User experience design with Aral

Safety dip

Before I start on this little rant, its worth pointing out this is following a talk from Aral Balkan’s talk at Thinking Digital 2013. I have still yet to write my review of the best talks and my own experience with Perceptive Radio but I had to stop and moan about Aral’s talk.

Aral is a friend and I like him a lot but even in the early days I disagreed with him on so many things.

Aral showed many examples of really bad user experience design, many where they got the focus wrong.

User experience bugs me, I agree with a lot but then there are many examples where it seems like a simple no brainier. I would generalise what Aral was showing but I lost my notes by accident in the wifi handover (hoping there still on my tablet and just need to load up evernote and sync the notes. So as I was saying user experience is important but they sometimes go too far…

Here’s something I tweeted last year…

“Frankly this is the worst keypad layout I’ve seen in the wild. should be a shamed of this! http://yfrog.com/odgevclj”

Aral spoke about washing machines and how complex they are. He suggested all you need is a some places to put the washing powder and fabric conditioner. A button or two to maybe start a programme and thats it. Well no I disagree. My mum is a genius with the washing machine and she knows exactly what to put in for the weight and volume of clothes. To be such a expert required time and effort, shes proud than shes mastered the washing machine.

Having a single button machine would rob my mother of her mastery of that machine.

Now I imagine Aral would say, for the bulk of people, all they want to do is get there clothes clean and they don’t really care. And he would be right. I generally don’t care but robbing people of the ability to master a system or device seems a real shame and I’d say is criminal.

After Arals talk and a slight break for audience clapping. He launched into how he’s been involved in helping the next generation to learn how to get their digital skills. How ironic that most of us got our start by mastering the computer by ultimately being geeky.

If you subscribe to the idea that we are almost all geeky about something (coding, design, cars, cooking, paintings, trains, stamps, celebrities, tv shows, beer, phones, films, cocktails, gardening, farming, sports, etc). Most of these require experience, understanding and mastery. Robbing someone of this seems at least to me anti-human.

Not that I’m saying you should have to go through an ordeal to get a ticket for the train/metro/tram. The example of the CTA machine is a total joke, I remember looking at it when I last was last in Chicago and thought what level of hell does this machine come from?

Heat control

I would say the showers in most modern hotels is up as a example of a great user experience because they have that recommended option but if you know better you can press the button and get even more heat. Yes the button protects you from burning but it can also be easily bypassed. Now thats my kind of user experience.

Aral mentioned a few other things which had my fingers tapping.

“Design can not be democratic, design is opinionated and full of assumptions.”

Design can not be democratic? I say rubbish, designers work in small groups and collaborate on problems all the time. I would go as far as to say design in isolation is art. Design doesn’t have to be opinionated, in actual fact user experience design is about designing around the accordances of the user. This means working around them and not making assumptions…

Anyway everything I’ve said is just my view and I’m sure I would say the same to Aral’s face. Looking forward to next time we meet and of course 🙂 Which will be soon… Good talk even though I was screaming inside 🙂

We are not all…⸮

Stereotypical Geek

I retweeted this

OH: How can you spot an extroverted engineer?
They look at *your* shoes when they talk.

Ever since people have been getting at me for re-tweeting it. But then again I didn’t get to include my irony backwards questionmark ⸮ in the retweet

I understand the frustration but I mainly wanted to retweet it because I’m fed up of hearing this type of thing. And clearly its not just designers who are to blame.
Recently I was at a event which was well attended but a lot of the developers were saying how many people were not from engineering and development background. Then came the jokes…

A web designer walks into a bar, but immediately leaves in disgust upon noticing the tables layout.

How many designers does it take to change a lightbulb?

1 to call an engineer

And its not just jokes… its the other stuff which winds me up inside.

I understand its part of what we do as humans but seriously is it about time to over come some of this…?

Stereotyping…!!!

Geeks don’t all love Star Trek, Designers don’t all love Apples, Developers are not all introverted, Recruiters are not all evil, Architects are not all control freaks, Models are not all thick, etc, etc… Its almost 2013, its time we got over it all…

Creative people are the whores of capitalism?

POT POTW Challenge 20080202 - 20080208 (Creative) - #1

Herb tweeted this and I thought it was going to be a story like mine, but what I was surprised to find a critical look at the creative economy…

This has come as quite a shock I can tell you. I think, I’ve come to the conclusion that the whole thing was a bit of a con. A scam. An elaborate hoax.

The scam works like this:

1. The creative industry operates largely by holding ‘creative’ people ransom to their own self-image, precarious sense of self-worth, and fragile – if occasionally out of control ego. We tend to set ourselves impossibly high standards, and are invariably our own toughest critics. Satisfying our own lofty demands is usually a lot harder than appeasing any client, who in my experience tend to have disappointingly low expectations. Most artists and designers I know would rather work all night than turn in a sub-standard job. It is a universal truth that all artists think they a frauds and charlatans, and live in constant fear of being exposed. We believe by working harder than anyone else we can evaded detection. The bean-counters rumbled this centuries ago and have been profitably exploiting this weakness ever since. You don’t have to drive creative folk like most workers. They drive themselves. Just wind ‘em up and let ‘em go.

2. Truly creative people tend not to be motivated by money. That’s why so few of us have any. The riches we crave are acknowledgment and appreciation of the ideas that we have and the things that we make. A simple but sincere “That’s quite good.” from someone who’s opinion we respect (usually a fellow artisan) is worth infinitely more than any pay-rise or bonus. Again, our industry masters cleverly exploit this insecurity and vanity by offering glamorous but worthless trinkets and elaborately staged award schemes to keep the artists focused and motivated. Like so many demented magpies we flock around the shiny things and would peck each others eyes out to have more than anyone else. Handing out the odd gold statuette is a whole lot cheaper than dishing out stock certificates or board seats.

3. The compulsion to create is unstoppable. It’s a need that has to be filled. I’ve barely ‘worked’ in any meaningful way for half a year, but every day I find myself driven to ‘make’ something. Take photographs. Draw. Write. Make bad music. It’s just an itch than needs to be scratched. Apart from the occasional severed ear or descent into fecal-eating dementia the creative impulse is mostly little more than a quaint eccentricity. But introduce this mostly benign neurosis into a commercial context.. well that way, my friends lies misery and madness.

It turned out to fit with my ex-boss’s idea of creative people being the whore’s of capitalism… (sure he came up with that). Its harsh and something I’d considered a while ago and I justify it by working for the BBC rather than some faceless entity…

Videos from the @media Social now online

At the @media Social, there were some talks given by some of the speakers of the @media conference. And I managed to stick slightly smaller versions on my server. There in Mpeg4 format because thats what my new Sanyo shoots in and VLC compresses nicely into. I've tested them with Quicktime and VLC but nothing much else sorry. I may try compressing to Xvid at some point in the future if people ask for it. Enjoy… and I'm sorry the Javascript one is slightly cut, my camera battery died near the end.

CSS get together

Molly quizes Andy about moving on the CSS discussion
With Molly Holzschlag and Andy Clarke

Have I got Accessbility for you?

Have I got accessbility for you
With Andy Clarke, Patrick Lauke and others

Javascript get together

Javascript get together
With Jeremy Keith, Dean Edwards, PPK and Chris Heilmann

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Next geekdinner is the @media Social

@media 2006: Europe's Premier Web Design Conference. London, 15th - 16th June.

Something I've been working on for the last few months now, has now finally become reality. The next geekdinner will be part of the post @media social event. And the whole event is FREE for anyone to enter enjoy. Unlike most geekdinners, we are going to be open for 10 hours. Right off the bat, between 1pm – 2pm will be the @media lunch. Which will be a chance to have lunch with some fine designers while discussing the previous nights at the conference or webdesign generally. Then we dive into some key webdesign issues like CSS, Accessibility, Javascript and Design generally. These get togther sessions will quite adhoc and may contain a small panel of people if we get enough people interested. This is also a good time to relax with some beers or wines with likeminded people in the different areas of the Livery. Just before 6pm its a good idea to put your order in for dinner, because from 6pm we will be having a tradional sit down geekdinner with maybe some entertainment or discussion before the party at the end of the night.

So the date for your diary is Saturday 17th June from 1pm onwards at the Livery. Which is 130 Wood Street, just off Cheapside or a short walk from St Pauls Station which is on the central line. I hope to see you all there.

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