Link show

#141 The death of web design

Episode 141 is a link show. James and Per discuss three articles that have grabbed their attention. Design standards, form validation, and prototyping with chatbots.

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#127 The Compassion Team

A linkshow. James and Per discuss three articles that have grabbed their attention.

The first article is Users always choose the path of least resistance by Paul Boag. Paul says that users will always take the easy option so to maintain a competitive advantage, we need to focus on simplicity.

The second article is Transitions and animations and all that jazz by our one and own James Royal-Lawson. James looks at the impact of animation and transition details on the user experience and how to successfully get this implemented into our solutions.

Our third and final article is The Facebook Breakup by Penelope Green. The New York Times takes a look at “the breakup flow” as it is called. How the compassion team at Facebook have worked with the UX of ending a relationship on social media.

(Listening time: 29 minutes)


#111 Meta moments

A linkshow.  James and Per discuss three articles that have caught their attention.

The first article is Who Needs UX Strategy by Paul Bryan. Secondly we look at 7 things that make it harder to manage your multinational websites by Lise Bissonnette Janody. Last but not least we discuss Meta-moments, thoughtfulness by design by Andrew Grimes

(Listening time: 43 minutes)


#103 What is Zero UI?

A Linkshow. James and Per discuss three recent articles they have found on their digital travels.

Our first article is Designing with Analytics by one of our previous guests Pamela Pavliscak. Hands on advice for using web analytics for research.

Our second article is What is Zero UI? John Brownlee’s Coverage of Andy Goodman‘s talk at SolidCon.

The third and final article is Fixing 6 Mistakes Companies Make when Working with UXers by Sarah Doody. We adapt and remix Sarah’s list a little.

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#99 James & Per hide their hamburgers

Three articles stumbled upon recently by James and Per are up for discussion in this Link Show.

First up – Why It’s Totally Okay to Use a Hamburger Icon. Or rather, why you should support top tasks with your designs. Second – Content first design. Using content prototypes to perfect your content. Third and finally – The Fallout From MobileGeddon: What’s the Impact on Your Business? Google tweaked their algorithm to punish poor mobile experiences.

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#96 James & Per give micro-feedback

Episode 96 is a linkshow. James and Per discuss three articles they’ve stumbled upon whilst roaming the internet.

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#90 James & Per are not robots

Episode 90 is a link show. James and Per discuss three articles they’ve stumbled upon whilst roaming the internet.

First – Under-resourced and isolate: who would be a digital marketing manager? It’s complex and get more complex by the day. Second – The Seven Most Important UI and UX ideas of 2014. A retrospective look back at some concepts that bubbled up last year. Third and finally – Are you a robot? Introducing “No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA”. Google has moved robot checking to the back end.

SPOILER ALERT! If you believe in Father Christmas, skip minute 14 of the show!

(Listening time: 34 minutes)


#80 James & Per are broken

Episode 80 is a link show. James and Per discuss three articles they’ve stumbled upon whilst dredging the internets. First – Everything is broken. Really, everything is broken. Can we fix it? Do we care enough to fix it? Second – UX without user research is not UX. Isn’t it? Does it matter?  And lastly – Hey designers: stop trying to be so damned clever. Is the cleverness of your design actually getting in the way? How good is your usability filter? Read More

#76 James & Per thank you for subscribing

Episode 76 is a link show. James and Per discuss three articles they’ve discovered on their digital travels. First – 45 days to plan a Tweet? Just a bit of bad press, deliberate PR? How do we know what’s true anymore? Second – Thank you for signing up! Pay attention to your thank you pages. And finally – The share icon that nobody agrees on. We’re talked hamburgers before, now it’s the turn of the share icon to be discussed.

What do you think? Email us at

(Listening time: 38 minutes)


Borrowed from


#66 James & Per stunt UX

A Link show. James and Per discuss three recent articles found during their digital travels. Has information architecture been hindered by the rise of user experience? What is user experience? and finally how do you make sure that users don’t accidentally delete things?

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#64 James & Per are web-safe

A Link show to start the year. Per and James discuss three recent articles that they’ve found during their digital travels. With font-face now widely supported how much thought do you need to put into your font-stack? How do you go about adding personality to your website or product? Finally we take a look at some of the top UX predictions for 2014 and even share our own thoughts on the coming year.

(Listening time: 51 minuters)


#62 James & Per are delightful

In this linkshow James and Per discuss 3 articles they’ve found during their digital travels. We start off by discussing customer experience landmines – things (from the experiences of a non-uxer) that can be hurdles for your customers. In the middle of the show we get delightful and discuss  adding delight to your ux. Finally we peel back the buzz and look at working with touchpoints.

What do you think? Email us at

(Listening time: 40 minutes)



#57 James & Per avoid spinning

Episode 57 of UX Podcast is a link show. James and Per discuss three articles found during their digital travels.

We start off with some satire and discuss a humorous article about top carousels, a conversation that evolves into a reflective discussion about culture and native languages. The middle article focuses on navigation design patterns for responsive sites and apps – specifically the “left navigation fly out”. We finish off with a look at a post by Luke Wroblewski about how you should avoid using a spinner to indicate when something is happening or loading.

(Listening time: 34 minutes)



Per: Hello and welcome to UX Podcast. You’re listening to me Per Axbom.

James: And me James Royal-Lawson.

Per: And we’re sitting in our favourite place at the Clarion Sign Hotel.

James: Our favourite place?

Per: Favourite place in town for recording.

James: You’re right.

Per: I think right now. Yeah.

James: And they actually just tweeted to us.

Per: Yes, it’s fantastic. We say we were going to record here and they tweeted us and said good luck.

James: Yeah. See, some people have got their eyes peeled for customer interaction.

Per: They’re pretty good.

James: And today is going to be …

Per: A link show.

View the full transcript

James: A link show – to dive straight into what we’re going to do today. We haven’t had a link show for a little while because we’ve had Conversion Jam and a few interviews and things. It felt like I want to talk about some of the great content that people produce out there.

Per: We want to hear some of our own voices more as well.

James: Oh, your ego Per. We were just discussing. We got three articles coming for you and it’s a bit of a design pattern thing to these three. We were just trying to decide a little bit on running order – because we do actually plan a little bit before these shows. I was bringing up the fact – the article that we are going to talk about first …

Per: Is now …

James: Yeah, it’s a little bit humorous and Per suggested, it was good idea to finish on a humorous note.

Per: Peak end theory.

James: Yeah.

Per: Yeah.

James: And I said, “Well, maybe it’s good to begin with a humorous one.” Are we trying to keep listeners to the next show or are we trying to keep them to listen to this show? So if we make you all laugh now at the beginning, then maybe you’re more likely to listen to the whole show and if you laugh at the end, you will maybe like listen to us next time.

Per: Right. So if you seriously believe that we’re going to lose or gain listeners based on the running order of our links in this show, then give us a heads up.

James: I like to think that we have some content strategy for this. So the first article.

Per: The first article.


James: Which touches on one of my favourite pet subjects, carousels, banners, sliding banners on the webpages which all of you who listen to the show regularly will know that we’ve talked about a few times and you will probably also know what we think about them, which is not very much. An article – I think you actually brought this one to my attention.

Per: Yeah, because I thought of you straight away when I saw it, of course.

James: It’s excellent. It’s actually a satire piece. It’s humour. It’s written to take the mickey out of carousels and the way in which we end up having carousels on websites.

Per: Right. It’s written by a guy called Stephen Hay from California but he lives in the Netherlands actually and well, he’s one of us dudes or guys and he has a blog called The Haystack and that you will find the post Carousel-Based Web Design and he’s trying to make a case for how excellent carousels are.

James: Yeah.

Per: And calling it a new technique and showing how carousels can be used for really communicating the key messages.

James: And they solve all the world’s problems and …

Per: He even has the acronym CBWD for carousel-based web design. That’s a new technique that we should all employ actually.

James: Exactly. “It’s easy to remember. It can help you please your clients for giving them more opportunity for publishing trivial content in less space. It saves money by eliminating tiresome considerations like content relevance and importance, accessibility, and website performance.”

Per: Oh, and this is pretty good actually. “At the end of the day, users don’t just want to get the information they want. They want an experience. We know this because we present statistics in such a way that they support our opinions on these matters.”

James: It’s an absolutely wonderful satire piece.

Per: Yes, it is.

James: Now, it takes all the points that you know are true about carousels, why they don’t work, what’s the flaws in them and so on and reverses and pushes them out as a serious sounding piece defending carousels. Now, that you kind of realize very quickly when you read this article. I thought …

Per: Yes. But if you’re not a native English speaker, then satire and sarcasm and irony are not a given.

James: Yeah.

Per: So the first comment actually is …

James: Well, actually just back a little bit. I got to the addition because he has actually updated the post. So when you’re reading it …

Per: Oh, yeah, that’s right.

James: When I read it, it was a day or so after it has been released because you tweeted me and he has written, “Just to be on the safe side, this article is sarcasm. I do not advocate using carousels. Read that again. It pains me to have to point out the obvious” and so on and so on.

This was where I was almost crying with laughter. I’ve read the whole article and then at the end of this fantastic satirical piece, he still had to point out that it was a joke and I started to think – I was thinking about kind of Americans maybe not understanding satire as well as maybe British and all this kind of clichés, stereotypes. Then after that, I actually went back much later to read the comments. I think you pointed out again to me, “Read the comments, read the comments.”

Per: The first comment is a really, really long comment outlining why carousels are bad.

James: Considered, carefully written. It’s well-written.

Per: Yes.

James: Rodrigo.

Per: Murillo.

James: Murillo.

Per: Yeah.

James: Yeah.

Per: And he’s right of course but the sad thing is of course that he didn’t understand that Stephen was making …

James: It’s a blog post in its own right, this comment, and it’s good.

Per: It is.

James: And do you want to read Stephen’s reply to Rodrigo?

Per: Oh, yeah. “Hi there, Rodrigo. No, I’m certainly not taking your comment in a bad away. If we ever meet, I will buy you a drink. In fact, unless your sense of humour is dryer than mine, you just spent about 15 minutes typing out why you agree with me. Yours is a valuable comment.” They are in complete agreement but I mean Rodrigo misunderstood the sarcasm.

James: Exactly. For a moment there, they thought they were on opposite sides of the war.

Per: Yeah.

James: Because satire is difficult.

Per: But it also brings up the case. I mean how many people out there actually do think that Stephen has a case for making carousels? It’s something that organizations should use. I think there are people out there.

James: Or rather what kind of experience has Rodrigo had in his life as a web.. digital person or whatever that has made him react so instantly and thoroughly to this? He must have had several situations where what Stephen has written has been true for him.

Per: As we all have actually.

James: Yeah. See now that’s the key to good satire. They’ve taken the situation which is kind of – you’ve taken this to the extreme but at the same time you’ve made it kind of convincing and believable. But not only important points about carousels but also just – I think you were like saying about language and how easy especially now when we have so much skydiving that happens. You get a link. You find a link and you dive into a website. You read the content on a single webpage. You possibly don’t even read the header.

Per: No, exactly.

James: You definitely read the About Me page or about-this-website page. You land on some content.

Per: You have no idea about who the author is.

James: No. You look at the words. You look at the words in the middle of the article and you read it from start to end especially if it’s a well-written, thoughtful piece like this one. Then you feel like you want to respond. It’s only then that you …

Per: And also I mean yeah, actually Rodrigo also replied.

James: Oh, that was actually excellent.

Per: Yeah, and he reread the post of course. He has a good laugh and he was a bit sad that the joke had to be explained and …

James: A bit embarrassed, yeah.

Per: Yeah. “Maybe I’m letting carousels drive me way too mad” and I really feel for him because I feel the same. When you see a post like that, you instantly – it’s like that XKCD cartoon where it says, “Honey, come to bed.” “No, I can’t. Someone on the internet is wrong,” which I completely agree with. I’m always sitting up, trying to correct people’s mistakes when I think that they are like way out of order.

James: But you’re right. You see the carousel and you think this is an organization that doesn’t do the full job. They’re not close to it. They don’t measure. They don’t understand what they’re trying to do. They’re not going forward as they should do. But I think what really warmed me about this is that Rodrigo didn’t delete his comments.

Per: Yes, exactly.

James: He left his embarrassing – well, his well-written, 15-minute epilogue comment. He left it there and I think as a series of four posts, with Stephen’s original post, the first comment, response, and then the humble, “You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m a bit embarrassed. What a great post and thanks for this.” Makes an excellent series of – it’s a story.

Per: Yes, it makes a story.

James: It turns content into a story.

Per: It’s a great piece of history.

James: Yeah.

Per: I should print this out and like put it in a book. Yeah.

James: Yeah. So hopefully we’ve made you laugh with that, with our humorous first article.

Per: Well, at least you should go read the post.

James: You definitely read the post. It’s well worth doing it.

Per: Right. Moving on.


Per: Our buddy Alexander Skogberg on Twitter has written a post. He has actually redesigned his blog recently. I like it. He has also gone for single column.

James: Oh, yeah, there we go.

Per: So the title of his post is Stop Placing the Men Button in the Wrong Corner and the examples he’s using, the screenshots is from the Facebook app, and I believe it’s on the iPhone. Yes, it must be.

James: Yeah, it’s talking about the navigation pattern for apps and responsive websites. It’s often – the hamburger to the top left.

Per: Right. So you all know the hamburger menu, the three lines, pushed together.

James: We talked about it a fair bit in an article at the end of last year, beginning of this year, I think.

Per: Wow.

James: One article with all those 10 design things.

Per: Oh, yeah, right. Yeah, exactly.

James: On Android often it’s three dots vertically positioned rather than hamburger …

Per: Because I don’t like the hamburger menu but that’s me.

James: No.

Per: Why don’t they just say menu? Anyway, you click that and it’s in the left top corner.

James: On the Facebook app …

Per: And that actually brings out a left hand navigation which is sort of the menu for Facebook.

James: Yeah, Facebook itself slides the other way and reveals a menu to the left.

Per: So what he is really criticizing here is that it’s in the top left so it’s hard to reach and also that it moves. So the location of the menu button actually moves when you click it, which is also bad. I agree with him because I feel it’s quite hard to reach in a lot of cases as well. What I thought of instantly was now that sometimes I hold the iPhone in my left hand and then it’s actually not too bad because I’m using my right hand, because I’m right handed, to do other stuff. So, since it’s my second screen off, then I’m eating with my right hand and then using the phone with my left hand. So that actually may be a use case where it would be good to have it on the left side. Also as you pointed out, I think …

James: I’m left handed.

Per: You’re left-handed. Oh, yeah.

James: So instantly reacted in saying it’s not that difficult. Like so many left-handers, I do do a lot of stuff the other way around too because it’s a right-handed world. So as a left-hander, you grow up getting yourself used to right-handed things whether it’s putting – as a kid, I remember putting coins into – putting money into the – when I get on the bus. You throw the money into the little collector to pay for your bus journey.

Per: Oh, yeah.

James: And the way that is meant you had to have your coins in a certain hand or it just didn’t work. It kind of got all out of sequence. But I think for me, yeah, the whole top part is kind of quite difficult. But using two fingers, while using one hand, another hand, quite often works or you can use the thumb and stretch right across.

Per: Exactly.

James: Top left or top right I think I’m – it’s awkward anyway.

Per: Exactly.

James: When we’re talking about the four-inch or three and a half to four-and-a-half-inch, maybe that kind of size of device. We’re talking about the mobiles, smaller mobiles. I say smaller mobiles now. God, listen to me. A couple of years ago, we wouldn’t have even dreamt to say that a four-and-a-half-inch was a smaller device. Then I think what we’re talking about there with the top area being difficult to reach is true.

Per: Right.

James: And I was at Luke – actually Alexander references Luke Wroblewski in the article and I was at his workshop at UX Lx.

Per: Oh, yeah.

James: Where we discussed this with zones that were easy and hard and OK. And it’s complicated.

Per: It is.

James: It’s not actually a black and white solution to this mainly because of the fact that the screen – a certain pattern solution is valid for a certain range of devices, size of devices.

Per: And for certain use cases as well.

James: And for certain use cases and left-handedness or right-handedness.

Per: Because when I’m watching a movie on my iPad when I’m lying down on the couch, the iPad is rested on my tummy which makes it hard to reach the buttons in the bottom for some reason. I don’t know.

That’s the use case where actually if you have a movie app, don’t put the buttons at the bottom. Put them at the top because that’s where my fingers are.

James: Well then, if you’ve got a phablet or you’ve got one of these five, six-inch devices, then suddenly you can’t use that top area with one hand. You’ve got to use two hands.

Per: Right.

James: So again, different parts of the screen become easier and hard depending on what size you’re at. It’s different for the phablets which are different to the desktop which are different to mobile.

Per: Right.

James: But what’s Alexander’s solution? What does he suggest?

Per: Well, he suggested the top right.

James:You see, I don’t buy it.

Per: Yeah, exactly. I realized that after I actually posted that link to that site. He suggested the top right and the interesting thing about this is that Apple has redesigned the app for iOS 7 and they put that …

James: Facebook.

Per: Yeah, sorry, the Facebook have redesigned it for Apple iOS 7 and then actually put the button in the – down in the right hand corner, which is actually what we’re saying is – would probably be the best place for it if that’s the button that you’re using the most.

James:They’ve read Luke’s post and presentation.

Per: Yeah.

James: And interestingly, Android, that’s where they used to have the buttons a couple of years ago like Gingerbread. My first Android phone, it actually had a hardware button but the menu button was at the bottom right or maybe middle depending on whether you had HTC or some other one.

But bottom was where you got your menu and iPhone became so popular and really kind of picked up and everyone started standardizing their apps across platforms, so iPhone, Android. The apps converged in their design patterns and we saw the advent of the hamburger or the three dots to indicate a menu and often to the top left or top right, especially top left. So it’s fascinating now that – well, we’re starting to see that the easy zone for one finger or thumb navigation is at the bottom of the screen for the smaller devices.

Per: Right.

James: So I don’t agree with Alexander. I think top right isn’t much better than top left. I agree with his point maybe that sliding out is not necessarily a good idea and that dropping down so that your screen, your original state remains visible. I think maybe keeps a better context maybe.

Per: Right. Sliding out I found recently is a pain especially on the iPad. I use the Gmail app on the iPad and sometimes I slide out the menu. But I still see all my emails and when I click the email, nothing happens and I’m wondering – it’s behind but I’m not realizing it’s behind.

James: Yeah, yeah. It sounds …

Per: Yeah, exactly, yeah.

James: I think another thing I don’t actually – and I’m shooting from the hip but animations are GPU-heavy. So by having a sliding action, you’re using more graphical power whereas if you’re just overlaying or dropping or some kind of partial animation, maybe that’s easier on your processor or battery or whatever.

Per: I have no idea.

James: I’m shooting from the hip with this one.

Per: It’s interesting. I mean you need to at least research that.

James: Yeah.

Per: So that’s a good point.

James: The reason why I thought of that is in my head now when I’m thinking of these fly-out menus and swiping and so on, I mean there are times when things lag or they – you get a slower – you click on a menu and it doesn’t come out at the speed you expect because something else is going on with the telephone as well. So it kind of drags its way slowly across the screen.

Per: Right.

James: Because the effort of moving all that content, rolling it across the screen, takes a bit of power.

Per: It does.

James: In some devices.

Per: In some devices, exactly.

James: Little stars everywhere in this.

Per: In some slow devices.

James: Sorry. Have you upgraded an iPhone 4 to iOS 7?

Per: I wouldn’t want to do that.

James: Oh, my wife did it.

Per: Oh, OK.

James: Yeah. She’s not happy.

Per: OK.

James: Yeah, sorry. That’s an aside. So well, conclusion from this one. I think it’s a good article and good point.

Per: Yes.

James: Good that someone is raising these things all the time. We got to keep testing. We got to understand and learn.

Per: We need to be talking about it. We need to realize that there are places that are better than others and it’s not black and white. I mean you can’t decide for every app that it’s always top right or something like that but you need to really think about what’s the most important buttons you have on the screen. How are people using it? Are they like me having breakfast, even though they’re right-handed, having the sandwich in the right hand and the phone in the left hand and stuff like that?

James: And this is crucial as well for responsive that your responsive design, you may set visual breakpoints based on the content. I want the site – this one looks better here. Let’s put it there.

Per: Right.

James: But you’ve got to remember about size of devices and sometimes, resolution doesn’t equal size of device.

Per: Exactly.

James: Because as we know, a lot of devices, when you use the standard responsive of doing width 100 percent, so you force the browser to zoom the content to device width which is not pixel width. You might have a five-inch device but you’re showing a 360 or 400 and something pixel wide, point wide website in the viewport.

Per: Right.

James: Maybe a different navigation would work. So it’s complicated.

Per: I’m actually designing a website right now which is responsive and when it gets down to phone sizes, it actually puts the menu in the bottom. Then I’m testing that in November so remind me to get …

James: What are you basing it on? Viewport or you’re basing it on something else?

Per: I’m basing it on viewport.

James: We should test and have a look and see whether that gets a range of devices and see how that behaves on some of the phablets, some of the other things, a range of things and see whether the way which …

Per: Exactly.

James: … it spreads itself to the fit still makes it feel like it’s the right navigation pattern.

Per: That makes it really hard because like I said, I’m testing it in November. But I mean how many devices can you really test with users? It’s impossible.

James: Yeah, yeah.

Per: You need to make a lot of assumptions and you need to test them.

James: Oh, I think I talked about a little while ago in a show. You’ve got to set up a way of working and a way to go forward where it’s not a delivery and finish. You’re going to have – with responsive now and the multitude of devices, you’ve got to keep on analyzing, keep on testing, be prepared to tweak and change and maybe add breakpoints or change breakpoints over time as you learn more about your site usage or the site usage changes.

There are devices released now which weren’t here a year ago. So if you’ve got a year – there are such things as year-long web projects. If you’ve been in it for a year, when you started your project, it’s not the same as it is now.

Per: Exactly, yeah.

James: Someone has pulled the rug from under you.

Per: Yeah, you need to be changing it all the time. You need to make it as flexible as possible and you need to make your team working on this stuff as flexible as possible.

James: You got to be open to iteration and budget for iteration. Shall we move on?

Per: I have so much stuff I’m thinking about talking about now. I have no time.

James: I think we probably should move on.

Per: We move on.


Per: OK. We’ve talked about him a bit today earlier.

James: Yeah, Luke again. Well, not Luke again but he’s coming up again.

Per: Luke referenced again.

James: Yeah. But this time, it’s actually his.

Per: Luke Wroblewski on his blog He’s talking about spinners and what …

James: What are they?

Per: What are they? I think they have lots of different names

James: Yeah, I think they do.

Per: And I forgot the most common name now of course. You can …

James: Well, loading indicator is one of them.

Per: Right, yeah. And if you search for loading indicator in Google, you will find out all the other names as well.

James: Probably. It’s just a visual indication that something is supposed to be happening.

Per: For some reason, this sort of flower thing, the circular thing – well, sort of almost like a sun, seems to be the most often used one.

James: I mean we used – well, a little while ago, before – I think before mobile really kicked off, it used to be the hour glass which used to turn – sometimes I think the percentage. It used to turn upside down.

Per: Yeah. Wasn’t that Flash or …

James: Flash or Mac or something that was kind of an hourglass that rotated and counted up and then rotated. Well, that was desktop.

Per: Exactly, yeah.

James: Yeah. I think Windows had just an hourglass. But now there’s some kind of spinning flower petal thing. It has been very common and I think Android now, it’s a round ring where it kind of phases aaround. It kind of something – or the petal going around. It’s like – it’s doing travels around this ring.

Per: Oh.

James: But it’s the same concept. It’s a circle with something altering around it. What Luke is saying here is basically avoid the spinner. Loading indicator, something telling you that something is happening, is a bad thing.

Per: Exactly, and the reason for that is because everyone is using it.

James: Yeah.

Per: So you were seeing the same pattern that – you’re seeing the same type of loading GIF indicator, circular thing moving. One is thinking, if you have the experience that OK, when I see that, something usually takes a long time to load. If someone else uses it, even though it doesn’t take a long time to load, they’re going to think it does.

James: Exactly. This is lovely psychological behaviour. We’ve now associated that symbol with slowness. So what Luke is saying here is irrespective of how fast your website is, if the spinner comes up, people perceive …

Per: Your brain says “slow”.

James: Yeah, there’s something in your head that goes, “Oh, slow.”

Per: Yeah.

James: Which is fascinating that we’ve already built up that kind of association. Between this design pattern and that psychological response.

Per: Yeah.

James: And the thing there is that yeah, you’ve got to make your app either so fast that you really don’t need to worry about the spinners. But given variance in mobile bandwidth and other kinds of things and I suppose there’s always a risk that you’ve accidentally ended up on a GPRS network or …

Per: And you have a blank page which you never want.

James: Or you’re going through a tunnel and your page does take a long time to load or something. Then you’ve got to indicate something.

Per: Right.

James: But I mean thinking about my own responses to spinners, one thing I noticed – and this is me as more kind of geek level I guess, is the amount of times when there are animated GIFs and have absolutely zero connection with what’s actually happening.

Per: Oh, yeah, true.

James: So I kind of just get frustrated by the fact that they’re not even trying to communicate something decent to me. Someone is pushing out – they’re printing a GIF, the animated icon to the page. Then going off and doing something and forgetting to come back and maybe getting rid of it or tell me that well, actually, what we want to do, we can’t do.

Per: Exactly.

James: Instead of just leaving me the spinning GIF there and letting me realize that actually my connections died and I need to stop the app or restart it.

Per: It’s a really important distinction that it’s not a progress indicator. It’s just an animation.

James: In some cases, it’s – likely it’s an animation rather than a progress indicator.

Per: Usually it is nowadays.

James: But I think it feels like if you do have a situation where you need to indicate progress, then I think it’s pretty important that you do actually indicate progress.

Per: I would think so, yeah.

James: Rather than do the cheap kind of con, of just here’s an icon. We will get rid of that when we’re already.

Per: Well, especially when it does take a longer time perhaps than 15 seconds. Then you would want a progress indicator.

James: Yeah. What did Luke recommend?

Per: I haven’t read it all.

James: You haven’t read it all! We’re talking about it. I’ve read it and I know. I will save you on this one Per. He talks about skeletons screens as one way.

I think this is one that he mentions but the skeleton is one of the way he says to do it where rather than have a loader, you would leave I suppose – I mean you would recognize it as almost like wireframe-like. You leave maybe a grey box where a picture should be and while that image is lazy loading or is kind of catching up, you leave a grey box there and then just put the image in when it’s ready.

This is good for page – efficiency for page performance point view as well because you’ve designated a space for the image using height and width and so on, which means the browser is enough to do a redraw.

Per: Right. If you’re doing it correctly, then yes.

James: Yes. So not only is this a good way of avoiding a spinner and getting the page ready and out there and ready to interact with. It’s performance-wise good as well.

Per: Exactly. He’s actually talking about the app he’s involved with, Polar, one of his own apps.

James: Yeah, his own products.

Per: Yeah, and he has the example. But what you said about the previous article was that animation takes a long time and it puts a load on the CPU as well and this is actually an example of where you’re using animation to indicate progress. But hopefully in a good way, the way you described it just now that you’re actually creating a placeholder for the content that’s just about to appear.

James: Yeah, I think that’s a good way of doing it because I don’t think you’re creating an overhead there. I think you’re making good use of the natural – the sequence of events that happen when the page is loading. Now using the skeleton concept is a good way of implementing that.

Per: Right. I actually did have this exact challenge recently in my project which is why I love that you actually picked this article and I thought of the normal, usually the Ajaxload GIF thing that people always have and I thought that well, people are going to think that we’re going to wait a while now and usually that’s not the case.

But sometimes I also know that time is perceived differently based on different stuff. So you can actually – if you make it fun to wait, then hopefully people won’t perceive it as taking a long time.

If you don’t use that animation but using animation like a flower growing or a dog eating food or something like that, then that’s more fun to watch than the spinner and then you would actually have something that perhaps people would accept that yeah, every time something takes a bit longer than usual, I will see that fun stuff and you could actually have different things as well.

James: I just sort of now have an example. Don’t lose your thought but I just remembered a funny example which my kids love as well. On the Wii, the original Wii, if you’re installing an app from the app store, there’s kind of a Mario sequence that comes up, it’s like 90s old school graphics. Mario runs across and he runs across the screen and he comes – he loops around. It’s a platform game. He jumps up and hits a box and he opens up and leaves the coin and it kind of goes ding-ding-ding.

Per: Right.

James: He collects the coins. So it’s just a fun little animation, real simple graphics. But my kids love it. If I ever install an app, they come running in and going, “Oh yeah! What’s Mario doing? What’s Mario doing?”

Per: That’s beautiful. Just as well as we’re talking about micro copy, this is a type of micro interaction where you have the possibility of making something more fun. It’s like an error message. You have the possibility of making something more fun.

I think in our conclusion there is don’t rely on what other people are doing because that can backfire if people actually experience that something is taking longer than usual even though it isn’t. Try and tie it in with your brand, something that makes it more fun, and then people will actually enjoy waiting for a bit.

James: I think the spinner is a good example of a design pattern that’s cheap and easy. You can just throw it out there without any thought whatsoever whereas the underlying issue is actually a bit more complex. Thinking as well about – I’ve got a few apps that I use where they use a spinner but when I’m on a 4G connection or a really good connection, it’s so fast, that you end up with this kind of flickering, it flickers. Was that a spinner? It just kind of – it’s like a subliminal advertising. I have this vague memory that there might have been a spinner there. It actually just disrupts. It’s a loose cannonball. It kind of shimmers because the …

Per: Subliminal messaging, yeah.

James: You’ve got to understand what’s happening and there’s going to be metrics and there will be – you learn, OK, this is a point where we know – because we’ve tested. We’ve measured. It’s probably going to take us not 0.6 seconds for this to happen. Generally. Then you can take the decision about what kind of indication or example that you’re going to use to fill that gap where it’s skeleton lazy loading and so on or where it’s a spinner or an animation or whatever you think of. But if you find good research that generally no, it’s so instant, maybe you don’t need to worry.

Per: True. Actually, when I redesigned my form contact form on my website three years back or something, I had a loading indicated because the form is Ajax-submitted and I realized just as you’re saying, it was too fast. It didn’t have time to load the indicator. So what I did was I actually put in a pause. So it never was faster than two seconds because that gave it time to actually see something is going on and it’s finished, done.

James: Exactly.

Per: Yeah.

James: Yeah, you’ve got time to take in the sequence.

Per: So you actually delay it on purpose for the sequential items that are happening which actually makes sense in your head.

James: Yeah. Right, that could be a sensible thing. As long as you keep it within the magical 0.1 seconds or whatever for response, then that maybe is a sensible thing to even your interactions out, if you’re lucky enough to have everything so fast. Maybe you spread things out a bit, to give people time to visually absorb what’s going on.

Per: It’s like having white space.

James: Yeah.

Per: It’s having white time.

James: Yeah, white time. Oh, I like that.

Per: Yeah.

James: That’s good.

Per: Oh, wow.

James: I’m done.

Per: I am too actually. I’m off to a meeting.

James: It’s Friday afternoon and Per has a meeting.

Per: Oh, yes.

James: It’s one of those really cruel things that people schedule meetings for quarter past three on a Friday afternoon.

Per: Yeah, it’s crazy.

James: They love you.

Per: They do. They just want to meet me. OK. As always, remember to …

James: As always, you mess it up. We used to be good at saying these endings.

Per: I know.

James: What happened?

Per: Why is this so hard? I need to get a new tagline.

James: No, don’t start doing that on me because you won’t remember to say the new one.

Per: That’s right. Remember to keep moving.

James: And see you on the other side.

Hide the transcript

#54 James & Per become unicorns

A Link show. James and Per discuss three articles found during their digital travels.

We begin by talking about Deception and when does persuasive design become evil? Ethnographical research gets a run-through – too achedemic, or value for money? Finally we tackle the question: should designers code? Do we become pegasuses or unicorns?

(Listening time: 38 minutes)



Per: Hello and welcome to episode 54 of UX Podcast. You’re listening to me, Per Axbom.

James: And me James Royal-Lawson.

Per: And you will notice I did not scream hello.

James: No, you didn’t. We practiced before the show.

Per: Yeah. Well, I was thinking about it real hard now.

James:  You were.

Per: It is really difficult not to say hello loud because I’m so excited every time we record something.

James: Yeah, we’re so happy to be here.

Per: Lovely day in Stockholm. It’s a bit colder now going into August and I haven’t slept really well actually so I’m really tired this morning. I hope you will do most of the talking James.

James: As long as you’re not grumpy.

Per: I’m never grumpy.

James: Never grumpy?

Per: No.

James: No.

Per: I may slur and not talk very coherently but never, never, ever grumpy.

James: As far as kind of like building up buy-in for this episode, you’re doing a fantastic job there Per.

Per: Really? Aren’t I? What are we talking about today James?

James: Oh, well. Today is a link show.

View the full transcript

Per: Yes, finally! We haven’t done one in a while.

James: We haven’t done for a while. No, we’ve been quite wound up about certain topics. We’ve had a few topic shows and a few interviews including Brad Frost who’s in Sweden at the moment.

Per: Oh, yeah.

James: At this very moment. Not here with us. Unfortunately

Per: Right. He’s in Malmö.

James: Now, he is. Yeah. Also we’ve decided to throw together a link show. So we’ve got three links, articles to talk about today that we’ve found during our digital travels.

Per: Right.

James: As they are normally right?

Per: And we don’t agree with any of them apparently.

James: It would appear from our little chat this morning that we don’t agree.

Per: We are really hard to please.

James: Today we seem to be. See, see grumpy old men who haven’t slept. There we go. So which one is first?

Per: Let’s start off with deception.


James: This is How Deceptive Is Your Persuasive Design.

Per: Yeah, it’s an article by Chris Nodder on the UX Magazine and you know how we design stuff and we have gotten into the habit of realizing that we need to use all these psychological tactics and techniques for persuading people and we’ve in recent episodes talked about social proof and scarcity and all these different things.

James: And behavioural psychology.

Per: Yeah, peak-end theory and sometimes we get into the, well, insight that perhaps we’re not just persuading people. We’re also deceiving them and this is more notably in the field of ecommerce which neither you nor I really work with a lot James. But if you’re in ecommerce and you’re trying to get people to buy stuff then you want to get people to buy as much stuff as possible because you used all these techniques and I think …

James: There’s a business drive there that the business themselves want to convert everybody into customers.

Per: Right.

James: By and large.

Per: And I think the hotel business is really good at this., I mean you can find so many examples right there. There are not many rooms left. You have a special price offer that runs out in 10 minutes, stuff like that. So you really have to act now and buy or you lose a lot of the chance of making good deals. What they want you to feel. And Chris Nodder has some examples in his article as well. He starts off the Amazon example, where what’s actually an old bookstore technique that has been used pre-internet of course is having as few books in stock as possible of new releases so that they’re sold out really fast.

James: Yeah.

Per: So the example is that Amazon usually has something that says perhaps only nine left in stock which sort of gets …

James: Only one left in stock.

Per: Yeah, maybe, and it supposedly gives you an incentive to buy now because maybe you will not be able to buy one if you come back tomorrow to buy it.

James: Yeah, it’s the principle of scarcity there, that you think that something is scarce and that you need to get it now. Before it vanished.  He mentioned this as the Tom Sawyer effect.

Per: Right.

James: Which is from Mark Twain’s book where Tom Sawyer, as a punishment, he has to paint and polish the fence, to whitewash it and as a punishment – He thinks it’s a punishment. He thinks it’s a really dull job and he convinces – manages to convince his friends into thinking that painting the fence is a privilege. It’s something that is an honour and a privilege to do it and they weren’t all allowed to and that’s going to make some of it kind of jealous and make some – well, I really want to do that because we’re not allowed to do it. So he ends up charging them for the privilege of painting the fence because it is a privilege and they believe that. So he has deceived them and made some money from it.

Per: Right. And here’s where it really gets interesting. Is it wrong to deceive people in that way if they are happy, if they are happy doing it? Because that’s really interesting, what you’re saying if the people that he persuaded are still happy about paying to do – to paint the fence, then perhaps the deception was OK as long as …

James: As long as it lasts.

Per: As long as it lasts. They don’t find out about it later.

James: Exactly. Once they’re happy and they think that it bought an experience they have and they’re pleased with that …

Per: Right.

James: … the only time it comes to an end is when they found out the magic behind the deception. They did realize that it’s a punishment. This was actually not fun at all.

Per: Exactly. Which is really strange to have an experience where you’re thinking it’s fun and then to find out another detail later on and realize that, oh, that wasn’t fun. Even though you had the experience of fun, that’s – I haven’t thought about that a lot actually. But how can I change your perception of something that happened earlier that you really enjoyed?

James: Could we say that – well, you’re trying to buy airline tickets and you’re searching and you’re finding various prices and you think, “Should I go? Shouldn’t I?” and then you search again. Even though the prices have gone up a little bit and you say, “Oh, I will do it. I will buy it now before it goes up any further.” Buy your tickets. Yes, we’re going on that weekend to Paris now or whatever and then the next day, you read an article that explains that flight prices often go up when you search, if you don’t delete your cookies because they know you’re researching and artificially inflate the prices to panic you into buying it. Suddenly you get a bitter taste in your mouth and you think, “Oh, I’ve been cheated.”

Per: Exactly.

James: So you go from euphoria, the moment of purchase and then you’ve done a good deal, to crashing down when you’ve had the magic trick revealed.

Per: That’s an excellent example and this is where I start having trouble with Chris’ article as well is when he starts seeing that it’s OK to deceive people if it’s in their best interests.

James: That’s right.

Per: How could you possibly know? You need to have so much information about the needs and habits and desires of the person you’re selling to, that you have to be really, really certain that it is in their best interest that they buy this product from you or read whatever information or download or subscribe or whatever it is you’re trying to persuade them to do. But how can you really be sure that that’s in their best interest?  It’s a misnomer to me, you can’t really do that.

James: Now we’re still talking about the commerce, the transactional side of persuasion. You’ve got the service side of persuasion. When you provide information rather than – or even healthcare stuff, that side of things. Why does persuasion or deception in that side of the scale is hard to be relevant and good? Can you deceive people into making the right choice as opposed to the right purchase? See what I mean?

Per: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean and I think it’s Dan Ariely that has the example of people signing up for donor cards, donating their organs after their death.

James: Yeah.

Per: And that’s really different in different countries.

James: In some countries it’s default isn’t it?

Per: Yeah, and the reason is – yeah, what’s default on the form. If the default is that you actually donate, then it’s going to be higher. So you’re actually deceiving people to donate their organs which you would perhaps think that’s for a good cause. But in the end, are people aware of what they’re actually doing? If people aren’t aware, I mean how stupid can people be? Apparently, they are pretty stupid. We all are. I’m not saying the user is stupid but I’m saying we’re all ready to be deceived really.

James: I think that’s a good point. Most of our designs are trying to persuade people to do something and it makes me remember now Jesper Åström who we talked to in episode 39. A really clever guy  and we had a really good chat to him.

Per: Yes.

James: He said the other day that he actually feared for the free thinking of mankind because of how easy it is to manipulate people online.

Per: Right.

James: You can just change the font on a website and conversion rate goes up or you can make a tweak here and there and suddenly people are starting – I would say there’s only one book left and people buy it. Maybe just kind of worried about how little people think for themselves because of the various persuasion techniques we can use and do use to succeed online.

Per: That is really interesting. I mean then we can go back and talk about what is the school’s responsibility in all this. How do we teach people to interpret information online, to be wary of what they’re reading and when to buy stuff and how to interpret stuff online and I think that’s something that is – we’re on the breaking point of everything that’s happening online …

James: Social media and we had a case in the UK of social media bullying of a young girl who took her own life allegedly because of online bullying.

Per: We’ve had cases like that in Sweden.

James: Exactly, our court case in Gothenburg. Yeah, it’s a complex world and reading, judging – making an assessment of what you’re dealing with online, whether it’s a purchase and whether it’s social is a skill that – yeah, it needs to be developed…

Per: So it is pretty scary. So basically I think it comes back to what is the intention of the organization who owns the website. If their intention is to deceive you, then they’re doing it wrong. If their intention is they really, really believe that they have something good, then you can perhaps start to question. Is it OK for them to use all these techniques to actually think that you needed more or faster or now perhaps than you would otherwise?

James: We chatted briefly about this before the show. Deception and persuasion. Deception by definition is evil.

Per: Yeah, it is. Yeah.

James: If you’re deceiving someone, you’re hiding the truth whereas persuading is actually just arguing. Having an argument as such. I think the discussions are using techniques to kind of make people understand the benefits and understand that this is a worthwhile thing than trick them.

Per: Yeah.

James: So I think yeah, your persuasive design shouldn’t be deceptive because in the long run, that’s going to hurt you.

Per: But where do you draw the line of deceptive? When you change the wording of a button from “click here” to “buy now” and you realize that you get more leads or more buys with one text or with the other. Is one more deceptive than the other?

James: In that example… I wouldn’t probably class that as deception. Whereas the aeroplane,  the ticket, artificial inflation in terms of how many visits you’ve made or searches you’ve made, that’s deception.

Per: But there is stuff I work with everyday. I mean even copywriting. I know if I write something in a certain way or use storytelling, the more people are going to start listening and they will have more of a chance of actually persuading them to do what I want them to do.

James: Isn’t that good communication?

Per: It is good communication or it’s like people selling hair medicine like in the old West.

James: That’s snake oil. That’s different. That’s deception because it didn’t work.

Per: Hmm. True. But am I sure that what I’m selling is going to work for the person I’m selling it to?

James: Sure, if you’re open about the fact this is not for everyone. Oh, you’re right. It’s marketing in numbers.

Per: This is really hard.

James: It’s ageing cream on your – you know, 90 percent of women said this made their skin less wrinkly.

Per: I’m feeling really philosophical now. But he does I think – you should check out this article and also read some of the comments. I think they’re saying a bit of the stuff that we’re saying as well and he does have a diagram in there that we both actually like.

James: Yeah.

Per: I mean there are – of course there are shades of gray. It’s not black and white and I think that’s very apparent.

James: Yeah.

Per: So I mean if you have another take on this, I would love to hear it because I think this is a really interesting thing to dive into, deception or persuasion or something in between.

James: Design ethics. Time to move on.

Per: It is.


Per: Let’s move on to another UX Magazine article actually written by Jessica Weber and John Cheng. It’s called Making the Most of Ethnographic Research.

James: Yeah. So let’s start off with what’s ethnographic research Per?

Per: Ethnographic research is akin to GOOB, one of my favourite …

James: GOOB!

Per: GOOB.

James: You know, now you have to explain two things.

Per: I know, but that’s easier to explain. GOOB means “get out of the building” and ethnographic research means “go visit the gorillas”.

James: I like it.

Per: It means just go out and observe and draw conclusions from what you’re seeing and of course you don’t just go out …

James: I mean seeing people and communicating with groups of people and interaction.

Per: Right, ethnographic research can be done in so many different ways for so many different purposes. I mean you could be – to find a new market area but also to find out more about the type of target group that you’re actually selling to already. I think many people have heard about going to skate parks and researching the kids, observing the kids and understanding their lingo and what they’re talking about and that using what they say and their habits and their needs and desires and pleasures that they’re actually – well, I don’t know, communicating in the sense that they’re talking to each other and you as an observer can kind of draw conclusions from that and make better products for them and that’s the essence.

You’re trying to make something new, trying to make something better and you go out and observe people, to learn more about them and find out how could I – I don’t know – satisfy their needs in a different way and that sounds also – get ahead on my competition.

James: Well, in the article here it says “ethnographic research is all about discovery of the unknown, disproving assumptions about user behaviour and uncovering unexpected insights”. Now I reacted a little bit to that line because that meant – it sounded to me – it made it sound bad that ethnographic research might prove an assumption correct about user behaviour or might actually fail to uncover something new. And that’s not what it’s all about to me. It’s not just about the discovery of unknown or disproving if the assumptions are uncovering expected stuff. You can confirm things with this as well.

Per: Absolutely. For me, ethnographic research is about sitting down with people and in their natural environment. I mean that’s why I said go and visit the gorillas. It’s in their natural habitat and where they’re doing stuff and talk to them, observe them, get to know them and they won’t feel so self-aware about – like in a traditional usability study, people are very self-aware of their being evaluated or something is being evaluated and I had to give the right answers and stuff like that.

James: I thinking about the fruit now..

Per: Right, and you need to get to know people for them to actually feel confident enough to actually tell you what they really are doing or saying or acting like and what they’re using. I’ve actually done one of these studies like in a bank. I don’t know how much I can say right now but it’s a bank.

James: Don’t say.

Per: It’s a bank.

So I was sitting in a branch office with the other people and I was really – we were making a new intranet design and I sat down there with them for a full day. I was actually watching them take care of customers. People are walking in and I had just a note on my table saying that I wasn’t giving service that day so everybody just thought that I was an employee. I mean and they got really confident with me sitting there. I mean after a client walked out, I could bring up my table or my chair to their table and have a chat about how that went and maybe they told me something about – yeah, maybe I should have told them something about this other service we’re offering but I didn’t know where to find it on the intranet. So I didn’t sell them that.

That gave me a really great insight about how the intranet is supposed to help people sell but it wasn’t and the bank was losing a lot of business due to this. So that was getting the insights thanks to actually being out there for a day in their habitat and not just calling them up on the phone and interviewing them and I wouldn’t have found that out at all.

James: That sounds good because it was a day. It was quite a reasonable thing. It was insights. It was nicely packaged then. Both me and you, we believe in this kind of talk to the user and get out there. I mean we mentioned how many times during the couple of years of the show but this article got me a bit irritated about the fact that it was very, very academic and made me react against ethnographical research. I was like yeah, it may be challenging to get organizational buy-in to pursue ethnographic research because of its long time horizon for results, its cost and the perception that it may not deliver efficient results. I mean it’s impossible.

Per: They’re making a case against ethnographic research.

James: No one is going to buy that. I mean that’s just saying it’s kind of – it’s only kind of – the only right way of doing it is full year-long massive studies, academic studies where we truly get inside the head of the user and so on. I mean you can get a lot more action on that a lot quicker and a lot …

Per: You can.

James: You say if you spend the day and sat down there observing and you can get an awful lot of input.

Per: You can sit in a café or a hotel lobby and just observe people and draw conclusions from that.

James: I mean that …

Per: Yeah, they’re making it a lot more academic than it has to be. They’re putting up rules for how it has to be done and I don’t really agree with that and they’re making it seem a lot more complicated than it should be.

James: And making it sound like it’s only for large organizations.

Per: Right.

James: Who don’t care about return on investment. Oh, but unless you’re a start-up. I reckon a lot of time, you’re going to be better off testing or tweaking, iterating as far as return on investment goes than doing some of these lovely, deep, honest studies that potentially show that the company’s product is utterly useless.

Per: Yeah, I completely agree.

James: No one wants to buy that. No one wants to buy a survey that’s going to tell them that their entire product is useless, I guess.

Per: I think when we were in Portugal, I got the question, “How do we get started getting buy-in from managers on why UX is important?” and my most common answer to that question is get out. Talk to people. Make a video and show it to managers and that’s something that really dates back to our favourite session at UX Lx ever I think with gorilla research …

James: Oh, that was one of my favourites, yeah.

Per: With Russ Unger.

James: Yeah.

Per: And we actually did go out and just interview people and get videos and …

James: I can link to the film.

Per: Yeah, and just that, I mean that took half an hour and that’s one form of ethnographic research as well.

James: In a couple of shows ago when we talked about intranets, after Intranätverk, there we brought up the example of IKEA redoing the intranet. They went out and interviewed. They filmed employees from various different points of the world, asking what they wanted from a future intranet and they just got to speak for a minute and talking about what they wanted.

Per: Right.

James: Some of these things are not pure ethnographic research but I don’t think you need it a lot of the time.

Per: For me, there’s no pure anything.

James: No.

Per: They’re just different schools.

James: Yeah.

Per: And I mean if they’re going to make the case that this could be expensive and maybe not give results that you want, I mean that’s – you’re doing it wrong. You need to get results fast and the more results you get fast, the more buy-in you will get to make the longer studies. So starting out quick and dirty will give you management buy-in to do the better studies.

James: If you’ve got goals or you know what you’re trying to achieve with whatever digital product you’re working with and you can measure them, then whatever you’re doing, whatever you’ve got to do whether it’s research or tweets or whatever, if it brings you close to those goals or shows a rise in conversion of whatever you’re doing, then you’re doing it right.

Per: Yes.

James: Maybe not as right as something else but you’re obviously doing something more right than you were doing.

Per: I think we’re in complete agreement there.

James: Yeah.

Per: Moving on, I think.


Per: This is one you found I think. I love the title.

James: I found a response to this article first and then I went back and read this one which is interesting. But I thought we will use this one as the talking point.

Per: So the title is Unicorn, Shmunicorn – Be a Pegasus.

James: So we’re all clear on exactly what this is all about.

Per: Oh yeah, and it’s the blog of Wayne Greenwood, MC UX. Dropping Soft Science is its tagline. OK.

James: This is basically about – oh, should designers code?

Per: Right.

James: It’s a topic we’ve touched upon a few times before I think.

Per: I think so and mostly because both you and I James I think like code.

James: We do, although these days I wouldn’t say we’re coders.

Per: We’re not coders but we see the benefits of understanding code to achieve the goals that we want to achieve. If we don’t understand the code, there are some, I don’t know, some aspects of UX design or decisions that we’re not able to make unless we actually get into the nitty-gritty of what’s the best – I mean UX for me is balancing the technology, the business and the users. If you don’t understand …

James: It doesn’t even our little intro say that?

Per: Yeah, exactly, right. It does. If we don’t understand the technology, then we won’t be able to have the right tools to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish.

James: I think to back up a little bit to what the article is saying here, when saying that he doesn’t – he’s basically saying that unicorns are this mash-up between designers and coders, the one that can do both. So I suppose it’s one body that encompasses both scales and he thinks this is a step back in time to like the 80s and 90s where everyone was coders who were basically producing – doing the full job, producing the software and designing it as a consequence of the fact that they were coding it and shifting by making this combined – these unicorns, shifting your attention away from the user and back towards the technology. Which he says got us into the mess we’re in, in the first place.

Per: Right.

James: But I don’t agree with what – obviously what we’ve already said though. We don’t really agree with him. I don’t think we’re getting back into the same mess. I think it’s more that we were – we know how quickly and how much the whole branch has been evolving. I mean it’s so quick how we’re going forward and learning things. I think we were ignorant in the 90s. I don’t think it was – it wasn’t that we deliberately got ourselves in that mess. We were – the people doing software, when I was programming in the 90s, user experience, improving user experience was about fixing bugs.

Per: Yeah.

James: Yeah, because my boss was the one who decided what products we were making and he talked to them. He did some research by talking to his customers and things and found out what they wanted but for me, my view point is a programmer who effectively designed as well. If I improved it for the user, if I made it faster, if I made it less buggy.

Per: You had the requirement specifications and if it didn’t meet those requirements, it wasn’t useful.

James: Yeah, I don’t think we were going to get ourselves into a mess. That was what we – we did back then. We have moved on.

Per: But also I mean I was working with usability quite early on but even then usability at least when you were working in the online world, it was about where to place a button, something like that, getting closer to what we today term user experience…

James: Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the certain things. I mean HCI, human computer interaction, I mean you could study that.

Per: Right.

James: It was courses at university but it wasn’t really applied in the same – people doing the programming were maybe too young back then to have gone through those courses.

Per: And people weren’t asking for it.

James: I know. They’re were not interested. I wouldn’t think I would have a hell’s chance of being able to do something like that even if I’ve come out of university and gone into it. There wasn’t the understanding there. So we’ve moved on. We’re mature and I think as much as you can – you can focus most of your like on the user. You should, but you can’t get away from the technology.

Per: Right.

James: In the branch we’re dealing in, we’ve always – at the end of it, you’re always going to come back to technology. You can’t not. It’s fundamental.

Per: It’s what it’s based on.

James: Yeah.

Per: Yeah.

James: So by ignoring the code side of things, by ignoring how it’s implemented as a designer, you’re creating a silo for yourself and you’re distancing yourself from the end result.

Per: Right.

James: And there are situations where maybe that is fine. Innovation, conceptualization.

Per: Yeah. I mean there are times when you should actually stop thinking about the limitations and go wild, go crazy and think about what we really want to accomplish. What would be the dream scenario?

James: Yeah.

Per: But then after that, you always have to back up and say, “OK, so what can we do now?”

James: There’s a thud. We have to come back down to earth because we have to produce something.

Per: Right.

James: And …

Per: We have to accomplish something.

James: Yeah. And then you can’t ignore the technology because we’re going into it with the whole white elephant projects. You get into situations where you get to the point of implementation and someone goes, “You got to be kidding. You can’t do that.” For me it’s all about like how can you – it’s a bit like if you were a car designer, but refused to accept that wheels are round, so you end up designing a car with square wheels.

Per: Yeah.

James: I mean come on. You’re going to be thrown back straight. When it comes to the guys who are going to actually manufacture it, they’re going to say, “Don’t you know anything about designing cars?”

Per: Right.

James: I don’t think that falls into – you can’t – I don’t think we’re killing innovation by saying that you’ve got to design cars with round wheels because if you are designing a car, I think today I’m not going to expect that you understand a certain amount about cars, so that it’s going to move on when I try and drive it. The same thing with digital design or web design things. I’m going to expect that you a designer are going to understand a certain amount and we see it constantly where designers don’t understand enough and you end up with things that fail usability-wise, fail SEO-wise, fail conversion-wise.

Per: Bloated and huge and just haven’t thought about the complete experience. Just think about the visual experience. But I don’t think we’re saying that all designers need to code.

James: No.

Per: What we’re saying is that you need to be aware of it and then have an understanding for it and have the dialogue with the people who do understand the technology because that’s what I do. You need to bring – the whole team has to be there early on. It’s not a solo approach by a UX designer. You bring in everybody from the start. This is what we’re trying to accomplish, what our options and we start designing it and the technology people are there or you know enough about it yourself. You realize that OK, we can do it this way or that way. That way, the technology is going to cost 200,000 and that way it’s going to cost 20,000. Is it worth it for the user experience to go the more expensive way? That’s the way you balance it. Going through all those steps with every decision you’re making.

James: Yeah. Could you spin around towards, “Do coders need to design?”

Per: They need to have an – I mean I think we’re getting there. That’s my experience now is that they really have a respect for what I’m doing and I have respect for what they’re doing and I’ve been in situations where the coders have had better design suggestions than I have and you need to swallow your pride sometimes and realize, “Oh my god, if we do it that way, you’re right.” I mean most people have experienced designing stuff now. We’re doing these online services for a few years.

James: Yeah.

Per: And people have seen different solutions and people surf online and they take impression from other sites. So it’s not like you have that one and only solution because you’re the UX designer. A lot of the different competences in the organization have lots of ideas. So when he’s saying also that a company that doesn’t have a fulltime UX designer doesn’t understand the value of UX, that’s not true either because you can have that across the whole board and that’s what you really want and also the tagline of our show actually. Break down the silo.

James: Yes.

Per: UX is part of every role in the organization. It’s not just one person.

James: Yeah. If you ignore one aspect, you’re more likely to fail. I think now I’m just thinking again about future-friendly.

Per: Right.

James: Brad Frost, a coder by background but also a bit of a UX designer these days in what he does. Thinking about how we work with future-friendly responsive and the plethora of different screen sizes we’ve got. You as a designer who has no feeling and understanding for code or technology, you maybe will design a desktop website because that’s seemingly perfect in your world without any consideration of the fact there’s all the different technologies and screen sizes. How can you possibly be a great designer in that kind of multi-screen world without an understanding of the technology? A level which does get very close to coding, as in you would understand how it’s built inside. So yeah, again, we’re not saying that you need to be a coder but there has to be a proximity there, a closeness to your end medium.

Per: But I do feel maybe we’re being a bit hard on Wayne here as well because I think he has a fair point about – I mean you can go both ways. As a UX designer, if you want to develop, I mean you could either go into coding or I mean learn more about coding. I’m not saying you have to necessarily go into being a coder but you can also go the other way and approach management and see if you can actually be a more visionary employee, have a more visionary status where you actually take control of the whole situation, in which case you could actually be the person who understands that technology is important. But you have it on a higher management level and he’s making it really the case for that. A UX person could perhaps be a person who is of more value to the board than someone who works within the IT organization perhaps.

James: You’re right. He does admit. That is kind of – oh, closing the line there. There’s another space for the unicorn. Unfurl your wings and have the overhead view of the business instead and be a Pegasus. We can’t all – all UX can’t be Pegasus.

Per: No, but some can.

James: Absolutely. You need to get UX people higher up the chain and so on. But he’s saying don’t be a coder. Be a business analyst. It’s basically what he’s saying. Well, that isn’t going to directly produce better digital stuff. It’s part of the long term though but I don’t think it’s a fork where – I don’t think we should just shift everyone that way.

Per: No, absolutely not. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that as a UX designer, if you’re not getting people – oh you feel that nobody’s understanding you, then you have different ways to go and this is one of the ways to go. You can perhaps make a case for being – playing a more important part or role in the organization but I mean that takes some balls actually.

James: Well, I think it obviously takes the right organization as well.

Per: Yeah, it does very much so, and I think the only way – I actually have to come back then. The only way to get people to listen to you is to show results.

James: Yeah.

Per: If you’re not showing results, you’re not going to take this route anyway or you quit your job and do something else.

James: Yeah. Wayne here as well says if your company doesn’t feel that UX design is important to have a fulltime position, then he basically says don’t work for them.

Per: I want to change that and say if the company doesn’t feel that it’s important enough to have a UX person, then you’re doing it wrong. All right. Isn’t that true? I mean if you can’t show that you’re valuable, then you’re doing it wrong.

James: I agree with you to an extent but to me that’s the whole kind of – I think Wayne needs to work for a smaller company for a while because I work with lots of companies where they don’t even have a fulltime web person, let alone a fulltime UX person. It’s not like they don’t understand or appreciate UX. Maybe they just don’t have the budget for that or maybe they’re not mature enough as an organization to take on that role. It’s not a definition that says if you don’t have a UX-er, then clearly don’t understand UX. We’re not there yet. We’re not all multinationals. We’re teams of people working on stuff.

Per: No, true.

James: It’s a sliding scale.

Per: And it’s getting back to the really tough conflict of explaining how UX brings monetary value to an organization which often is really hard.

James: And for smaller organizations, it’s nigh on impossible when you enter the really small organizations to sell in multiple roles. You have to be multiple roles. You have to be the designer who can code because they’re not going to spend money on two people. They’re going to come to me or you or someone else and say, “Well, can you do that wordpress site?” So then it’s your responsibility to code a little bit and to think about the UX side of things and to analyze their business needs to make sure you package it all together.

Per: Sometimes if you understand the technology, it’s actually easier to make a case for how you can save money. So that actually makes it easier for you to sell and …

James: Yeah, improve results straight off. Yeah. So yeah, so next time round, you’re getting maybe more buy-in for the next step up in the UX because you’ve shown that just that little change can make that much. So maybe another change can make that much more.

Per: Yeah.

James: Persuasive.

Per: I think James we have to get you off to a meeting.

James: You’re right. I forgot to look at the time.

Per: Yeah.

James: Oh, blimey. No, I really do have to go to a meeting though.

Per: You’re in a rush. OK.

James: I’ve got to really rush now. Should I just throw the mic down and run.

Per: Yes.

James: You got the keys.

Per: James, remember to keep moving.

James: I’ll see you on the other side!

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