1. I wrote a piece for 12ahead.com: What lies beyond touch

    12ahead.com/what-lies-beyond-touch

    Jonty Sharples, Design Director at creative innovation agency Albion, thinks that we’re getting bored with touch, but gesture, which is the long-term successor, isn’t ready yet. So we’re going to have voice foisted on us in the meantime – and it’s going to be really, really annoying.

     

    Touch-screens are currently dominating the consumer experience, from smartphones, to tablets, and kiosks aiding / hindering people in public places. ‘Pressing buttons under glass’ is currently the de facto way of controlling any digital system, even to the extent of it cropping up in inappropriate places – surely the physics of a touchscreen laptop are all wrong? (I’m looking at you Microsoft.)

    But designers and developers are now on the hunt for the next thing. They’re bored with touch, already finding restrictive what was so liberating but a couple of years ago. Haptics are coming, but I’m not sure they’ll see the same kind of adoption rate as touch. No, the next interface they’re looking to is voice-control.  Unfortunately, this I think, is a short-term solution, inappropriate in all but a few, very select circumstances.

    Imagine the following scenario: You’re on the train, sat next to one of those people. You know the ones –people still have the keyboard ‘click’ sound activated on their smartphone. Who, for whatever reason, have also failed to turn off the email-sending ‘whoosh’. And who, at this very moment, are conducting their third tedious, vocal, opinionated phone call.  Not a pleasant thought.  Now imagine how much worse it will get when many of their inputs that today are made using a silent touch, are made by talking to their device. Urgh.

    I’m being over-dramatic but, if you were lucky enough to catch Google’s original Project Glass vision piece, you’ll have noticed the distinct lack of human interaction throughout the day.  Yes, problems appear elegantly solved by Glass, but this is the story of one character.  Envisage a third of the population mumbling into chunky eyewear whilst actively ignoring one another and you’ll begin to see why I’m sceptical.

    The world needs fewer bubbles.  You only have to step on to public transport to see how insular we all are.  I’m currently typing this on an iPad, on a train journey, headphones muting the whooshes and clicks and inane chatter.  The guy opposite is playing Angry Birds, the lady next to him is gently ladysnoring, and the chap to my right to me is watching a pirate copy of the latest Bourne movie on his super-size Android device. Even in the bookstore, ‘Project Glass Dude’ fails to ask a single person anything – it’s a glossy dystopian future.

    In her most recent book, Sherry Turkle addresses the topic of us being ‘alone together’; seemingly surrounded by ‘virtual’ (a filthy word) friends and acquaintances, but really isolated in our own little anti-social bubbles, awaiting the next pop-up to let us know someone has noticed our most recent nugget of narcissism.

    Siri and, more recently, the successful integration of Voice Search in Google products, mean we’re already standing right next to ‘Project Glass Dude’.  Further iterations of these technologies will embed themselves in our lives.  Some for good, and some for ill.

    Of course etiquette will be established, but there will always be those who are happy to flaunt these conventions; the kids who live stream their lives are the ones who will be setting the bar for what’s acceptable. Apparently it’s just fine for people to pay only ‘continuous partial attention’ to meaningful real-world interactions, in order to prod at their glazed electronics. When they’re talking to their devices instead, how will we know what’s intended for us and what’s intended for the virtual assistant?

    Voice is a great interface in certain situations. In the car. In a hospital operating theatre. I’m sure there are (a few) more. But making it the new default, because designers and developers are bored with touch, seems perverse and detrimental. Can we please just think this through a little bit?

    I’m not arguing for the continued hegemony of touch. Goodness only knows, touch can be tiring. In Microsoft’s vision film, made back in 2011, it’s all wafer thin glass devices, touch and reactive surfaces.  Every interaction seems to have a conspicuous reaction, something I’m fairly sure we’re all getting more than a little tired of.  It’s exhausting being pestered by bouncing this, and wobbling that.  Blame the movies, everything beeps and jiggles in Tony Stark’s garage.

    But, for me, the next important interaction likely to enter our lives will be gestural.  Its roots will be in touch, with many of the affordances an established paradign furnishes us with; design patterns, established mental models and management of expectation.  As with gestural touch, clearly it will have and has its faults, but I believe that with the right approach it can be made to work efficiently and unobtrusively for a high proportion of the population.

    Of course it’s been around for few years now in the videogames world. When I was first introduced to the Microsoft Kinect dev kit (at the time an unassuming box with a couple of cameras inside), I was awestruck.  Now, as with all things tech, we’re reducing the size and increasing the power and accuracy.  The Leap Motion Controller is one of the latest developments in this area.  An object around the same size as a flash drive but with a range of 8ft cubic feet, and the ability to track finger gestures to within 1/100th of a mm.  Minority Report has arrived.  You can be Iron Man (without the bleeps). Caveat: it hasn’t shipped yet.

    I believe that the era of gesture control that will be enabled by the Leap tech, and what comes after it, will yield more subtle, useful and expressive interactions. When John Underkoffler was designing the interface for Minority Report, Steven Spielberg told him it should look like the characters were “conducting an orchestra”.  Now that’s a beautiful vision.  The gestural control of the future should not be tiring or bothersome, but elegant and accurate.

    The problem is that the tech is still prototypical. Good enough to control Minecraft, perhaps not yet ready to control your diary. But rather than work on accelerating the development of motion tracking tech to bring about the gesture-based world sooner, we’re rushing headlong into what’s ready now – and that’s voice. But at what price?
     
    No, not ‘thrice’ Siri, I said ‘price’.
     

  2. I wrote a piece for .net

    It’s about how to collaborate with massive corporations in a somewhat agile fashion.

    http://www.netmagazine.com/opinions/agile-agency-collaboration-huge-corporations



    Jonty Sharples explains how working for a giant client doesn’t always have to be a matter of them and us

    A growing number of multi-national corporations are increasingly realising the business benefits of adopting a start up mindset by collaborating on projects with agile agencies. I believe this is the way forward for our industry.

    But as they seek to create products with a rapid turnaround between first conception and delivery to the market, it is perhaps inevitable that culture clashes occur and need to be resolved.

    One such example would be Albion’s recent project to develop the TU Me app for Telefonica, from scratch, in just 100 days. Often projects begin with two strong, opposing personalities. Benjamin Keyser, product manager at Telefonica and I had to find common ground rapidly. We both had the best intentions for the product; the only difference being that he was more aware of the roadmap than I was, and had a much broader understanding of where the product might sit in the marketplace.

    In this business, tolerance of disagreement is essential. Agile and iterative working means you have to make decisions quickly, accept areas that can’t be changed and keep moving.

    Our initial working session with Benjamin and the tech team in Madrid helped bake this thinking into the project at an early stage. Working rapidly, collaboratively and iteratively we realised that Benjamin and Telefonica had a clear vision for the product. We knew that, done right, this quiet little project could make a sizeable dent in the marketplace. As an agency, Albion believes in innovation by disruption, and TU Me was just that: a small but highly disruptive and innovative proposition.

    If you ever find yourself writing yet another 1200-word email at 1am extolling the virtues of a single, fine stroke, then it might be time to look closely at your relationship and see where there is common ground. A set of simple rules and the creation of our own Franken-process allowed the small things to stay small and the larger challenges to be brought into focus sooner.  

    The mistakes we made early on while we were still getting to know one another, meant we freed up buckets of time further down the line. By the time we had begun creating assets for the prototype, the lines of communication were very much open: one call in the morning, and a delivery email or note in a Dropbox folder at the close of play, to let the team in Madrid know what we’d changed and what we’d lined up for the next day. Those 1200-word emails were largely mitigated by using Sifter to effectively bug-track design queries and changes. 

    We were also able to avoid the email ping-pong that often comes from moving rapidly through concepting and visual design phases. We had single-line bugs that were resolved with either a single-line response or by uploading a visual of the proposed solution. These bugs were then closed and the team moved on.

    Fortunately, Benjamin also wanted us to be part of the design process and by proving that we were keen to play the role of partner rather than resource, members of the team gained ownership of the process.

    Corporations willing to give ownership of a product are, in my experience, rare indeed. Our role as an agency is twofold: not only should we be instrumental in bringing a product vision to life, but also to help our clients manage demands placed on them from within their own corporation and help them fight the battles they want to win for the good of the product.       

    Having a clear vision of the product at the start of a contract is fantastic. However when you are involved in a design and build where success is predicated on meeting hard deadlines, being adaptable to user feedback and a changing corporate landscape – sometimes you have to let go. You have to stop being precious and adapt. Never forget your user. After all, you can have hundreds of very senior staff using and loving a prototype and giving all sorts of interesting feedback, but you’re almost invariably designing for a much broader audience.

    From a management perspective, I’ve been incredibly fortunate that the team at Albion is one I trust implicitly. I certainly wasn’t involved in the production of TU Me ten hours a day, five days a week. In many respects, my relationship with the team mirrored Benjamin’s with Albion: not sweating the small stuff, and when a particularly sticky problem cropped up or a set of decisions needed to be made with a little more distance from the day-to-day, I was on hand to help break them down into manageable chunks.

    By sticking to the mantra of ‘test, test and test again’ we were able to iron out several areas of possible time suck. We walked out of our concepting session with the Telefonica Digital team clutching a list of 12 features we had all decided users would absolutely, definitely want. Turns out that – fuelled with pizza and coffee – we’d somehow turned what should have been the archetypal ‘do one thing well’ MVP into the ‘do loads of stuff and confuse people’ kind of product. During a card-sort, it became immediately apparent that users weren’t interested in half of the key features we had in mind.  

    The basis for a solid relationship isn’t being the person your client wants to take to dinner. It’s being the person your client is happy to call in times of crisis, safe in the knowledge that you’re willing and able to dig them out of a hole and fix whatever oddity has been thrown at the project.

    It’s been a learning process for everyone involved with the project, and I believe it lays down a framework for collaboration between small(ish) agencies and multi-national behemoths that our industry can really learn from.

     

  3. D&AD Graduate Academy, June 2012

    When the D&AD asked me if I’d be interested in speaking to the cream of the graduate crop about User Experience design, I was delighted, then terrified.  How many would care? Is this something a photographer or an illustrator will be engaged with?  It comforted myself with the thought that if a bunch of jaded suits can do it (I jest!) then a room full of engaged and passionate creatives wouldn’t be too much trouble.

    I really shouldn’t have worried.

    The afternoon, kindly hosted by Google (within grabbing distance of their incredible canteen / restaurant) at their Victoria offices was to be split into several manageable chunks; a short talk about UCD and the kind of process that can reliably and rapidly take you from brief to validated MVP, some examples of products that have clearly followed the process and some that have evidently only had a single round or no user testing whatsoever.

    I spent a fair amount of time pulling the talk together, and wasn’t happy with the idea of recycling old material, also I’ve always wanted to get in a serious reference to Star Wars.  This was my chance. 

    After explaining how one might go about building a Super Star Destroyer, aided by the UCD process, we set about with the brief for the day, simply: creating a useful presentation layer for inaccessible credit card data.  It would allow users to access their account data, convert to alternate currencies, and show the effects of purchases on their balance, instantly.

    Some of the solutions were solid and feasible; others took the rules and bent them just far enough out of shape to keep it interesting without being utterly outlandish.  An interactive key ring (Monkey) was devised and user validation involved a flow of trimmed down post-it notes stuck on a bunch of keys.  Others explored the use of NFC and location based services to augment the shopping experience and actually suggest items you might wish to purchase, based on your previous spending history.

    MonKey

    Keyring testing

    Location based testing

    Watching a group, with the proportion of digital practitioners so heavily outweighed, not only dream up such fantastic solutions, but also get right behind the idea of user testing, rapid iteration, and the value of not being too precious about the fidelity of their prototypes was remarkable and inspiring.  I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’m regularly disappointed with the quality of work trundled about London, but with this lot, the future’s certain to be a bright one.

    Some of the #GradAcad group

    I’m looking forward to spending more time supporting the phenomenal D&AD Graduate Academy team, and wish them all the very best of luck for the remainder of the fantastic summer program.

     

  4. Arrogance & Confidence in Design

    Here’s the video from my Creative Mornings talk, which is currently doing the rounds.

    2012/04 Jonty Sharples from CreativeMornings/London on Vimeo.

    A huge thank you to the whole CM London team, and to Drew for asking me along to speak to such an engaging crowd.  Such an enjoyable morning, and some fantastic conversations afterwards with very smart people.

    Would recommend.  

     

  5. Quitting’s for quitters

    So I went back.  I couldn’t stay away.  A shiny new baby daughter and no reasonable outlet for photos was massively upsetting.

     

    In other news I’ve not smoked for 83 days.

     

  6. Quitting is the hardest thing to do

    I’m on the train.  My phone is sat beside me and the sky outside is glowering.  It’s almost Instagram-worthy.  Little bit of Sutro, maybe a cheeky Lux.  No, I can’t.

    Yesterday I decided that yet again I didn’t want to and wouldn’t be strong-armed into joining the Facebook gang.  I’ve been there and it terrified me; the persistent emails, reminders, pokes, tags and the knowledge that you are the raw fuel for this well disguised advertising juggernaut.  I decided that I would be deleting my Instagram account* and with it one of my favourite pastimes.

    I still have a Facebook profile from some years ago, it has no details, it’s not even me.  I created it solely to look at photos from my wedding that other people had taken, and after that it had no real purpose.  I never liked the proposition: in or out, there never seemed to be an obvious middle ground for users.  I did, however, spend a fair bit of time untagging myself from photographs and ensuring that my sparse profile stayed sparse and unpropagated.  My profile remains dormant; all I need to do is kill it off.  And that’s where the trouble begins, I think.  I’m a hoarder, I love keeping stuff just in case, and in this instance I’m keeping it stashed for the day I really might just need it.  I’ve noticed plenty of startups using Facebook at their sole means of sign in, and I have no doubt that sometime in the not to distant future I’ll actually need to use that account to access something useful. 

    With the news that the mighty Zuckerberg had whipped out the chequebook and rustled up some shares for the boys and girls at Instagram, I felt I had less of a choice.  My Instagram identity is me, well, it’s @gringomoses, who I suppose is me.  What I spent over a year putting up there was, in many cases, very personal.  When I originally joined, I felt that this little upstart was trustworthy.  I knew that they wouldn’t lay claim to my images in perpetuity, or sell my location data without asking nicely, first.  Naïve, maybe, but I’ve always liked independents and will always give them the benefit of the doubt over a behemoth.

    What I don’t want is for this particular conquering behemoth to know about me, my day to day life, where I eat, or what stations I use the most, what I cook when I’m at home, where I go on holiday, who my parents and relations are, who comprises my broader circle of influence, and eventually, as is inevitable, what my as yet unborn child will look like.  I’m accused of paranoia and being too emotionally attached to a service whose primary objective was always to be acquired, and to an extent I tend to agree.  But it’s Facebook who’s doing the acquiring.  I despise Facebook, for all its ills and bluster, all it’s fakery, pretense, and manipulation.  I’m happy to let Nike have its pick of the data on what I get up to, I signed up for that, Yahoo can look after my images and do their worst at selling stuff to me (to my knowledge, they’ve yet to have a crack at that outside of Flickr subs).  Most importantly though, with Facebook, I feel I’m no longer in control of ‘my stuff’. 

    I really don’t blame the Instagram team for taking the money, and it’s something for me to deal with.  But I miss the community dreadfully; many are friends but there are scores more I would love to share a drink with, having never met, but into whose lives I’ve been privileged enough to have had a window. 

    I suppose I could lurk and watch from the sidelines as images of friends and acquaintances are uploaded, news is broken, and conversation is had, but do I really want to be a spectator in all this?  No, not really.   

    One of the things that’s riled the most is the near instant discovery that I’d taken the app itself for granted.  It’s incredibly well thought out, and every alternative I’ve explored has involved many, many more interactions to go from capture to upload.  I’m moving back to Flickr for now, seeing as that’s where all my Instagram images ended up anyway and where I used to take plenty of photos with my Nikon, but damn is it clunky (and expensive; £26 p/a).

    So that’s it.  I never thought I’d make such a big deal of it all, or feel so torn by a decision made in the heat of the moment.  I know it’s the right thing for me to do but it’s hard to imagine documenting my life less or having days without seeing and sharing photos of cats and dogs, the sun, vistas, food and faces.  I’m consoling myself with the thought that Instgram will most likely go the way of Gowalla and others; assimilated and shut down over the coming months.  Maybe I’m jumping before I’m pushed.

    Anyway, adios, here’s a sunset to go out on.

    Alfriston sunset #bernies


    * As a point of full disclosure I should mention that my account has yet to be cleared, I’m sending some stuff for print and waiting for some clever soul to come up with a way of capturing photos and comments.  They have until Friday.

     

     

  7. Moving on

    So, it’s been just over a month since I moved to Albion London, and the change has been both challenging and refreshing.  I should explain.

    For the 19 months leading up to joining Albion, my day to day and bread and butter involved working with some of the largest suppliers in the global financials sector.  I already had a fairly decent insight into this field, but nothing could prepare me for the deliverables.  This was indeed, as Jeff Gothelf might say, “the deliverables business”. 

    Certainly, when you’re extending a brand, then documentation is of the upmost importance.  I don’t think anyone could claim that as being an unreasonable or wasted venture.

    The companies I worked with were, on the whole, in it for the output.  I’m not saying it was all about paper, paper, paper, but plenty of my time was spent writing, editing and helping to create first class documentation of the work we were producing.  And some of it was really very lovely. 

    Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; not when you’re creating systems that require global implementation and reference, by teams scattered hither and yon.  Sometimes it felt a bit like work involved creating the brand and interaction equivalent of a Haynes manual.  The level of detail was scrupulous and intense.  I learned to love it.  I revel in detail and I love creating beautiful things.  But sometimes it felt like the documentation was held in higher regard than the assets.

    My time in games taught me three things: always push for quality even at the end of a sprint, be patient, and never be surprised when the thing you designed turns up (some time later, usually in beta) working quite differently to what left your desk, in the first place. 

    Now, the nice thing about creating these guides for FI’s was that I knew that if we documented it, that’s how it would eventually turn out.  With that many stakeholders, each and every one of them with a fastidious eye on the detail, what could possibly be omitted?  But often we’d complete a project and it would go into the great Indiana Jones vault; to be produced at some later date with some as yet unprescribed team of developers.

    Of course there have always been clients and budgets where we can and are expected to skim over some of the pleasantries.  In most cases boxes are ticked and we get right on with the job of designing and prototyping and testing and building.  But I’ve never really enjoyed just doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that and ignoring this bit altogether.  I like everything, and everything is there for a reason as part of the process.  The way I work now, and will most likely continue to work for the foreseeable future is (quickly, as always) in swift rounds of design, protoyping, testing, iteration, testing, etc.  I still do everything.  Just that everything is executed with a lighter touch.  And I’m happy with this, just so long as we don’t lose sight of the big picture or the detail, because detail is what makes things great.

    The thing I can’t seem to let go of is the deliverable.  Deliverables make sense to me.  If we aren’t going to be your partners for ever, then I kind of feel it’s just common courtesy to provide a set of instructions for the next bunch to take over; a sort of Haynes pamphlet, instead of the whole shebang.  Our clients are knowledgeable enough to understand how to dismantel the digital equivalent of a door panel on a Ford Capri, so why spend five pages detailing it in the documentation?  I think, until such time as I feel the people we work with and for are happy and confident enough to take our scribbles, photographs of whiteboards, notes and assets, as is, instead of a pdf then I’m going to keep delivering pamphlets, at least.

     

  8. UX People Paper Prototyping workshop

    I thought I should post the brief from yesterday’s workshop at UX People.  

    Cake and paper

    Several people asked, and I’ll be a little clearer with my response than I was yesterday; I never publish my slides, for a range of reasons (including the unlicensed Tango & Cash photo), but primarily because they make no sense without the idiotic commentary. Anyway, I’m feeling generous so I’ve cut out the waffle and you can have a gander at my reasons for loving/loving less slides here:

    http://tinyurl.com/clksldt

    Lots of lovely people turned up to try their hand at redesigning the interface for one of these chaps:

    Mobile terminal

    I created a wireflow for the teams to work from:

    http://tinyurl.com/cxfqftf

    And a brief:

    Redesign the interface for the Sagem EFT930-G from the paying customers’ perspective.

    The form factor must remain the same but everything from button placement to on-screen messaging is free to be edited.

    Certain keys are out of scope for this exercise. They may be renamed or simply excluded from the prototype. 

    And some background:

    Sagem’s commercial customers (clients) have experienced a range of problems with the EFT930-G Mobile Terminal.

    • Client clientele have issues with incorrect amounts being entered at the wrong point in the process.

    • Client clientele are often confused by the option to pay gratuities.

    • Clients are losing staff time correcting bills and cancelling payments. This results in the end of a relaxed dining experience being tarnished.

    • Sagem are losing customers as clients look elsewhere for more reliable and ‘useable’ devices.

    • Sagem want their client clientele to have a pain free and seamless experience.

    • Clients would like their clientele to leave larger tips for staff as it helps build a stronger team.

    The results ranged from the super imaginative (think battleships but with payments), to the brilliantly simple (two buttons).  There were loads of great ideas and I think everyone took something away from the afternoon, even if the testing was somewhat chaotic.  All good clean fun though.  

    I think the nut of the session was that for something that was supposed to be fairly straightforward to complete (a gratuity payment and the entering of a pin number), there were a plethora of annoyances in the process.  I hope at the very least people will have left with a greater appreciation of the pressures we exert on our clients when we ask them to do stuff like this in their offices, wearing suits, not talking on their Blackberrys.

    Thanks to Nick and the team from Zebra People for putting on a cracking day, and to all those who came along, and the sneaky gatecrashers, too.

    See you next year! 

     

  9. My personal taxonomy hell

    I finally decided that after adding a bunch of stuff to my iPhone (and while I’m still hiding away from iOS 5) I thought it wise to begin clustering/grouping/setting my apps.

    Little was I to know what an absolute first-class balls-up I’d make of it. 

    In my time I’ve worked on taxonomies for a variety of large-scale products; web, game and kiosk, and never before have I had such a torrid time of it than when I put myself under the microscope and attempted to make sense of my day-to-day mobile use.

    Now, Apple kindly suggests titles for your clusters when you try to bring apps together.  They’re nicely generic and if, like me, you take pleasure in knowing what’s inside something just by looking its wrapper, then customizing the cluster titles might seem like a good idea.  Well it would be, except I don’t seem to know my own mind.

    So, seeing as I don’t know my own mind, wouldn’t this be the perfect time to treat me as the client (read: user). First thing’s first, what would I do if this were a real user? Well, I’d begin by asking some pretty straightforward questions: which apps do you use the most and when do you like to use them?

    I’d then think about conducting a diary study or some kind of contextual enquiry.  So that’s what I did.  I spent a great deal of time with myself, which was actually quite easy, seeing as I spend about five hours a day travelling. The difficulty lay in trying to remember what I used and when.

    I separated out the top 20 apps and put together a spreadsheet showing when during my day I used each one, for how long and where.

    I knew already that I primarily work off a single (home) screen.  Most of what I need is in one location already.  So in many ways what was I hoping to achieve by sticking stuff in boxes?  Well, sometimes I’ll use X and I’ll also want to use some of the functionality of Y, too; why not have them a single click away from one another rather than a sweep?  Sometimes app X is on screen 1 and app Y is on screen 4 – yes this certainly says something about my (in)ability to organize.

    Back to the research.  It turns out that I use the following every single day: Clock, Calendar, Settings, Instagram, TuneIn Radio, Guardian, National Rail, London Transport, Tube Map, Twitter.  Standard functionality like Phone, Mail, Safari and iPod aren’t included in the list.  Settings is, because it’s key to getting the laptop tethered in the morning.

    My user journey for the day is as follows:

    flow

    Full size link: http://tinyurl.com/bp6bjdb

    Nine apps.  With a pretty standard operational order Monday to Friday.  There are some days that break this pattern, but not enough of them to warrant creating specific use cases for (for now).

    What would the efficient thing to do be?  Well, bunch ‘em all up and stick them in boxes, obviously!

    As I’m both client, user and consultant, it puts me in a particularly invidious position.  What the client thinks (“lots of clever containers, keep the stupid from the door; he’s really quite a dullard, he pretends he knows what he needs, but really, he doesn’t) might not be the feedback I’m getting from the user (“why should I group system apps? I need to be able to see the date at a glance and I use all those tools independently anyway”).  And as the consultant, too, well, what do I know?

    Those nine apps were broken down into what I thought would be appropriate headings.  A quick card sort helped there. I say card sort, what I really mean is Excel sheet with dropdowns.

    The headers came out like this:

    Productivity: Notes, Soulver

    Photography: Camera, Instagram, Camera +, Photoshop, Flickr

    Daily: TuneIn Radio, Twitter, Instapaper, Guardian, Weather, Istaverse

    Travel: TubeMap, Europe (TomTom), TubeChanger, Train Times, Travel Deluxe, TripAdvisor, London Transport, Maps

    Food: Forkly, Waitrose, Foodmatic

    Games: Whale Trail, Hair Salon, MouthOff, Plunderland, Epic Citadel, Red Alert

    Utilities: Compass, Voice Memos, iTunes, Calculator, A Real…level

    Movies: Plex, Flixster, IMDb, VLC Remote, Remote

    Why on earth I thought that having a Daily cluster with only half of my daily items in it was sensible, I have no idea.  It felt logical at the time.  And I think that’s the crux; what seems like a good idea in the early research phase of any project often falls on its arse as soon as the thing either goes live or goes into prototyping or is tested in front of a wider audience (not really possible in this instance).  Which is why we test.

    So, that’s next; I began testing a version based on the user journey outlined above.  I’d also be included to add a further journey based on the various sixty second interactions that intersperse the day; you know, when you’re walking out of the door to get a sarnie, when you’re standing next to the kettle, when you’re having a piss (I know it’s not just me that does that) or surreptitiously in that meeting where the voices start going all “Charlie Brown’s teacher”.

    I hoped I’d be able to optimize this thing, at least for my weekdays.  As soon as I chuck in weekend behaviour and four wheeled personal transport into the mix, well, it’s a different story, and not one that I have a particular appetite for at present.  Having said that I do now have a penchant for Boris Bikes, and sometimes I have to head to a destination I’m unfamiliar with; TomTom goes in one ear and London Transport app ready to scrape the latest docking station parking data is ready to be glanced at.

    This is my test layout.  

    iPhone screen arrangement

    And that’s where the experiment stopped.  I ran out of fiddling time.  I realized that if I fiddled with it any further my productivity would slow and I would become a frustrated user.

    This was quite a revelation.  We work with institutions that are still running green screen software, where users have to create their own tables, where input boxes don’t align, where taxonomy is fragmented, pagination is a car crash…the list goes on and on.  All the things we’re asked to fix are people’s day to day.  In many cases they’ve been using these systems longer than I’ve had an iPhone, and they don’t really care.  The tool in front of them means they get paid, and if it’s not broken, as in, if it doesn’t lose the data they’re working with, then they’re not overly fussed about how it looks.

    What shocked me was that it’s only taken three weeks for me to fall into the mind set of “I’m too busy, it’s not really broken”.  It seems totally nonsensical to me with my consultant hat on, and I double-check myself before I open the Daily stack to check Twitter and again when I open Photography to check Instagram, but I’ve been using this configuration for long enough to ride the taxonomy glitch I created for myself.

    So what’s the takeaway?  Well, maybe we should all have a go at reconfiguring / optimising something we use daily.  Perhaps next time I’ll do a better job of convincing the client to let me have more time alone with the user.

     

  10. Arrogance in Design

    Here’s a link to Martin Belam’s (@currybet) notes from my talk on AiD:

    http://www.currybet.net/cbet_blog/2011/11/jonty-sharples-london-ia.php

    There’s more to come on this topic, I’ll be updating the blog with a synopsis to the talk and some other news, shortly.