incredible set of photographs documenting life around Birmingham’s Bull Ring shopping centre, its decline, demolition, and rebirth.