Category Archives: links

The Trip: setting off

It’s not just me that writes stuff about me. Here’s my twin brother writing about something properly interesting that we’re doing next week.

The Trip: a 2016 homage

I suppose the idea began the first time I saw The Trip, inasmuch as it started from an idle thought  along the lines of “I’d like to do that one day”. The first time I saw it was on its first airing in the UK, on BBC2, back in the autumn of 2010. Life was different then. Two years before I had my first child, four years before my second. Another series has taken Steve and Rob to Italy (2014) and, as I write, they are on location filming the third series in northern Spain.

From time to time it came back to me. The movie version on a transatlantic plane in 2011. The second series broadcast in Spring 2014. Passing mentions in interviews, podcasts and articles. A Children In Need sketch. A lingering memory of a particular impression that cried out to be retold or shared on…

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Apple focussed on design as their signature

A series of videos, one presumably a TVC, are a clear indication alongside the WWDC keynote this week that Apple is all about design, designing for people and a slavish attention to quality and purpose. It’s hugely encouraging for those of us in the industry of making [digital] stuff better for people. Even if I don’t particularly like the iOS 7 palette

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Behavioural Economics / Psychology of Persuasion & Influence Reading List

Thanks to a Quora answer from Rory Sutherland I stumbled across this excellent (and lengthy) starter reading list for those interested in the sociology, psychology and economics of persuasion. Well worth looking at for the people that have said ‘I’m done with Nudge, anything else I should read?’

ASIDE: This is probably the first time I’ve found myself on Quora and learned something. That’s not to say it’s rubbish (and who’d care about my opinion anyway) just that I’ve been a member of it for about 6 months but don’t bother checking so I only discovered this when it popped up on Twitter. So Quora made it happen, Twitter made me find it.

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smörgåsbord choice cuts (vi)

Today was a watershed. I visited Scandinavian Kitchen for fikka for the first time since Anna left us. It was lonely. I got asked if I spoke Norweigan, I don’t, but takk som spør. Here are the things I’ve been thinking and reading about recently:

Persuasive Design
Almost everyone in the advertising and marketing world reads PSFK so perhaps this isn’t new to anybody reading this blog but occasionally we all miss stuff. In Finland at less-busy intersections, a little proximity sensor detects the presence of pedestrians and alerts other road-users with a little light. It’s a great nudge to help with nighttime road safety.

Again, from PSFK, this little chart from Leo Burnett is worth a look as they attempt to represent behavioural archetypes in simplified form.

Human Computer Interaction
Saneel Radia writing on BBH Labs‘ blog dug up a great little piece from David Bryant at Google where tells a compelling tale about the rise of the Human Operating System. It’s an often over-looked element of the success of some of the most lauded devices and innovations in recent years, that by using humanised nuances that trigger limbic responses, the designers have made products that simply feel more human and instinctive. Thinking about what might be dismissed as interaction frivolity, behaviours like inertia, resistance, sliding, bumping, flying and so on are of profound importance.

Related to that thought, but worthy of more exploration at a later point, is a piece by Joshua Allen on “Transience” (UX Magazine) and another one by Suzanne Ginsburg (also at UX Magazine) on “The Evolution of Discoverability“.

Design Pattern
Jason over at Signal vs. Noise has piqued my interest with this charming transfer of inspiration. I’ll let him tell you the story of how a notice on a rest-stop booth on a recent journey challenged 37 Signals to re imagine the FAQ. As someone with a love-hate relationship with the FAQ (though mainly hate) it might just be a new pattern to appropriate from the marvellously fresh-feeling 37 Signals showcase.

Restaurant Websites
Mark Hurst found a nice piece on the Boston Globe site which popped-up in my Good Experience feed yesterday. I often cite menu-design as an example that choice architecture is nothing new and better-understood by restaurateurs the world over than many people paid to be in the persuasion industry. It concerns the fact the restaurant websites are often atrociously designed pieces of design-wank, portfolio pieces for one-man-band flash designers. (The BG article doesn’t use the term wank though, more’s the pity).

The Oatmeal gloriously lampoons the practise but please do read the post at Good Experience as Mark’s appropriately gutted (ahem) the Boston piece for us.

Crowd Mapping
It’s not a new thing to do but I was new to me. Anne Czernek drew my flighty attention to a Google-sponsored “ladies mapping party” in Kenya. Here 70 educated and not-so educated community members lent their hands to populating, correcting and otherwise improving the state of their local community’s map at Nairobi’s iHub last month.  It’s easy to think sometimes that with enough people and enough time that crowd-sourced knowledge like this just happens but occasionally you just need to get a lot of people in a room and give it a bit of a kick in the proverbials. These Kenyan ladies did just that.

Have a great weekend.

smörgåsbord choice cuts (v)

So, it’s been a while, no excueses, let’s just get on with it shall we?

Leadership
As a leader in the UX industry, i’m a sucker for some comment on what it takes to be a leader in the UX industry (Kim Goodwin, via Jeroen van Geel)

Advertising
Whilst certain luminaries in the business have a beef about advertising agencies doing digital work, at least we are an industry that can lampoon ourselves quite effectively: Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising .

– For the record, I’m really glad I didn’t knee jerk respond to Peter’s terribly misinformed piece at the time and that time has given him and others a bit more perspective on the issues he raised.

Memory
Several of us at Dare are thinking a lot about memory (in part thanks to this) and its relevance to experience design. Although this piece only briefly covers memory, it might interest you to reconsider some of the psychology at work in what we do.

Driving
An extraordinarily detailed and comprehensive driving education is being offered (presumably at some considerable cost) by AMG Mercedes. The winter driving at Arjeplog, Sweden looks a particular highlight.

Behavioural Design/Information Visualisation
Some attractive work by the ever-talented Stephanie Posavec and David McCandless to reimagine, in a patient-centred approach the presentation of medical data – particularly cardiology data. I would dearly love to get my mitts on the opportunity to rework a patient information site with these two.

Reading
This week the clever James Hamilton wrote a blog post about his (i’m assuming) current passion Surprise & Serendipity. My interest in this field is heavily tied into a confidential piece of work so I can’t say too much but intend to blog a little on this in the near future, not least to follow up on some tweets I traded with @gilescolborne last year. Anyway, James’ post was concerned with designing for form not function and I commented in relation to myFry. Another literary-style piece of content I saw recently that worked best as an app (rather than companion book) was the Malcolm Tucker app. Albeit it turned out to be somewhat annoying (though read the interview with the development team). The approach was sound mind you.

Might do a few more when I get a moment.

smörgåsbord choice cuts (iv)

The usual selection of things I have seen and absorbed in the last few days around the internets.

Innovation
The laundrette that emails you when your clothes are done. Rather obvious idea that makes you wonder 1. why hasn’t someone done it before? 2. who still uses laundrettes?

Social Commentary
Daniel Pink questions what it means for (American) society now that the data shows for the first time that more people aged 25-34 have never been married than are married. He looks at Economics, Culture, Politics and new business opportunities.

Apple
According to Apple Insider (and probably two minutes earlier/later by Mac Rumors), the new Sharp phone has a display that matches the Retina display on the iPhone 4.

UX
One from the ‘No shit, Sherlock‘ school of UX insight. UX Movement alerts us to the news that right-aligned buttons on web forms work best. It suggests that you might use left-aligned buttons on single-page forms because: “it creates a clear and direct path to the button that users can’t miss” but doesn’t sufficiently explain why having it on the right in this instance wouldn’t be just as good. Because right-aligned buttons work best on multiple page/section forms, users have got used to them being on the right – such is the way conventions work. Why swap it around for the single page forms? This sort of article is potentially useful for a real newbie in UX design but it isn’t really telling me anything a lot of comparitive research and common sense wouldn’t. Not to mention the complete ignorance of languages that aren’t read left-to-right.

However, redeeming themselves, there is also a cute post from UX Movement about New York City reverting to Title Case on their signage to improve readability from the previous capitalised approach.

Moleskine
I am generally quite critical of hipster trends but I concede to loving my Moleskine and my Apple portables. This has made a bit of noise this week on the web, but in case (ahem) you missed it: Moleskine case covers for iPad and iPhone incorporating notepads.

Health & Fitness
As someone who has dabbled in dietary supplements (Chrondoitin, Gingko Biloba, Glucosamine, Omega 3) and who lives on a meat-light diet, I am struck by a conflict between believing marketing hype about supplements and knowing the evidence is light. David McCandless & Andy Perkins’ active infographic on Information Is BeautifulSnake Oil?” helps sort the supplements by evidence. Multiple bubbles exist for supplements depending on the number of health benefits associated. Very compelling visual and (amongst an awful lot of info-graphic noise recently) one with a genuine enlightening purpose. I don’t think the concept is new, it was a static graphic before no? but i believe the interactive element is.

Design
37 Signals admit on their blog that their site is much-imitated and that this may be a part of why they attempt a redesign every 6 months. The new look is a bit of a “back to basics” for them. There is a real emphasis on copywriting and on using colour sparingly for highlighting. It was interesting that their summary didn’t mention IA or structure as such – perhaps that is because it is a given in their processes.

A bit of a lightweight piece on Six Revisions about single-page websites. The accompanying text is a little frothy but it is notable for the showcase of attractive examples.

Finally,
As if to underline the point above about frothy analysis, 90 Percent of Everything had a great post earlier this week about why we should return to a little more academic rigour in our sharing of knowledge and testing of hypotheses. It suggests a few approaches including:

:: Returning to primary sources, not relying on second-hand re-telling of material
:: Ensure enough detail is included to allow the test or experience to be reproduced and re-evaluated. This includes sharing all the data.
:: Be honest about shortcomings. There aren’t enough examples of failure shared in the Information Architecture and User Experience community.

The author acknowledges the difficulty in achieving this in commercial and sensitive situations (client confidentiality for example) but it is a welcome piece of advice for us to avoid issuing sanitised soundbites for instant sharing. Very much worth a read and I wholeheartedly concur (even if I am guilty of just this fast food ux snacking on this very blog).

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smörgåsbord choice cuts (iii)

Cycling
I have flirted with the idea of stripping-back my old Orange P7 ever since seeing the beautiful work at the Orange P7 project site . Back in 1995-6 I saved everything I earned at Sainsbury’s as a checkout assistant to buy my beloved bike. Back then it cost £1,200. It astonishes me that I could afford that when I couldn’t even justifiably cobble that together today for a MacBook Pro. Every so often the idea of bringing it back from the dead is freshened up and the post of the GT Bravado I saw on Cycle EXIF just serves to remind me what beautiful single-speeds 90s MTBs can make when treated with design dignity.

Information Architecture
Regular readers will know I curate (word of the moment for these days) thisisIA. The site showcases everyday examples of information design and organisation. I added a wonderful example today from Iain Tait’s crackunit blog that resonates with my autistic desire for order in cabling (Dare people should take a look at my zip-tied desk cables..).

Service
A quick look at a wonderful idea from the Hotel Exerda (found on PSFK) whereby hotel diners can see the recipes for the dishes they eat. Very much along the lines of those hotels where you can buy the fixtures and fittings.

Social
A very cute and simple idea seen in this Vimeo demo from Studio Sophisti [in het Nederlands] to use two lamps connected by the net (Ping) to sense when the other is on and consequently burn brighter. In so-doing the lights create a non-verbal communication link between the two users. I love the subtlety and intimacy of this idea that could be a very sweet way of connecting with loved ones. Away from your wife or girlfriend, both of you have connected lamps and you are working away when the lamp begins to burn brighter … touching.

Miscellaneous
A great find last week from my friend @Ppparkaboy was John Crace’s review in The Guardian of Roland Huntford’s new book Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen. This review draws our attention to the fact we seem to laud Scott of the Antarctic despite of his catastrophic failure, yet Shackleton – “who didn’t lose a man .. remains a footnote in the national psyche”. I suspect, when we think about this, we can find similar examples amongst many of the modern era’s heroes – athletes, talent-show contestents and so-on. Huntford continues:

“Only in Britain do we revere the man who died in failure above the survivor. Elsewhere in the world, Scott is seen as rather second-rate – an incompetent loser who battled nature rather than tried to understand it.”

It is definitely worth absorbing the remainder of this review.

Nota: I have added a few more sources to my collection of regularly-monitored feeds to mix things up a bit. I get a little bit of a PSFK and FlowingData overload so would like to share a little more UX. I will also try and keep to the subheaded structure to allow scanners to skip past content they’re not interested

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TomTom directing drivers to shorter travel times

Nota: This post was originally published on our client-facing blog at Dare in edited form. I love the editors deeply but I wanted to share with you, dear reader, the full vestal version.


It doesn’t seem that long ago that the sight of a GPS in a car had the same reaction of someone using an iPad on the train does today. A sort of curious mix of jealousy and cynicism about their efficacy.

And then the prices fell and the world and his wife were getting them for Christmas. From the executive saloon to the student runabout, almost every car sports some sort of touch-screen map these days. It is this progress to ubiquity that has led TomTom to assume a critical mass is being reached such that their latest initiative has a chance of succeeding.

Boldy termed a Traffic Manifesto, the Dutch navigation giant has published its objective of making “better use of [the] existing road capacity” in Europe to “reduce journey times for everyone by up to 5%”. Quite some lofty objective given that this is predicated on the take-up of its HD Traffic service reaching 10% of the driving community in Europe. Soak that up. 10% penetration in Europe. Add to this aspiration the cold hard fact that just 2.2% of TomTom’s 45million drivers connect to such a service and one wonders quite what they’re putting in the tea over in Amsterdam.

Leaving that aside, the technology and the ethics behind it are quite pleasing. In TomTom’s own words, this is how it works:

“TomTom HD Traffic uses a revolutionary new source of traffic information: the traffic flow of up to 80 million anonymous mobile phone users on the road. From this anonymous data, TomTom knows exactly where, in which direction and at what speed all these mobile phone users are traveling throughout the road network. This real-time data is combined with other existing quality traffic information sources, resulting in the most complete and reliable traffic information.” [Source: TomTom website]

The campaign activity to support this includes offering this data up to local broadcast networks across the continent for free. The cynic in me assumes this is to offset the simple truth that an in-car device capable of real-time traffic data and re-routing rather makes the hyper-local radio bulletin (ergo much of  the stations’ raison d’être) redundant.

We seem rather obsessed at the moment with geographic social networking. Whether it is initiatives such as this or more frivolous pursuits such as Places,FoursquareNike+History Pin and even the BBC’s Dimensions project, it seems a rather curious paradox that the more our lives are being tracked and traced in the digital world, the more we seek relevance from the physical environment around us: to seek out new routes, new places and new people in the vicinity. So, while the TomTom traffic data is helpful in the now, imagine  aggregating this data  over a longitudinal study to identify new places to commute from? Well, social graphs such as Harry Kao’s commuter map and Mapumental are doing just that sort of thing.

After all, isn’t it nice to find examples where crowd-sourced information is genuinely useful, even if CEO’s like TomTom’s Harold Goddijn can’t resist making somewhat grandiose claims.

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smörgåsbord choice cuts (ii)

With a pile of Tabbloids bulging in my tote bag, it is time once again to roll out a few selected links, observations and all-round ephemera from the web. I have decided this is going to to be a recurring but infrequent feature of the ‘bord. I have appended a scalable lowercase numeral thus (ii) as this marks the second of the smörgåsbord choice cuts.

First up is the bystander effect. The Nudge blog reminded me of this well-known social psychology observation whereby passive peer pressure leads to inaction. Most famously observed in experiments where subjects made no attempt to save themselves or other victims when other (acting) persons remained apparently unconcerned. In an observation on the communal fridge (viz.”how long would you ignore [an item that had gone off]”), I would posit that a stronger observation of this could be a packed train carriage. A passenger may stand in acres of space whilst the carriage fills up tightly by the doorway but because no-one has yet asked the person in space to move down, neither will they. No-one wants to be the first, no-one wants to be the outspoken one – even when the group would benefit.

Once again, Nudge blog alerts us to a nice bit of persuasive design. Sweden’s Speed Lottery rewarded the obedient motorist by entering all law-abiding, non-speeding cars in a given zone into a lottery to win 20,000 SEK. It remains to be seen whether such a carrot approach produces the long-term reduction in speeding that a fine-based stick approach has attempted in the past. (på Svenska)

A quick find on Twitter now, apparently the design of the new web-based Twitter user interface is based, at least in-part, on the golden ratio. The extent to which the golden ratio matters is debatable, as is the success of the Twitter redesign. That said, it’s always nice to see someone using principles in design layouts.

Simon Lamb once again finds a sweet cycling link to share and in light of (Le Tour 2010 winner) Contador’s peculiar suspension (a tiny, ineffectual amount, on a rest day … are the regulations just a little excessive?) I thought I would share to build a picture of the Landis allegations against Lance Armstrong. Of course, Landis remains the only other Le Tour winner to be identified as being a doper. Bill Gifford, “The Case Against Lance“.

I will, at some point, write a post about my beloved Rapha and why I am torn in two about their recent (last two years?) brand growth. For the meantime, draw your own conclusions about how I feel about their move into skincare. I cannot deny that the image and product quality are outstanding. The attention to detail that Bianchista outlines in her ‘unboxing’ post “Rapha Skincare – First Look” is typically high and redolent of the tifosi tone they have woven throughout their kit. But soaps? Really, is there anything more to this than simply chasing the indulgent gift market? Does it devalue the brand they established in exceptional race and training garments? That said, if you go to Rapha and use the promo code ventoux5 you get free shipping.

I bought the first edition of Communicating Design sometime around 2006 when Dan Brown came to a NN/g conference in London. I loved it and it changed the way I did user experience documentation and the way I thought about explaining to people what we were doing. So I am delighted to have pre-ordered the updated and revised version. I could get books on expenses through Dare but I choose not to for things like this, I want to own it. It is very much my book for me to consume. In a post last week, Dan talks about his work on the revised Flow Charts section. The little peep-show of the typesetting and diagrams are wonderfully intriguing. I can only hope that this busy family-man can find some time in his schedule to run a workshop or two in the UK in the near future.

Of all the presenters at UX London in 2010, Stephen P. Anderson stood out as offering up the most inspirational – and instantly usable – content delivered in the most friendly and measured style. I was much pleased to see his post “Playing Hard to Get: Using scarcity to influence behaviour“, carries on this clear and measured theme. Stephen’s work is not a dusty academic study and nor is it a soaring aspirational call-to-arms for the Ux community. His observations are genuine, vivid and transferable. If you read one Ux post today, make it that one.

And finally, D&AD curate a section in British newspaper Metro each week which examines and critiques the output of the creative industries. myFry was featured this week and consequently my face was printed on 1.4m pages along with some of my observations given to the charming Seb Royce (Creative Director at Glue Isobar). You can read the article online in Metro (use a made up email address to access it) or on the D&AD site: “I can’t say no to this truly tasty Fry app“.

More choice cuts on the smörgåsbord

I don’t propose that one or even now two swallows can make a summer or that this frisson of activity on the blog will not fade incredibly quickly and my writings will dry up as quickly as they appeared. Like a chalk stream, perhaps.

So, to continue from yesterday, a few more things I have seen, and ting:

1. Flowing Data drew my attention today to a few pertinent images posted on the excellent Historypin site. Historypin simply takes archive photographs and overlays them (sadly without the option to place with the opacity) on Google Street View images from today to place history in context. The selection identified in today’s post draws attention to The Blitz.

2. Something I shared with a client of our who recently rejected the idea of using accordion interaction on forms, Luke Wroblewski’s work with Etre to test the pattern and make some observations. Conclusion, not significant +ve effect on conversion, but equally no significant –ve effect for an identifiable +ve change in the perception of simplicity. Well, that’s how I interpreted it.

3. I read about this visual technique a while ago in the national press but it has been picked up by the curators of the Nudge blog. Norfolk City Council are using funnel planting patterns for trees to create the illusion that drivers are approaching junctions at speed. This technique has been used for years with line-painting on roads but to use the built/grown environment is new. This is a great example of what Dan Lockton calls Design With Intent.

4. In related news, Konigi had a short piece on ‘Dark Patterns’ which is perhaps on the Machiavellian side of behavioural design. These are interaction patterns which intentionally coerce/seduce users into performing actions they would not ‘normally’ have performed. This is work by the enigmatic Harry Brignull which was presented at UX Brighton (2010) and you can follow the entire 30 minute slideshare by visiting his excellent blog.

5. This is worth of a full post at some point, based on some thoughts shared with me by a member of my team, Richard Blair. In the meantime, take a look at PSFKs piece about the effect of the Times paywall on their RSS content. This tears me up. As a Times reader in the offline world I quite like the new online exclusivity a paywall has created and the ad-free experience but I desperately lament the loss of the ability to pour my favourite columnists into my Tabbloid by subscribing to their RSS. I now am forced to the site.

That’s it for today, similar but newer things tomorrow. And possibly a proper ‘comment’ piece later today.

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