#CJAM3 Ton Wesseling interview

This podcast is episode 3 of 6 recorded at Conversion Jam 3

The final speaker of the morning at Conversion Jam 3 in Stockholm was Ton Wesseling, Dutch Online optimisation specialist.

We talked to Ton about cloudberry jam as well as the importance of actionable changes and getting things out there – always be optimising.  Plus, we ponder the thought, do we really need interaction design?

#CJAM3 Craig Sullivan interview

This podcast is episode 2 of 6 recorded at Conversion Jam 3

A few minutes after walking off the stage at Conversion Jam 3 in Stockholm Sweden, we grabbed a chat with Craig Sullivan. This is the third time we’ve talked to Craig on UX Podcast. Our chats are always inspiring and insightful and full of practical tips.

Read More

#55 James & Per & Steve buy beer with Bitcoin

On Obama-day here in Stockholm we were joined by Stephen Early, owner of Individual Pubs in the UK and, earlier this year, became the first pubs in the UK to offer Bitcoin as a payment option.

Read More

#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. Hotels.com, 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!

Hide the transcript

#53 James & Per quantify themselves

James and Per are both fans of quantified self. In this show we take a look at what quantified self and life logging are. We chat about some of the potential benefits plus some of the challenges that surface from a UX and user perspective. Is quantified self ready for mainstream, or is it still a play thing of early adopters and gadget geeks?

(Listening time 37 mins)


Per wearing a Jawbone UP and a Fitbit Flex:


James: Hello and welcome to episode 53 of UX Podcast with me James Royal-Lawson.

Per: And me Per Axbom.

James: It’s a little bit odd when we do that the other way around. Not as often we do it that way.

Per: No, that’s true. I usually start off. It feels kind of weird.

James: It’s like wearing someone else’s underwear.

Per: Yeah. It’s August 6th of 2013. It’s a Tuesday today, I think. I have been working a bit that I’m off again and I’m actually at the summer house now.

James: I’m at Beantin HQ.

Per: Yeah. I’m sitting in a really hot car because this is the only place I could find that would be silent.

James: You’re in your car!

Per: I’m in my car in the passenger seat because I have five kids I’m taking care of. Well, two of them are mine at the summer house here. So it’s really loud.

James: Beantin HQ is 29 degrees at the moment. I’ve got two, maybe three kids. I don’t really know, to look after. I’m clearly not doing it very well.

Per: Instead we are recording.

James: Exactly. Well, OK, let’s jump into it. First of all, welcome back to all of you in Sweden who have bothered to start working again and is starting to listen to the show.

Per: Right. A lot of people are returning this week and next week …

James: of our Swedish audience..

Per: Yeah.

James: …We can see that they roll back into work now and start listening again. So, hello there. Welcome back. Today though, we’re going to be talking about quantified self and life logging. What’s all that about?

View the full transcript

Per: Well, interesting that you should ask James because I think we’ve talked about a bit before, you and I, about life logging and what’s the difference between life logging and self quantification. The gist of it is that you gather as much data about something as you possibly can to like make out trends and behaviour of yourself or in trips you’re making, your weight, whatever.

So usually when you talk about quantified self, you’re talking about data that you’re collecting about yourself and your body and your behaviour but life logging goes even beyond that. I think one of the hugely massive great examples that’s making the rounds and it should have been out by now is the Swedish innovative Kickstarter project Memoto where you actually have a wearable camera. You could even argue that that’s quantifying yourself but it’s also quantifying your life and what you’re seeing around you.

So that’s a camera that you attach to your clothes and it’s taking a snapshot. I don’t know what it is actually. It’s maybe every 30 seconds something. Yeah, something like that. So once you start doing all this life logging, you’re starting to see trends and behaviour because then you can see maybe from the photos. You see what you’re eating or how much you’re exercising and the gadgets that you and I will be talking a lot about today, the wrist bands that we wear to monitor our sleep and see how much we moved during the night. You can connect that and how badly you sleep, to exercise, and how much you’re moving around where you’re checking in.

Sometimes you see trends which could be quite interesting and that’s the incentive or the appeal for people to actually realize stuff that they haven’t realized before about themselves, but also to be able to look back I guess to previous behaviour and previous data about yourself that has changed over time.

James: Yeah. I’m just going to have to go and shut the window.

Per: Oh, absolutely.

James: I can hear the kids that I’m meant to be looking after far too much. I don’t want to hear them at all. So just hold on a second.

Per: OK.


James: So sounds are gone. Yeah, well for me, the quantified self aspect is when you gain  insights from the data you gathered by various means whether it’s weighing yourself or taking pictures every 30 seconds or counting how many steps you’ve done and so on.

Per: You could argue even then that it’s a variant of behavioural therapy that to be able to change your own behaviour you need to become aware of your own behaviour and that’s the basis of behavioural therapy. So what you’re doing here is automating that using a device of some sort. Well, it can actually be that you’re entering data yourself but as long as you’re doing it consistently over time.

James: Well yes, exactly. I think it’s just – like all statistics, you’ve got to be careful to make sure that you understand what you’re reading and what it is that you’re looking at. So for self-improvement or the behavioural therapy side of things, I mean if you look at a chart that tells you you’ve had this much sleep, and you believe it’s correct, you’re going to be changing your behaviour best on that information.

Per: Right.

James: And whether it’s correct or not is something that’s questionable.

Per: Yes.

James: Or how correct is it.

Per: Exactly, how correct is it and what type of conclusions should you be drawing from the data.

James: Yeah. One of the reasons I mentioned just that is because I have a Jawbone UP band.

Per: Yes.

James: Which I wear on my wrist. It says – looking down at the wrist, realizing it’s not there. Where is it? Then I’ve just remembered now, I put it in my pocket, which is a thing in itself actually that I have to put in the pocket around that, but I will get to that. Now I have a Jawbone UP band I wear and I keep it on during the night as well and it measures steps during the day and it measures how little I move during the night and from how little I’ve moved or how much I’ve moved, it judges whether I’ve been sleeping deeply, lightly or awake.

Per: Right.

James: Now this produces lovely little graphs. I think the Fitbit Flex that you have, you know collection, does a similar thing. It measures how little you move and produces nice little sleep graphs.

Per: Exactly, basically the same output from these different devices actually.

James: Yeah.

Per: To be clear, I have the Jawbone UP as well before and we both had it while we were travelling to UX Lx. So we were sort of comparing the data we were getting from that as well at that time, which was really interesting.

James: It was very interesting because we were sharing a hotel room as well so we had very similar sleep patterns because we were going out together and so we’re waking up together.

Per: Oh my god. We’re going there again.

James: Oh, really. Anyhow, what you could see was that you Per for example, you actually – my wife as well. You’re very still during the night.

Per: Yeah, exactly.

James: So even though you’re awake, it doesn’t register you’re awake because you’re not moving enough and my wife, when she was using hers at first, she ended up getting to the habit of when she woke up during the night, she would shake her arm so that the UP knew she was awake. So it would register an awake moment.

Per: So basically telling the – that’s how you talk to your arm band. You shake it …

James: Yeah, which is silly really. But no, but for her that was her pattern of sleep. So to try and improve the graph, she was doing this kind of – she was having to work a little bit extra to get better data but that’s a learning thing. when the app presents the graph to you, it doesn’t really – there isn’t really so much talk about it’s inaccuracy or potential inaccuracy. The marketing and the drive of a lot of these quantified self things is this is how much sleep you’ve got. This is how many steps you’ve taken.

Per: Yeah. When you open up the app, it actually tells you you’ve been awake seven times this night.

James: Yeah.

Per: And the funny thing about that is that a lot of people are going to take it literally because it is presented literally.

James: It is presented literally.

Per: Yeah, and that pisses a lot of people off and they realize, “Well, I haven’t been awake that many times.”

James: Exactly.

Per: And you have to start interpreting the data. Well, that means that you’ve moved around quite a lot perhaps seven times during the night and you may and may not have woken up specifically during those times.

James: You want to peel back a little of the UI effectively and say OK, when it says this, it really means this. My wife, she actually stopped using her Jawbone UP for two months, the last couple of months, because she just got so disappointed that it wasn’t really telling her how much sleep she was getting and I explained to her in my usual way. Well, of course it’s not going to know exactly how much sleep you’ve gained because you haven’t got electrodes attached to your head. The only way you can tell exactly how much of six different levels of sleep you’ve got and the four different types of REM sleep and so on is by the electrodes attached to your head. This is just a kind of gyroscope that’s attached to your wrist. Of course it doesn’t know.

Per: But I mean most people won’t know that and I mean they will trust the app, what it’s telling them, because this is a new thing. It’s a great new device. It’s being marketed that way. It doesn’t have a big disclaimer when you open a box that – don’t trust the data. It tells you that this will measure sleep patterns. It will measure the number of steps you’re taking – and that’s it.

James: You had both on your wrist for a while, the Jawbone UP and the Fitbit Flex.

Per: Yes, I did.

James: So there you got to see how each of them has different formulas you could say for judging what kind of movement is a step.

Per: Yes. When I walked more than 10,000 or 12,000 steps per day, usually the Jawbone UP was almost 1500, 2000 steps less than the other one. So I mean that’s how you can tell that they’re not really exact and usually you probably have to calibrate these to your own walking style, your own gait, which is really interesting as well. I mean you can’t take a device and be sure that it will fit with your body and the way that you move around and if you’re – and as we’ve both noticed I think is that if you’re riding in a car or riding a bicycle and stuff like that, it does register something and sometimes not as much as other times. So many different aspects of this that can affect the data that you’re seeing.

James: Shopping trolleys Per.

Per: Shopping trolleys, oh that’s interesting.

James: I realized that when I do shopping which sometimes can take an hour and a half, I just get almost a flat line on my graph of how many steps I’ve taken even though I’ve been walking for an hour and a half.

Per: It doesn’t register.

James: And that’s because my arms are holing the trolley.

Per: So you will have to start walking with only one arm pushing the trolley.

James: So you put your Jawbone UP in your pocket which is why mine was in my pocket now because we went shopping this morning and I put it in my pocket while we were shopping. So again, you have to learn an interaction in order to fix the limitations of this particular device. I mean OK, if we’re talking about the – what is it? Withing scale, the Wi-Fi scale that can measure your weights and it transfers up to the app it’s on. That’s a little bit different thing because with the scale, I expect it to be 100 percent accurate when it comes to weighing me. Although as we know, if you weigh yourself in the evening or morning and so on, you get different weights because of different liquids and different food in you and so on and waste in you.

Per: You’re even actually – well how do you say it? Less tall in the evening than you are in the morning.

James: That’s right. Your spine compresses and it can be a couple of centimetres.

Per: Yeah.

James: Or a half an inch. But yeah, so even there, there’s a certain pattern you got to follow because – to get the accuracy. Then there’s some other guessing aspects to it that he tries to do but the weird thing is a pretty definite thing because you’re still in the platform and it tells you how much …

Per: So if we connect this to a UX perspective, then I think it’s really interesting how you communicate to the user will set the expectations of that experience and if that experience is not aligned with what you’re telling them, then they’re not going to like it.

James: But if you told someone, “Ah, this is all a bit of fun. It’s not really accurate,” would they sell any? Would people be interested in changing their behaviour? Doesn’t it have to lie a little bit given the limitation, the intrinsic limitation?

Per: Excellent point. Could it perhaps be saying something in the lines of that this is accurate to the point of X and we can’t really promise anything but it gives you something to work with. I’m not sure what I’m saying here but …

James: No, I know what you mean but there is going to be a lot of people – there are going to be a lot of people that – like my wife that think, “Oh god, if you can’t do it properly, I’m not interested.”

Per: Yeah, so that’s interesting. So people would buy it. Well, they use it. So does that really mean that people are not ready? Is the device not ready for the mass market yet? Is it just ready for the geeks like us?

James: I would say so. I think generally a lot of this quantify self stuff demands you to be quite – well, highly engaged. You’ve really got to be driven to want to keep it on you, to keep syncing or checking the app or learning these little tweaks to make it good. Most people aren’t going to bother doing that.

Per: Yeah.

James: OK. Maybe we go beyond geeks here. We’re going to get into the fitness geeks as well.

Per: Yeah, exactly. Like my wife currently who is running a lot and she has been using a Fitbit One which is not the arm band but the one that you attach to your clothes. She has been using that for over a year now. She has been using it like everyday and she’s really fond of it and it has changed her behaviour a lot because I mean – and mine sort of. I mean I had a Fitbit One and didn’t have anything for half a year or something but we started taking walks in the evening to get up to 10,000 steps as per recommendation of what someone our age probably would need to walk everyday to keep healthy. That’s really interesting how that behaviour changes and we can bring people together as well, not only in the virtual world but in the physical world.

We’re actually starting to take walks together and which is an interesting effect. Whether or not the accuracy of the device is an issue here, I’m not sure, because I have – I think I have the same discussion with her that it’s not that accurate but it’s a trend and that’s sort of fine with her.

James: I think that’s the key. Just when it comes to these bands, being aware of the days when you’ve not moved so much is quite useful. It’s a reminder to say, “Oh, you actually do need to move more than this.” It can make a couple of hundred calorie difference in your burn rate by walking a few thousand steps less. I noticed that during the summer. When you’re in holiday and you sat around, you’re drinking beers and relaxing, I’m not walking about. You understand why people go gain weight during the summer, during the holidays. Have you tried the FuelBand, Nike FuelBand?

Per: No, I have not.

James: This is for people that run. This is another wristband that you put on and the FuelBand in my impression – and I’ve got no real idea about this – is that there’s more normal people who have the FuelBand than the UP and the Fitbit.

Per: Oh, interesting.

James: It’s pushed by Nike with trainers and everything. I’ve got a couple of running friends in England that have the FuelBand.

Per: I’m guessing it’s also time to market and I’m guessing in the fitness world the FuelBand is a lot more used. The FuelBand though does not have the sleep monitoring, I think. It only has steps.

James: Yeah, steps. What’s that with the little satellite thing, the little – there has got to be a name, the little thing that you put on your trainers.

Per: Oh, that you put in your shoe. I actually have shoes that one of those fit in.

James: It’s called Jeremy or something. No, not Jeremy. It has got like a man’s name.

Per: I don’t know.

James: I’m sure it has but that’s another little thing. Is that something you have in addition to the band or you have just that and an app?

Per: Just that and an app I think.

James: Right, OK. That measures steps as well.

Per: Yes.

James: Yeah.

Per: That was a Nike Plus thing that they – that’s the first launch they did together with Apple I think, one of the first devices that could actually talk with your phone and give you information about how far you were running.

James: Right, yeah. One of the first ones on the market. But this whole – back to the question about whether I still – I think generally it’s just geek stuff. To go mainstream, with almost all of these things we know that to go mainstream, involves a level – I think a level of simplification that isn’t there yet or a level of desire that isn’t really there yet.

Per: Right, and something that they are trying to do is be able – you’re making people able to personalize these armbands more and more and have your own colour. They’re trying to design them in a way to make them more appealing as well. So that’s one big aspect of these arm bands is that they have to be designed really well for people to even want to wear them and that’s one reason that my wife actually doesn’t have an armband. She doesn’t want to wear one though all the time. She has the one that she has in her clothes even if that means that she sometimes forgets to put it on.

James: The thing there is you could use it sometimes with these telephones and have apps on their telephones.

Per: Oh, yeah.

James: But I get the impression they’re really – even less accurate. I’ve got that impression.

Per: Yeah, I can’t really say.

James: Also you don’t wear it around – it’s not with you maybe every single hour of the day, so you can see things.

Per: And having the phone on your arm when you’re sleeping isn’t really that comfortable and believe me, because I’ve tried because there are apps for that. Oh, actually when you attach it to your chest.

James: You mean you strap an iPhone.

Per: You strap an iPhone to your chest. I have tried this but not – like two times.

James: Like Iron man. The generator thing in the middle of your chest.

Per: And that was the first one time I tried what you have in the Jawbone UP which I don’t have in the Fitbit Flex where it actually wakes you up when you’re in light sleep.

So that’s one of, I think, the main features that I am sort of envious of you that you have is that it wakes you up. It can tell when you’re moving around a lot so it wakes you up before you’ve set your alarm for it, before the time that you set the alarm for it because if you wake up now, you will feel better than if you wake up later or maybe in deep sleep.

James: Exactly, that’s the thing. It is a Smart Alarm and you’re right. This is my killer feature with the UP and I love this. I’ve changed using this every single day now as my alarm. You give it an alarm window of 20 minutes or half an hour and you tell it this is the latest time I want to get up. Say 20 past 7:00 and if you get an alarm window of 20 minutes, the band will – it will of course be monitoring your sleep. It’s monitoring your movements and if it notices you’ve come up from deep sleep into light sleep or rather if it notices you in deep sleep when it’s your alarm time. It won’t wake you. It will wait as long as it can to let you come out of deep sleep naturally and start moving around a bit. Then a few more minutes and it will vibrate unless it reaches the end of it.

It’s right. What happens is that, that you wake up more naturally. You wake up at a point where you’re actually ready to wake up and you feel much less tired than that car crash of an alarm when suddenly something starts wailing at you at a certain time. You have move around then to go to snooze and so on. It’s an excellent feature. I’m hoping they develop it a bit more to make it a bit more – a little bit more flexible.

Per: And I’m hoping that the Fitbit Flex will develop it because I mean that is a software feature that they have the data so they could implement it afterwards.

James: Yeah.

Per: It’s what I’m thinking.

James: Yeah, it’s software mainly but at the same time, I’ve noticed that you can only see what alarms are set by looking in the app.

Per: True.

James: An app will only show you the alarms when the band is connected and because the UP isn’t wireless, you have to plug it in. So to check your alarm for the morning, is actually quite complicated especially – it’s happened several times – I get into bed, put my band to sleep into night mode. Then realize, “Oh god, have I actually set the alarm for the morning?”

So I have to get out of bed, go to my phone because I don’t charge my phone in my bedroom and plug the band into the app, open the app, check the alarm, see that it sets and undo all that. Go back to bed. It takes minutes whereas if there was some kind of display, it could just tell me so many hours the next alarm.

Per: Right. That’s true. Yeah, I agree and I’ve been comparing the Jawbone UP because I’ve had both with the Fitbit Flex and what has been surprising for me is how enormously different these two arm bands are based on – well, they’re supposed to be doing the same thing really, measuring steps and like monitoring your sleep.

They’re designed very differently. Just studying these two devices, it’s interesting from a UX perspective looking at how they actually implement it and how you charge it, how you sync it which is wireless for the Fitbit Flex if you have certain phone times like the 4S and up, iPhone 4S and certain Android phones as well.

James: Does it use Wi-Fi or does it use Bluetooth?

Per: It uses a special type of Bluetooth. I’m not sure if it’s called Bluetooth 4.0 or low energy Bluetooth but one of those and not all phones have it.

James: It might be the same thing. I’m not quite sure.

Per: It could be.

James: Yeah, OK. That’s interesting but I like the fact that the Jawbone UP needs to be charged every 10 days and it’s pretty much true. It’s more than a week anyway so I change it every Monday morning.

Per: I can easily say that the UP has better battery life than the Flex and the Flex does not always last a week which means that I can’t have like a set day in the week that I can recharge it because I have to monitor it and there’s another big issue with the Fitbit Flex as well actually. It does not have a battery indicator which is …

James: At all?

Per: … insane. Yes. There is an API and there is a third party app for – that I’m using that actually emails me when it’s getting low in battery but I’m so surprised they haven’t implemented it on the device.

James: I mean that’s the kind of thing we’re talking about, this extra step, these little extra things you got to learn and tweak and do to make this work which implies that it’s clearly not ready for mainstream.

Per: Right, which makes me think also because I mean the display that my wife has on the Fitbit One, it’s a large display. You can just look down and see how many steps you walked. It has a clock which none of our devices have and stuff like that and I’m not sure if it shows the alarm. Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn’t. But you can see so much more without having to sync it, without having to go into the app, which I think is a real benefit as well for the most people who are just getting started with this device and who are more accustomed to the old types of pedometers and stuff.

James: I mean I wonder if the whole quantify self thing is kind of doomed to be like low adoption and inaccurate, given that we know that most people don’t bother configuring things. Is it ready out of the box? And just with quantified self, it’s incredibly personal. You’re measuring you and so if you are prepared to customize, and most people aren’t, then how can you make a product that is a one size fits all?

Per: Exactly. I think that’s a really good point and I mean just one example is that both of them comes at actually – you’re supposed to walk 10,000 steps everyday.

James: Yeah.

Per: And there are a lot of people who don’t do that and aren’t able to. So what happens is that you get all these sad faces and red alerts and stuff that you haven’t and you get that for two weeks and I mean you’re ready to give up and the thing about UX and your experience in behavioural psychology is that you need to get quick wins fast. You need to see the benefits of using it really fast. So it should be set like at 5000 and then my recommendation is usually set it at 5000 and when you manage to do 5000 steps everyday for a week, then raise it to 6000.

James: But if you’re a jogger, wouldn’t you be really kind of frustrated and disappointed with that, that you get this thing, new thing and even the first week, it’s kind of like oh my god, you’re utterly fantastic. You’ve done 30,000 steps. I mean you’re just going to go, “Come on. Of course I am. I’m running.”

Per: Yeah, yeah.

James: Again, one size fits all. It’s a very different use case.

Per: You need the quick setup guide.

James: Yeah, me and you and not runners. So we don’t knock up that kind of number of steps in the same way because we’re just walking.

Per: Right.

James: Yeah. So we need a quick setup in the beginning. Yeah, that maybe it is.

Per: It would help at least, I think.

James: Yeah. I mean we’ve focused an awful lot on just these bands in the show because that’s probably because we both got them and we’ve been talking a lot about this during the summer and you’ve written a blog post in Swedish about this. But I don’t think the problems are limited to this type …

Per: No, it’s all the same things. How do you get started? How do you talk to it? I mean the Jawbone UP has a physical button. The Fitbit Flex, I have to tap it, different stuff like that. How do you get it to talk to the device, to the app?

James: The interaction itself.

Per: How does the app talk to you? Is it telling you stuff that aren’t true and how do you react to that? Like the example I gave with waking up seven times even though you haven’t and there are so many aspects in UX to this – since it’s a physical device in which I love about it and you have to think about – well, from the point that you wake up in the morning and how you interact with it during the day and how many days before you charge it and stuff like that and all of those things combined is what creates your experience.

I mean the main reason for me, using the Fitbit Flex right now is because I’m competing with my wife who has also a Fitbit device. But I mean I can’t say that there’s a clear winner between the both of them even though they’re very different in design and functionality. They both have benefits and well, disadvantages to them. But there’s so much more to do in that area actually I think.

James: I didn’t realize until we talked about it a little bit ago that you have to shake the Flex to tell it what to do because there’s no button. I had no idea …

Per: Well actually, you have to tap it and you like tap it twice and you see how far you went. Oh, there’s an indicator for how far you’ve reached, how close you are to your goal and you have to tap it like four times quickly in a row when you’re telling it that you’re going to sleep and usually that fails for me and I have to do it like three different times.

James: Have you seen – there was a sketch on an American – one American talk show kind of late night – late evening talk show ones where they did Google Glass and he was tacking the mickey – go back glass back! And he was shaking it flicking his head flicking his head and it looks like you’ve got some kind of crazy tick because you’re going to do this head motion thing to make it go back.

Per: And sometimes I have an alarm going off when I’m like in the store or something or standing by the cashier and I have to start tapping violently on my wrist and they can’t really understand why. At one point I actually – I was shaking a juice carton and I realized that my band was set to sleep because it thought I was tapping it.

So I mean that type of interface has lots of disadvantages to it. I mean you have to think about people actually move their arm in real life even though they’re telling you that you should put it on the arm that’s not your strongest. I mean that doesn’t always like solve all the problems that you can encounter during the normal day.

James: Fascinating, but it’s – there’s a lot of stuff here and a lot of stuff to do that you said, the interaction and about a two-way interaction with a physical device and communication feedback. Not just feedback in the from of graphs but feedback from a small visual acknowledgements or sensual acknowledgements.

Yeah, it’s a fascinating area when it comes to these bands, but even with some of the other quantify self things and how you – why do it, what you can do from it and the incentive side of things is crucially important. I’m thinking of Memoto there and taking the photos all the time and trying to build up some excuse as to why the hell you would want to take a picture every 30 seconds of your life. I can say that that’s definitely not going to go main stream. Same thing with Google Glass. I just can’t see why or maybe I’m just being old there, Per. Are we being old again?

Per: I’m not sure. I was sort of thinking the same thing. Are we being too old? This spring I was – at a talk with – there was a Quantified Self Stockholm meetup and Kevin Kelly came.

James: Oh, yeah.

Per: He’s the founder of all this quantified self groups and also the founder of Wired, a co-founder of Wired Magazine. But he was talking about how important it is to keep measuring even though you don’t know why you’re measuring.

James: He’s right there.

Per: Yeah.

James: Absolutely.

Per: Because sometimes you just find stuff because you’re measuring.

James: Yep.

Per: Yeah, and I really love that, what he was saying there because that’s really an important point. If we stop measuring, if we don’t see the point of it, then we’re not going to discover anything new. But if we start collecting data, as much data as we can and start seeing trends, then all of a sudden new stuff is going to appear that we can draw conclusions from and probably change the world basically in the end.

James: Now he’s absolutely right with that. You can never go back and start collecting data again. You don’t do it. That’s true of everything, whatever we’re talking about, analytics for our website or temperature values from your house or your wristband that’s measuring you.

Per: And that’s something we haven’t talked about today is the data that we’re actually collecting can be used by our respective apps and the companies that they’re behind, so you can actually get – I mean you’re inputting your age, your weight, your height and everything. So you can get on the whole population. You can start seeing trends on how much our people are walking during the day in different age groups and what is the norm and what is the mean and what should be the recommendations. We’re seeing that people are walking less over time and you can start seeing that over the next 10, 12 years if people are using these types of apps.

James: Yeah. Why don’t we just all get the chips fitted?

Per: I mean it’s inevitable, isn’t it?

James: To be honest, I’m starting to think probably. It’s going to be so much – I mean you’ve already had the night clubs. A few high end night clubs have the little chips inserted, injected into your arm.

Per: Oh, yeah.

James: It is a way of kind of having VIP pass and non-transferable. So I think there is going to be a growing group of people who are quite willing to have a little thing injected somewhere. Now people have got tattoos and all the rest of it, and piercing. So I can’t say there would be too much of a problem with a chip, provided they’re reassured about the integrity side of things. You’ve got control over it and it’s not some kind of like dog tagging system where you are getting hooked up to a government database somewhere to monitor how much you’re sleeping.

Per: I think the conclusion here is that I mean these devices that we’re talking about, the sensors and the self-quantification, I mean it’s ripe for the picking for us geeks and it’s fine for us early adopters but it’s not really there yet for the mass market. But perhaps that’s what we’re for, that we have to use these devices so that they can like calibrate them and make them better over time so that more people can use them.

James: And learn a huge amount. This is an excellent opportunity for us to analyze what we’re doing, analyze and to look at – how does this physical object that we carry with us all the time, how does it work? What’s making this work, user-interaction-wise or UX-wise? What don’t work? I mean give us a little chance to experiment. That’s what us early adopters are for. We are for testing up.

Per: We are guinea pigs.

James: Yeah, we’re guinea pigs and we like complaining about it a bit and so on. But it’s fun and I mean that’s the most important thing to remember of the quantified self stuff. It’s actually fun.

Per: Exactly. Yeah. Good point. It’s getting really, really hot in this car.

James: And me too. I shut the windows so I’m up to 30 degrees now in here and I need to stop. But before we go …

Per: Yes.

James: A little reminder, now that our Swedish listeners have come back and come back to work after the summer break. We’re going to be at Conversion Jam 3 on the 10th of September like we were last year.

Per: Really, really fun.

James: It was really good fun. It’s a really intensive day of speakers here in Stockholm, Sweden. Really well-organized little conference and …

Per: Lots of international speakers.

James: Yeah, including one of our favourites, Craig Sullivan.

Per: Yes.

James: Also Brian Massey. He did that last year too. Sorry, André Mores was there last year. So no, it’s normally a really good day and for you listeners out there, we have a discount code if you want to come along or you are in Stockholm or in Sweden and want to come along.

Per: And just for the sake of meeting us.

James: Yeah, that works too. The code is simply “UXPODCAST” if I can remember correctly.

Per: Yes, it is.

James: Yeah, UX Podcast and you get …

Per: When I saw it, it said “UX Podcast” in capital letters. I don’t think that matters.

James: If you don’t get the 200 kroner discount with it in lower case, try it in capitals..

Per: Oh, yeah. I’m really looking forward. Yeah, we will be recording our shows on location there as well, which would be excellent fun.

James: Yes.

Per: One great way to get access to the speakers.

James: It’s, as always, great fun. So thank you very much for listening today.

Per: Yes, and we will talk to you again in two weeks.

James: What do you say?

Per: I say remember to keep moving.

James: I say see you on the other side.

Per: Ah, that’s it.
Hide the transcript

#52 James & Per move beyond 960

Inspired by a question Bruno Figueiredo posted to Facebook, James and Per try to answer the question – How do you decide what resolution to design for? We talk about screen resolutions, viewports, typography, whitespace, languages, statistics. To finish off, we even try to provide an answer to the question…

(Listening time 44 minutes)


James’s whiteboard showing a 6-step answer to the show’s question:


Per: Hello and welcome to episode 52 of the UX Podcast. You’re listening to me Per Axbom.

James: And me James Royal-Lawson.

Per: And we’re set –  what date is it?

James: Eighteenth.

Per: Eighteenth of July, Thursday. I’m recording this a week ahead because you’re going to Spain.

James: I am.

Per: Yeah.

James: On Monday and well, I’ve bottled it. We recorded one episode when you were in America but to be honest, I just got excited about the fact we could use our new microphones.

Per: Right, new microphones, condenser microphones hooked up to Blue Icicle. So you will have to let us know on Twitter if this sounds better than usual. I really hope so.

James: I just couldn’t bear the fact that you would be recording using these new microphones and I would be using Skype on my tablet from a little apartment somewhere in the south of Spain.

Per: You want to sound as good as I do.

James: Yeah.

View the full transcript

Per: OK. We’re fully dressed.

James: Yeah, hold on. You’re making me very confused now. So we’ve been here for an hour and you said, “And now we’re fully dressed.”

Per: Don’t go there. You’re always confusing the listener. I was going to explain one of the fun things about doing a podcast is you don’t really have to take a shower but people don’t really care what you look like or smell like because you only had to listen to our voices, our beautiful voices. When we decided to do this – we just decided yesterday. You made a joke that when it’s coming over here early, that you wouldn’t be fully dressed probably.

James: I said that you were scared of Jimbo flesh.

Per: Yes. Thankfully you were dressed when I came over here. You hadn’t had breakfast yet.

James: No, I hadn’t.

Per: Oh, well.

James: Sorry, I’m fully of food now. I’m dressed.

Per: Yes.

James: Everyone is dressed. To calm you all down, we’re all dressed.

Per: But it is really hot and it’s getting hotter in here.

James: Yeah. People who have been listening to this show for a long time will know that the – well Beantin HQ, the studio where we record this, during the summer months, it does get warm in here but we’re only up to 24 degrees.

Per: And we have entertainment because just outside our window there are bouncing kids. Well, two right now but …

James: It’s just two but not the same two as it was a second ago, the trampoline in the garden, which we can see from the studio window.

Per: Which also is a good test of the soundproofness of your studio and the quality of our microphones.

James: Yeah, and the loudness of my kids.

Per: Yes.

James: It’s not going to go well, is it? So what are we talking about today?

Per: Well, I think it was last Friday. Bruno Figueiredo, you will know him from UX Lx, the curator of the UX Lx Conference.

James: And we talked to him in one of our …

Per: Yes, we did on the first conference show. He posted on Facebook about screen sizes and he was looking at statistics and seeing that with the 1440 pixels is becoming more and more common, 1440 and wider and the general question was, “Should we start moving away from the 960 pixel width standard of our designs and go higher than that?”

My first thought was well, hold on. We have all these tablets and mobile and we’re thinking mobile first. Should we start going wider? But then I realized it was like – it was a good question partly because mobile first is valid in countries where mobile first is true but also as you pointed out to me James, clients are still designing or wanting websites that look like websites.

James: Yeah, there’s an actual element there that it’s not just about the kind of design utopia. You still got to – a clients relationship and a lot of times, they’re going to want to have a desktop design or something they can give an opinion about and look at and I know that you have to deliver that kind of thing quite a few occasions.

Per: Yeah. And other stuff going through your head is like, “Oh, do we go wider?” Does that mean wider columns for content? I mean must decrease legibility and readability and all that stuff. It would be so hard to read. What would you put in all that space? It’s like some Manhattan architect seeing a new space and you have to build something there. But do you really have to fill every space on screen just because people have bigger screens?

James: You threw a lot of questions out there all in one go. But I mean the 960 grid, there has been the – that has been the kind of foundation of a lot of the design work for a long time.

Per: And people have loved it.

James: Well obviously about 2007 or something, 2006 or something like that.

Per: And it has worked nice because it split it into four columns, six columns, eight columns.

James: Exactly. It’s a beautiful number. It came along when laptops suddenly got bigger. We got bigger screens and desktops and monitors got better and we end up with these 1024 by 768 4:3 aspect ratio screens and 960 became a real good thing. Everybody stayed with it. It was across the board. It was valid but then I think for the – when I did a little research last night, I saw that basically for the last I think five years, you can find articles talking about, “Is it time to move on from 960? Is 960 dead?”

So even before the mobile revolution, people have been questioning the 960. Should we move up? And now …

Per: Is that probably because as a designer you’re aching, aching to design new stuff that fits the screen that you’re on everyday?

James: Or as an agency or something as a team delivering to the client. You want to deliver that little bit of magic, that new thinking to push you ahead of the crowd.

Per: Yeah.

James: But then we got the whole mobile thing comes and we’re all going to mobile first and small things first. So you get people saying, “Well 960 is dead because we shouldn’t be starting with 960.”

Per: Now the interesting thing of course then is can we even have this discussion about what size to design for without knowing what we are designing. That’s kind of funny. So when we talked about this yesterday, we thought, “So how do you actually decide what is the best screen size to design for?” It’s really impossible unless you actually know what product you’re designing, what goals you have.

So I mean the gut feeling is start looking at statistics like Bruno did and seeing that oh my god, people are using all these large screen sizes now. Should we start taking them into account? Then the research you’ve done James is pointing out that people actually have large screens but they’re maybe not even having the browser maximized meaning that they really don’t have the need for actually having that big large real estate screen size that you’re designing for.

James: Well, we talked about, for a while ago now, I think it was autumn last year. Jakob Nielsen, he altered his recommendation. I think it was – how long is that? It was the end of last year, I think it was. His recommendation for what width design for from 1024 wide to 1440. He went up 50 percent in his recommendation based on screen resolution research he had done showing people are using screen resolutions that are huge amount bigger.

Per: That’s about the time when we started wondering if Jakob Nielsen was getting high.

James: Oh, we just presumed he was not writing the articles anymore. He was getting a student or something to write them because there was a whole row of articles there which were just off the wall. They really weren’t quality and good like they used to be. One day we have to interview him.

Per: Yes, we do.

James: But anyway, so what I did, I updated my – I’ve been doing viewport research for a few years now and I’ve created methods that can help you log viewports in Google Analytics. They log it themselves on Google Analytics but you can access the data in a good way.

Per: So just to clarify now so that everybody is on the same plate. Viewport size is the size of the browser that’s – the actual screen size. Do you have the definition? That what you’re seeing is the viewport. I mean you can make your browser smaller and then the viewport is what you see.

James: But your laptop still has the same screen size.

Per: Yeah, exactly.

James: But you’re using less of it for your webpage.

Per: Right, yeah.

James: So this is the viewport. It’s the real estate you’re actually using to put your webpage on.

Per: Right, and you also have to subtract the address bar and whatever …

James: Yeah, this bevel around, stuff like this. So everything has a viewport whether it’s mobile phone or it’s a smart TV or a laptop. You still – there’s a bit of the screen you’re using to show a webpage on.

Per: So you could basically say that the webpage is never the size of the screen.

James: That’s impossible.

Per: Unless you’re maximized.

James: Now, it’s not – I think even then you find that it’s like a one pixel bit here or there.

Per: Yeah, OK.

James: It’s difficult to watch it getting maximized even on tablets because you even got pixel density ratios.

Per: Right. Oh, that’s another story.

James: We don’t need to get into it just now really but I mean it’s complicated. My research, I’ve seen – I’ve been monitoring, I’ve been tracking the viewport size on Beantin.se for three years I think now or more and I’ve seen the resolutions of visitors go up. I mean there’s just a lot more huge screens anywhere. These Retina Displays are two and a half thousand pixels and so on.

But what I’ve seen over the last two years or so is that the width, the average width hasn’t really increased. It’s still hanging around the kind of – well, 1280 or just under 1280 wide.

Per: Yeah.

James: And it has been like that 2010, 2011, 2012. It has not got bigger. I’m excluding mobile from that because this is – when we’re talking about these giant screen sizes, I think it’s relevant to talk about just the desktops.

Per: So can we make any assumptions about why that is? Is that like people don’t like to maximize their browser even if they have bigger screens or …

James: I think you would have to do some proper research onsite with real users and what’s their behaviour because you can’t see that from your statistics.

Per: Right.

James: But I know from ones I’m looking around is that the people who do have the giant screens, I’ve seen – what I see there is that there were maybe two side by side that you and I have a giant 27-inch screen. You’ve got two Safaris or you’ve got programmers for example. This is where I see it quite often that they would have test version of – webpage will be open on one side and then the other side would be the coding screen.

Per: Tools and Photoshop.

James: Or where they’re writing, when they’re doing something. So that’s huge split screens. We used to have – I mean I still do. I have two monitors here in the office.

Per: Right, yeah, and I like to do that as well.

James: So these giant screens, they just allow you to have two screens.

Per: Yeah, to see more at the same time.

James: Yeah, because you’re viewing angle – you can’t look at these big screens all at the same time. You’ve got to turn your head.

Per: Yeah.

James: So if you designed a website that was two and a half thousand pixels wide, a person looking on the content of the left of the screen would have to move their head to see the content on the right.

Per: Yeah.

James: That’s a design that’s huge by itself. Interaction design, how do you solve that? So you can argue there’s no point trying to fill up that space because it’s – most people are not going to stretch your site that wide.

Per: You also have to think about the incentive from manufacturers to actually build these fantastically large screens. It’s not so that you can view your webpage or your corporate webpage in a fantastic, beautiful big size in which case you would like to have to stand 20 feet away from the monitor to read it correctly. But it is actually too that you can get more work done faster and you can multitask and see stuff at the same time. So you can put windows side by side. That’s the main reason for these monitors …

James: These desktop screen sizes, yeah. Then smart TVs have a massive resolution as well.

Per: Yes.

James: People don’t use the browser on them because it’s awful.

Per: I tried.

James: It’s horrible. Interestingly there, if you do run the browser on them, they don’t use the full resolution anyway.

Per: Oh, yeah. You were saying that. It’s interesting as well. So I mean you can’t even …

James: They adjust it so that they’ve had to zoom in without getting too deep into the ratios and things. It’s not about the pixels that you kind of – you’re being sold. It’s about the way that your operating system or your laptop or device is presenting those pixels to you or that real estate to you.

Per: And should we really even be talking about pixels anymore? I thought we were beyond all that. We should be talking about the content, the content living in any device and you guided me into this article that you were reading yesterday and life beyond 960 pixels, designing for large screens in which …

James: That’s from last year, wasn’t it?

Per: Yeah, I think it is and Ian Yates, he makes the case for the responsive. Then you don’t always talk about responsive in this way because you always think about responsive web design being as something that you do to accommodate mobile devices. But responsive goes both ways. It goes smaller. It goes wider.

James: Exactly.

Per: So responsive is all about accommodating the large screens and he makes a lot of examples or provides a lot of examples of what could you do with this new real estate that you have.

James: Because we have to fill it.

Per: Because we have to fill it and it does make a point in the end that you don’t have to fill it. It means you don’t have to fill – the obligation to fill every space on the screen but it does provide some examples of what you could do, like have more right hand columns, move the footer to the right hand side and again, that’s why I don’t like responsive because you get disoriented when you’re actually moving from one device to another on the same website and you can’t find this stuff where you expect to find it.

James: Was it his article that had the Windows 8 screenshots?

Per: Yes, yes. It was.

James: I love that screenshot because it shows Windows 8 like on a tablet and a reasonably regular smallish device and it has got like 12 bricks or something or 16 bricks, something laid across. It looks – and they’re all on the Microsoft standard, nice colours, the primary colour kind of thing and orange or so.

It looks really quite stylish and nice and then there’s a screenshot of someone with a 27-inch monitor or whatever it is and they filled up the whole thing with tiles and that must be like 150, 200 tiles and it looks like your grandma has made a patchwork quilt from all the leftover material you had.

Per: It’s impossible to find anything.

James: It’s just mad.

Per: That’s something that we know and we know it from psychology studies. We know it from a research and from just experience working with the web for so long.

James: Less is more.

Per: Less is more. The more choices you give the user, the harder of a time they will have finding something useful and making a decision about where to go next in solving their task.

James: That’s the risk with more real estate. You fill it for the sake of filling it.

Per: So we have this case of larger screens but we want to have less information. We’re moving towards less information in most designs I’m working with and I made the case tons of times about – I mean the right hand column, just ditch it.

James: Yeah.

Per: It’s not helping your user. It’s just distracting your user.

James: And then we can expand that and say that while if you’re going to have a super-sized monitor, the right right hand column that you’ve added to fill the space even further beyond the right column. It’s definitely not going to be used, so just get rid of both of them.

But another aspect I think one of the articles brought up that we read last night, we have to put the links to these articles that we’ve read because we’re not referencing them properly but we have read them so it’s good if listeners read them as well. I was talking about the viewing distance we have for these monitors and comfortability, readability of fonts and so on, on the screens.

Like when you’ve got the very large monitors, you’re expected – well, your font is going to be tiny. You can’t read them, so you need those to be bigger. There was a demo I saw with someone who had done – I think using the webcam or something that he did a demo so that when you came further and closer away from the screen, it automatically adjusted the size of the fonts. It’s like an eye tracking kind of demo thing.

Per: Wow.

James: Because readability is all down to how clear letters are from a distance, viewing distance, comfortable viewing distance from the screen. You know that you hold a phone a certain distance away from you. You hold a tablet a certain distance away. You generally sit a certain distance away from your desktop machine and that’s the same and true for even giant monitors.

So we’ve got an added aspect there that we need to know more about where you are in relation to the device, decide what font size or typography we use to make it comfortable for you to read it. Then the pixels don’t really matter in that sense.

Per: True.

James: So yes, EMs, again getting into measurement units. That is much more sensible to use rather than pixels because the web is a reading medium.

Per: Right.

James: We have to make sure everything is readable so you can take actions and you can achieve what you need to achieve. So typography is maybe a more sensible starting point than physical pixels on the device.

Per: I think it is, yeah. Typography, content. I mean well, the content is your starting point. What is the content that you put in there? And the goals, yeah.

James: Yeah, what you want to do and the content from that.

Per: So if you were putting out content, think about what could support that content, not what else could you put on the screen, but what supports the content that you’re showing currently just now.

James: Yeah.

Per: And so few websites do actually, which is a pain. But also what I found – I mean at the same time as I’m saying that you shouldn’t fill every pixel on the screen just for the fun of it, I actually stumbled – and this article reminded me of it.

I stumbled upon it when I was first designing for the iPad, realized that yeah, I want to have all these buttons over here and I want to have this and then there was space left and it was designing an app for the iPad. You need to fill the space. You can’t have empty space in an app and that’s really interesting because then you have to really think about it and that’s when you have these background images coming along, that you would have something that actually fills the space but doesn’t distract you from the content, but actually just makes something that’s in the background, something to rest your eyes on. Not even notice basically but it doesn’t make this page seem strange when you’re looking at it.

There is a case – I mean going back to Bruno’s original question is that so many people actually have larger screens and sometimes you actually do have this wide space on the sides and people are wondering and I know that some of the clients I have been working with are asking – this looks strange. This looks weird. Why is there so much space over here?  Should we do something with it?

Something like background images and stuff like that. I like more than putting more banners or links or whatever, sponsored ads on the sides.

James: Yeah. I get some complaints about my blog because it’s a very narrow single column at the moment and on the giant screens, if you do happen to run it full width, then you’ve got like 1000 pixels either side of white space. It looks very strange.

Per: You were mentioning also – now I’m blabbering here but all the things at the same time but you were mentioning – when you were talking about typography and stuff there as well, you were mentioning before to me as well this thing about language and some languages have longer words than others, so column width actually has to be wider for certain types of languages as well.

James: Yeah, that was really interesting. I’m speaking Swedish of course but we know the Swedish where you do have a habit of …

Per: You have composite words.

James: You have composite words. It does get strung together to be very, very long at times. I mean generally speaking, you would say – well, one of the things that you could find with the research and what I recommend is that you never go lower than 45 characters on a row, on a line. So when you’re doing responsive, one of the checks you need to do there is see how few letters you’ve got left on a line when you’ve shrunk it to its minimum viewport because less than 45, it starts being ridiculous. You end up with one word on each line quite often.

Then you shouldn’t go beyond like what – between 70, 75, somewhere around there and it’s the maximum length for each row. After that, readability drops because nine, ten words on a row is roughly good readability. Generally speaking for us English speaking people, that would be 70 odd characters.

Per: Right.

James: But that’s not true for all languages. German is one of the examples that German has longer words, largely speaking or broadly speaking, which means you might prefer to have a little bit more than that – or towards 80 plus, 85 maybe is more sensible for German. So you get on average maybe the nine, ten words still.

But there then we’re saying maybe it’s more sensible to design for each language you tend to use rather than each resolution, the user specs the user might be using.

Per: Yeah, I like that, adding a completely new complicated dimension to your web design.  Yeah, using it to another language.

James: But from a user point of view, that’s much more relevant. I mean if I’m looking at a site in German that was designed in English, with the 960 grid and the right hand column is 50 characters wide or something, when I look at it in German, or – the web editors, the web managers are not looking after the site when they’re trying to put all their headlines in. You suddenly find that the German part of the organization can’t put the title in for that particular function because it’s 25 characters instead of the 14 in English.

Per: I’ve been there, done that. Working with Vattenfall, the large energy company because …

James: Oh, you’re naming names.

Per: I know because I stopped working with them. It’s so long ago. But they have operations in Finland, in Poland and in Germany. Also Finnish and Polish also have extremely long words.

James: Oh, Finnish has some monstrous words, yeah.

Per: I mean Finnish, it was impossible. I mean the lengths, you had big tabs.

James: Finnish is impossible.

Per: No, but the design was impossible. Let’s not go there!

James: Sorry.

Per: The tabs on the front page. They were just saying like home, business, private. They couldn’t fit. They couldn’t fit!

James: Yeah, the sale content first but language – well, you go to content first then language automatically becomes part of the content first because you’re going to – it would help you produce all your languages beforehand. We know this doesn’t happen. This is the thing about reality – theory in reality. All the great web minds are saying mobile first or content first or both.

That’s what we’re meant to do and we know usability-wise, we’re not meant to confuse our users. We got to keep it simple, focus on tasks, focus on conversion, all that kind of optimization and so on. Yet when it comes to building this stuff, it’s just …

Per: We do it in the wrong way all the time.

James: We do it in the wrong way all the time or we’re forced to do it in the wrong way all the time. I think this is – we talked about this with Brad in the last show about how – I mean it’s one thing standing up and being counted and saying I believe in future-friendly – in doing stuff right and following my heart, my web brain and knowing what I should be doing.

Per: Yeah.

James: But then your client comes along and goes, “Yeah. Well, I want a new desktop site.” You design me of a new product page or landing page or whatever it is.

Per: Right. Sometimes you’re just caught up in building more pages on the website that’s already there.

James: Yes, they don’t want to replace their content management system and they haven’t budgeted or they aren’t ready for doing a major redesign to maybe go responsive.

Per: Yeah.

James: They just come to you and they’ve asked you to do a new – do a wireframe for a new product page.

Per: Right.

James: You forced them maybe into a certain width…

Per: Maybe they’re saying that well, you told me it was future-friendly six years ago. But apparently it wasn’t because then all these mobiles came and what we did before wasn’t future-friendly. So how can I be sure it’s future-friendly now if you just do it responsive? We can’t because maybe that changes in two years. We have some new technology that makes it easier for us to push out content in different devices. Someone will think of something new.

So of course you’re never safe and that’s why – I mean going back to two episodes ago when we had that webpage. “This is a webpage.”

James: Oh, yeah.

Per: That’s where we should be starting with our content, putting it out there, just in plain text. Then start adding the pictures, start adjusting the fonts, the width. Test it. Then start adding the navigation. So do it in the right way instead of so many times going to the ad agency or whatever agency you’re going to and they will design something before having any content at all and you’re trying to squeeze it in.

James: I joked last night when we were chatting about what topic to record today, about web design being impossible.

Per: It is impossible.

James: It is.

Per: The more you know, the more – I mean …

James: The more enlightened you become.

Per: Yeah.

James: The more dark and evil the whole thing becomes. I mean OK, we’re 25 minutes into a podcast show now and we’re trying to help people here and we just said it’s impossible. So you might as well switch off now and go out in the garden.

It’s very, very difficult to mix all of this together and even the greatest web minds out there still don’t really have the perfect answers to everything. It’s a changing landscape as well as a complicated one. We’ve got all these devices. We’ve got all these languages.

Per: And you can’t trust the statistics.

James: You can’t – I think more there is – yeah, at times you can’t trust the statistics. You can’t also maybe trust your own analysis or analytics.

Per: Yeah.

James: Because most people actually don’t know what they’re reading. The people’s knowledge about what does that mean.

Per: You’re looking at quantitative data and unique …

James: Lots of visits.

Per: Yeah, you need qualitative data to actually go out there and like you were saying, see people using your site, using your services and that’s where you draw your conclusions from.

James: So we’ve got language. We’ve got typography. We’ve got behavioural science. We’ve got – the list is endless. We got clients. We’ve got agencies.

Per: Yeah, and the experts online as well, saying something.

James: Also you maybe work for an agency and that agency itself has sales goals. You’ve got a sales team who sold in a project to a client. The whole complexity of how we built up the industry and what we’re expected to deliver. It makes it impossible to do the perfect website.

Per: So I’m the CEO of Kellogg’s James. I don’t know why I pulled that out and I come to you and I’m asking we want to build a website. How do you decide what resolution to build for?

James: Oh, I like that. If I turn around slightly, can I look at my whiteboard?

Per: Yes.

James: Well, first of all, you’ve got to make sure they’ve got their goals set right.

Per: Yeah.

James: Because you come to me Mr. Kelloggs and so you want that. I want to ask you and check that you know what you want from it. Why are you doing it? What’s the point behind your website? How does it fit into the rest of your business, your business goals? What are you trying to achieve? Or even just that one page you want me to design. What’s that going to achieve?

And after that, we can then start getting into maybe what’s going to be on it, the content. Shall I go through – I actually wrote a six-step answer to how you could go about this.

Per: Go for it.

James: Yeah, first of all were goals as I said Mr. Kelloggs, and then research, research and measure. Really the measure. You know that I push this so much that you’ve got to measure the viewport being used and see what is happening because I’ve done this on several sites now and I know it varies from site to site quite a lot and I know that resolution is irrelevant.

Per: OK, James, but I’m Mr. Kelloggs now and we haven’t measured this at all over the years and we need that …

James: And you’re not going to do it before then.

Per: No.

James: In that sense, I’m going to recommend that you try and put that in place for the future so we can do a better job next time. But then we’re just going to have to basically guess based on resolution and yeah, then we know as well though that from other research, that – well, depending on what resolution was popular, that we can properly guess that – the laptop, the standard laptop size is still the most common, 1378 by 768.

Almost every single laptop screen is still that even though it’s pixels and we said about don’t use pixels anymore. That’s the size it is. Retina Macs and things, that’s different but most normal laptops and in business environments, a lot of people are still using those resolutions.

Per: This is where I want to go out and verify the goals with the actual users and actually like go – well, call some people up that are actually using the service or know something about Kelloggs based on the goals that you got from the CEO. Actually make sure that those match some of the goals that users have because if there’s no match, if there’s no win-win situation to be held here …

James: Yeah.

Per: … then you may have to go back and actually you need to find the goals.

James: So you’ve got to do the research there and even as you can’t do analysis and measure the viewport, then yes, you got to – exactly what you said. Reaffirm that these goals are going to work and the same time, you bring out some empirical research that says oh look, our users are mainly doing this or look, consuming the website or the content in this way.

Per: And then also set how you’re going to measure the goals.

James: Yeah. And then I want you to take – to do the content. Actually produce the content.

Per: Yes.

James: That is going to support the goals.

Per: But I haven’t hired a copywriter yet.

James: Then we have to try and use the existing content, if it’s an existing website and this also may be difficult in that you might – I think some people are going to struggle maybe to do content for a page, all content, including micro content for micro copy for various bits. We got any kind of design whatsoever. If I tell you to write a webpage, and you’ve got no idea of menus, you’ve got no idea of whatever site you are, what they’re all called, if it’s going to be – you’ve got nothing. You’re building from zero.

Per: I think I love trying to do that. I can honestly say I haven’t done it. I think it’s a really good way to do it.

James: Yeah.

Per: And I’m going to try it at some point in the future.

James: It would be interesting because I think it’s going to be a real challenge – with a blank piece of paper doing content first.

Per: Then you’re really focusing on the goal. What do you want the user to understand or achieve or do after doing this?

James: You’re right. It has got to have the goal and even some – yeah, and even SEO comes into it though. That maybe is a way of helping with content first.

Per: Yeah.

James: Making people think about the – the kind of good headlines then how it’s going to be appearing in search engines. What’s the readability level? What’s good? Making sure content is easy to read not just from a number of words on the row but also the language level.

Per: Yeah.

James: Not making it too technical or too high level language, keep your readability age down because we know people find that easier and allow people wonderful reading.

Per: I’m actually reading The Art of Explanation now by – I forget his name but I will post it on the show notes but the guy – do you remember these videos about RSS in plain English?

James: Yeah.

Per: All those, the Common Craft …

James: Yeah, Common Craft.

Per: Yeah. Sold the guy who made those. He also made the video for Dropbox.

James: Yes.

Per: And there’s a lot about explanation, how you have to really dumb down the language and make people – start off at least explaining stuff, getting the context of stuff so that people know where are they. What do you want them to do and why? Understanding why before you understand what and I really like that.

James: You try to solve something. Yeah. Then once you’ve actually worked out your goals and you’ve got all your content produced, then I think you should design for the smallest screen.

Per: Right.

James: Produce something for the smallest screen size. Do the whole mobile first thing.

Per: From my perspective, the smallest screen will always be the iPhone.

James: Yeah. Well, I mean depending on where you were in the world and what markets because there are still groups of – there are countries and groups of people that are using feature phones.

Per: Yeah, future-friendly.

James: You’ve already done your research.

Per: James, it has to be future-friendly. These people are going to buy iPhones.

James: Yeah. They will. But if you’ve done your research and you understand your users then it doesn’t matter because you choose the right device to do that smallest one first.

Per: Yeah.

James: But OK, now you’ve done a design and it’s – we’re probably talking about three-inch and 320 pixels wide now because it’s the smallest group first.

Per: Yeah, bump that up to 1440.

James: I don’t think you should. The step there I reckon, prototype, because if you then prototype that smallest one, you got something to play with and I’d – well, you test it in the smallest device but also you could start then to – seeing how this copes in the other devices or other sizes that your research has shown that are relevant for your products or site.

So rather than kind of saying, “OK, we do 960,” you might not need 960. You actually might find that other sizes are more relevant to look at and then you can start stretching and playing and see what breaks and tweak and adjust to make it work on the larger sizes.

Per: Right.

James: Or smaller ones. It might be that the one you realize afterwards that you want to go a little bit smaller to cope with an edge case.

Per: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking because I mean designed for the smaller screen. Well, we’re actually saying design for the smallest …

James: Relevant screen.

Per: That most users use.

James: The smallest, relevant screen.

Per: Exactly, the smallest relevant screen because I mean if 60 percent of the users have 1290 whatever and, I don’t know, five percent have less than that. Then that’s probably …

James: I’m not going to start …

Per: You’re not going to start with the mobile.

James: You would struggle to justify to your client starting with the smallest one I think, because if you’re a live site, live product just selling stuff or doing stuff now on the site, then you’ve got to care for that big chunk and so maybe you start with that one first and then move down. So maybe there’s a star next to my “smallest screen first” there…

Per: Now I’m getting really complicated and you’re realizing that you have some power users and the power users are the ones that are buying and they’re going online and have a ready shopping cart and then perhaps a few of them are actually going and pushing the buy button in the mobile resolution. Then you would realize that those are the guys that you want to design for. So it’s all down to which ones are making the money as well. If that’s your goal, if you have money making goals.

James: Which ones are relevant. The smallest relevant screen size first.

Per: So many parameters there that you have to take into account.

James: Told you it was impossible.

Per: Exactly, totally. Well, it’s complicated but there are like – I will make a template for it.

James: Yeah. So you can grow – with the whole mobile first thing and start with the smaller one first and it is easier to grow because you’ve already done the job of focusing your content and making sure you’ve got just the bare minimum you need to fulfil your goals because we know as soon as you start – you said as soon as you start more real estate, there’s an instant desire or you need to fill it and there’s often the battle to get stuff left alone. I mean not fill stuff. You’ve got an AD or some designer that’s filling up the page and then maybe aren’t the ones who has worked with the content. They aren’t the ones who are going to program it and so on. We’ve got these islands of – these silos of competence that are involved in these kinds of projects. You are going to fight to get your white space or to not add extra features just because there’s room for extra features.

Per: Yes.

James: And making sure you make – whatever you do add, you measure to make sure you understand the success of it.

Per: Or the failure of it.

James: Or the failure of it.

Per: Yeah, because sometimes you have to add something because the client is just on you all the time.

James: Yeah.

Per: And you add it and you have to measure them and see how does that take away from what you’re trying to accomplish with the webpage.

James: I got a question the other day about – oh, there was a suggestion of a mobile’s version of a page my client is asked to be produced for his agency. It doesn’t include like five features from the desktop site.

Per: OK.

James: I haven’t answered yet. I haven’t had time. But just that. Well, if the agency decided not to include these five features, is that because they’re really not that relevant?

Per: Yeah, we’ve encountered that before.

James: Or is it that they’re trying to save time and money? There’s no budget to produce all these features in the mobile version but the client wants the mobile version. You end up getting it – you’ve lifted a stone and so now you go, OK, what’s the business needs? What are the business limitations? Is it a budget thing here or is it a lack of research, a lack of understanding or readiness in the organization for certain decisions?

Per: Yeah.

James: Suddenly, a simple web design question becomes a business question…

Per: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. We started out with the screen size and we’re now into business goals. You have to dive into every part, every crevice of the organization and actually realize what they are all about. What can they accomplish? How much money do they have? What competencies do they have? How much time and money do they have to actually work with this over time?

After you’ve done the prototype, I mean you’re launching and your point number five on the whiteboard there is you actually grow as dictated by research. OK. So do we have any money left to do research and to actually do the redesign? Maybe not. How sure are we that we’re right when we launch?

James: Probably a good thing to finish off on now is just say that in digital and on web, any – if there’s a quick and easy answer to one of your questions, it probably means you’re doing it wrong or doing it in a quick and dirty way, and you’re not doing it the best way.

Per: Yeah.

James: And in some ways, that’s fine because that’s how it is. If I came to you and say, yes, design for 960, then I’m just giving you a quick and dirty answer and I’m not giving you the full picture because we just explained – just spent 40 minutes explaining a lot about the full picture and it’s very, very complicated.

Per: But are people going to have time to understand the full picture?

James: But then that’s the business decision itself. As long as you’re aware of the fact that these quick, simple answers mean that you’re ignoring a lot of elements and a lot of factors and as long as you understand that by taking these quick, simple decisions, then you probably are doing that. You’re not doing the right thing. Then fair enough. Just keep it in mind for the future that you probably need to allocate some time and money to doing it a bit better later on.

Per: I can’t stop thinking about the quick, simple decision people are making nowadays is responsive web design.

James: You’re right.

Per: And I’ve met so many people who – well, owners of websites that are thinking now, “Oh my god, what did I do?”

James: Yeah. I emplore you, if you’re doing responsive, make sure that you monitor your page load times as part of your web analytics and segment it by mobile and desktop and so on.

Per: Yeah, just make sure you visit your website now and again in your mobile and see what’s going on there.

James: Yeah.

Per: Wow, thank you for listening to all this rant about screen size. But it has been fun actually, I think. You’re going off to Spain.

James: I am. But you’re not back at work yet, are you?

Per: No, no. I’m – well, I’m semi-back first of August. I will be working on and off from the summerhouse I think, and so living the good life of the freelancer.

James: But for our listeners, we’re always open.

Per: Of course we are. Yeah, Twitter, email, yes. I’m in there all the time as always.

James: Yeah. And as usual, if you like the show, then give us some feedback. Get in touch with us or if you’ve got any questions or any points you want to argue about or correct us on, then yeah, get in touch. We would love to hear from you all.

Per: Check back in two weeks. Continue having a great summer everyone and remember to keep moving.

James: And winter for the people in the other side of the world.

Per: Sorry?

James: Winter for the people in Australia.

Per: Oh my god! I always forget that this is a podcast and internet is global.

James: We’re a big round thing.

Per: Yes.

James: It’s not the same everywhere.

Per: But it’s summer.

James: Here.

Per: Yes.

James: Not down there.

Per: Yeah, but it’s summer months.

James: No. It’s winter months down there. Their seasons are the same.

Per: Do they actually say winter?

James: Yeah, absolutely! Because it’s winter. It’s colder.

Per: I didn’t know that. I’ve been to South Africa although it’s not …

James: Oh, South Africa is not that far south really.

Per: Yeah.

James: Not when you look at Australia.

Per: Well, the seasons don’t change as much.

James: They don’t need the geography lesson.

Per: I didn’t realize this.

James: This is not a geography podcast.

Per: No, but this is interesting, because that means when you’re …

James: Can I get a cup of tea?

Per: We will save it. We will save it but I didn’t know that. It was fun and so I hope some other people didn’t know that as well. Now remember to keep moving.

James: And see you on the other side.

Hide the transcript

#51 James & Per & Brad go future friendly

We’re joined in Episode 51 by mobile web strategist and front-end designer Brad Frost. Brad’s blog posts have featured in a number of UX Podcast link shows, and he’s a bit of an ideological soul-mate of James and Per.

We talk about breaking down silos, standing up and doing things “right”, the importance of consistency, the usefulness of frameworks and style guides – and, of course, Future Friendly.

(Listening time: 45 minutes)


Brad Frost


Per: Hello and welcome to UX Podcast episode 51. You’re listening to me Per Axbom.

James: And me James Royal-Lawson.

Per: It is 51, isn’t it?

James: I reckon so. It says 51 on my notes here.

Per: Excellent.

James: I know it’s going to be difficult for you because you’re jetlagged.

Per: I am extremely jetlagged and I’ve had like an excellent vacation. But I had the worst ending to it with the travels back to Sweden and I must say it took us almost 40 hours to get from Detroit to Stockholm.

James: I was following your adventures on Facebook. It didn’t look fun.

Per: Yeah, it was insane. First, the flight was delayed hour after hour after hour and then finally then it was actually cancelled and the whole family had to sleep on the airport floor and spend the whole day at the airport again and then leave again in the afternoon.

James: But I’m so impressed that your luggage arrived.

Per: I am too actually, because we were rebooked on different flights all over all the time but our luggage actually made it at the same time as us to Sweden, so that was really good.

James: Impressive. One thing though Per.

Per: Yeah.

James: You got to be careful. What you need to try and do is not let this be your holiday story.

Per: Very true actually because this actually hooks into what we were talking about last week with these psychology theories that we’re all into these days with the peak-end theory. I was actually thinking about that. So this was the end of the thing and that was the peak of the thing almost. Unusually that’s what basically – mostly remember from it and that’s what you can begin talking about.

James: Yeah, it’s top of mind. It’s the most recent memory. It’s the most recent adventure during your holiday. So someone asks you how your holiday was, you say it was fantastic but you might be going home. Exactly what you did when I asked you how it was.

Per: Yeah, exactly but that’s also the fun part to talk about sort of.

James: Yeah. Hold on. That must be episode 52 or something. This is episode 51 and in this episode we’re going to be talking to Brad Frost.

Per: Yes, we are. Excellent.

James: Yeah.

Per: And we have Brad also on the last show. We talked about one of his articles.

James: Yeah, we talked about his articles.

Per: And then we had some contact with him on Twitter and you thought it was a good idea to interview him. I thought as well and he thought as well.

James: Well, let’s ring him then.

View the full transcript

Per: All right. Let’s go for it.

James: Yeah.


Brad: Hello.

Per: Hello Brad.

James: Hello there.

Brad: Hey, how are you?

Per: Hey. We’re fine.

Brad: Can you hear me alright?

Per: I hear you great.

James: I can hear you Brad. Yeah, I can hear you Brad.

Brad: Perfect. I just got a new sort of like recording set up for music and so I’m using that and this is like my first time playing around with it.

James: Oh, that’s really nice of you. Are you going to give us a song as well Brad?


Per: Excellent. I’m actually cooped up in my bedroom because the kids are outside playing Xbox in the living room and that would be too loud.

Brad: Nice.

James: I’m actually in my office which is in the house in the garden. My kids are cooped up in the cellar, playing Skylanders.

Brad: Nice. My kid or should I say my dog is outside and I’m actually – if you want to hold on just like a couple of seconds, I forgot I left him out there. So I got to bring him back in. Hang on one second.

James: Sure.


Per: So waiting for Brad to get his dog.

Brad: All right. I’m back.

Per: That’s OK.

Brad: My dog Ziggy, I love him but whenever I’m at my computer, so he will come up and just sort of claw at me and he’s like hey, you shouldn’t be on your computer right now. You need to be paying attention to me. So I’m like oh, maybe you need to go outside.

Per: Oh, wow.

James: Brad, I got a friend who does a podcast and he has Basset Hounds and they really love being in and around when he’s doing his podcast.

Per: Oh, wow.

Brad: Yeah.

James: And drooly.

Brad: Yeah.

Per: So excellent that you wanted to be on the show.

Brad: Yeah.

Per: We don’t know yet what we will be talking about. We had some ideas of talking about future friendliness. But let’s, I mean you’re based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Brad: Yeah.

Per: And I had to check sort of. That’s like 250 miles west of New York or four hundred kilometres.

Brad: Yes.

Per: Yeah.

Brad: So it would basically take you around six, six and a half hours or something to drive home, maybe between five and half and six and a half hours to drive west, pretty much straight west.

Per: Right.

Brad: From New York, which I did a lot because actually up until last year, I was living in New York City.

Per: Oh, OK.

Brad: Yeah. So I was there for five years and actually Pittsburgh is home and so I’m sort of moving back home, which I’m really happy with that decision.

Per: So based on the quick research we’ve done about you, we think alike very much. Both James and I follow your blog and I think we’ve – I mean last time wasn’t the first time we talked about one of your posts.

So given that we’re very similar, I was trying to think about a subject for us to talk about and I was looking through the front page of your website and very similar subjects but the one that caught my mind or caught my eye rather was the future friendly as one of your services where you actually say something about offering future friendliness. I‘m going to try and bring it up here actually because I had it before.

“In order to deal with tomorrow’s diversity, we must acknowledge and embrace unpredictability as well as think and behave in a future friendly way.”

Just embracing unpredictability and behaving in a future friendly way, that seems like kind of a hard thing to do and I think that’s something we all come across. How long have you been doing UX work or do you even call yourself a UX designer?

Brad: Yeah, actually I do even though I’m technically a developer. I actually sort of get into these little battles with people about stuff like that just because I get really annoyed whenever people try to silo our disciplines into these very neat, tidy buckets.

James: Yeah.

Brad: So the UX designer is technically historically like an information architect or somebody like that. The agency I worked at, they called them interaction designers but they were basically just making PDFs all day. They were making wireframes in InDesign, like that. That’s not really interaction and then you have visual designer is like oh, you’re just the people that are colouring the lines and oh, developers. You’re just these techy blah. I especially hate the developer role or title because really it’s just we “creative” people will be over here doing all this fancy thinking and stuff and you’re just going to be the little monkey that actually hooks it all up and makes it work and stuff.

So that has been the story of my career has been trying to fight against that sort of developer only as this person that you call into a meeting to just say, “Yes, this is feasible. No, this isn’t feasible. Yes, this is feasible. No, this isn’t feasible,” and like seriously that’s how it works.

James: And I know. I’ve had a very similar time as well. I spent most of my time crossing these bridges and trying to make these silos talk to each other and we actually started the entire podcast just over two years ago and after been at UX Lx and hearing everyone there, just all these UXs complaining about how theirs is the perfect silo and how all the other silos don’t understand them and they just need to listen to – start listening to them.

We thought, my god, with all these silos just sitting there thinking they’re perfect, we’ve got to start crossing them over and really blowing them and …

Brad: Yeah, it’s ridiculous. It’s totally ridiculous but yeah, I consider myself a UX designer even though I’m the person doing like HTML and stuff and CSS. But I’m creating an experience or I’m creating something that a user will experience, right? I’m creating something that someone will interact with and enjoy and whatever and what I’m doing is actually constructing that. So I do think that there is pretty much anyone involved in a project and can call themselves a UX designer.

Per: I like that actually. I mean as long as you’re concerned about what the use of things and what the …

Brad: Well, that’s exactly it. I mean even project managers and stuff and again like I see that a lot or everyone tries so hard to put up these walls and it’s like, “You know what? We should all just be thinking of this.”

Per: You should be thinking about the end product, not what role you’re playing.

Brad: Precisely, precisely.

James: I think there’s also this degree of honesty that we spend – I know a lot of people in different roles spend far too much time not really being honest about what they’re doing and what they’re producing and just getting on with doing it because life is easier if you just produce that code or you do those wireframes or just deliver that document.

Brad: Yeah.

James: And standing up and doing something about it. Now that’s a difficult path to take.

Brad: It is and I like that joke around about how I feel like my career path has basically been a salmon swimming upstream a waterfall process. It’s really difficult to do but basically especially with a lot of sort of like responsive work and just getting people to care about that, it first began with the people earlier in the process in the assembly line.

So the visual designers have to convince them and then go on to convince the information architects and then eventually convince the project managers and stuff and then eventually sitting in front of the clients and stuff.

So it has been a long, hard battle and stuff but yeah, it’s something that we need to do is just convince everyone and help everyone stay on track and I can’t even count the amount of time where I’ve just had stuff thrown over the fence to me, stuff that – like here, you just build this. I’m like this is a terrible idea.

And them I’m like wow, you’re really mean Brad and it’s like no. I mean seriously, how did they get this far? It is because it’s because people want to do their job and nothing more. They don’t want to rock the boat and stuff like that in order to do really good work. I do think that you need to challenge people and you need to really – again like break out of your own discipline in order to work with people that they’re just – it’s not very fun if you’re just sort of sitting in your middle bucket that’s for sure.

James: I quite often, well, half-joke about the fact that every project, every deliverable almost is more of an education project. You have to educate more than deliver.

Brad: Yes.

James: I mean I half-joke about it because it is like that. Every time I stand up and present something or explain something I’m delivering to a client, it’s mostly passing on knowledge rather than implementing a solution because it doesn’t really work unless they’ve really understood why and what you’re doing.

Brad: Absolutely. I mean I would say that that sort of sums up where I’ve been going with my career. It has been moving more into this, “Well, how do I make it really easy to get this point across?” or “How do I make it easy to bundle up all these resources under one roof?” or “How do I demonstrate these patterns in a way that people are going to get them or something?”

It is. It’s all about education because the context of the specific project is going to change but part of where I was at, at the agency I was working for which is R/GA, I was there in New York for a long while, and part of what made my role great was that I wasn’t stuck on one project. I sort of floated between a bunch of them and as a result, I was able to sort of see the common problems, the common sort of road blocks or the common sort of misunderstanding or whatever that people have run into.

What that did was sort of provided me this very bird’s eye perspective of what people are struggling with and as a result, I was able to sort of make resources and make decisions and stuff that extended beyond the scope of just a single project. It wasn’t like I’m just solving the problem that’s right in front of my face. You’re just like, “OK. Well what’s really going on here? What’s the big misconception here?”

So it has been really nice to have that perspective and that has definitely influenced the kind of stuff that I work on.

Per: I think the three of us have had the same type of experience that we have to educate the client all the time and we’re finding new ways to do that and I’m using a lot of sketches and visual presentations nowadays to do exactly the same thing. But it would be nicer if I didn’t have to spend all that time explaining why I’m doing this stuff because often the problem, the basic problem is that the client doesn’t even have an answer to the simple question of why are we doing this.

Brad: Yeah, exactly.

Per: So we have to go back and educate them about their own business, not only about our own work that we do for them, and that’s what’s really surprising to me.

James: Yeah, be business consultants to help them alter their internal organizations first before you can actually produce something.

Brad: No, absolutely. I think that you especially run into that stuff with these – with big brands or something or people that are well, it’s 2013 and so now we have a chunk of money in. So we’re going to redesign our site again and it’s that question of “why” doesn’t get asked often enough.

But yeah, I mean I think there are lots of tools and stuff that we can do to – and just even images. For example, I made an image or a series of three images that I’ve used in a lot of my presentations but I ended up throwing it up on my blog because this for me has saved me so many words and has convinced people and sort of got the point across better than any sort of speech could give. But it’s basically just three images and it says, “This is not the web,” with a picture just like a desktop, old trusty desktop.

Per: Oh, yeah. I’ve seen those pictures.

Brad: Yeah, and it’s like this is the web and it’s like smart phones, dumb phones, ereaders, tablets, like all sorts of stuff and then it’s like this will be the web with like a bunch of question marks and stuff. The whole idea again is that just showing those three images in quick succession is like – it’s like OK, I get it. I get why we’re even in this room talking about why we need to address this or why we’re even talking about responsive design or why we’re talking about what’s next. It’s because things have changed and I get that perceived.

So yeah, just doing like little stuff like that, just like producing a quick series of little images and stuff have gone a long way for me.

James: I think one of the big issues that we’ve got in the entire branch, I mean OK, we’re three guys now talking that have understood. We’re members of the chosen few that understand about performance, responsive design or like “carousels don’t work” or whatever subject one will think about.

But yet, as we’ve just said, lots of places are doing this wrong or their organizations can’t cope with it or they can’t see the forest because of the trees. One of the reasons I think is because it’s so easy to do web stuff and there’s so many businesses out there that their entire product is doing stuff easy without all the care, the attention, the management to detail that we know delivers.

How can we come over that? How can we bridge those two worlds? The quick solution to the company that buys that quick solution and then those of us who know that doesn’t really cut it.

Per: I’ve actually had clients who – well, mostly in the past, mostly in the late 90s, they always had a relative or a niece or a nephew who could do this stuff and my nephew could do this website or whatever. But I’ve actually come across that later on as well when doing campaigns that hire like a student to do some Flash stuff or something like that because it’s much cheaper. As long as you don’t know why you’re doing it, you don’t even care what it costs. You just know they need a Flash presentation.

Brad: Sure, yeah. I think that what you’re talking about is something that’s extremely, extremely important and I see it more and more which is like how do we bridge that world of plug and play, turnkey solutions, the things that all these companies like to sell so much. How do we make tools? How do we make methodologies and stuff like that, that takes a lot of the hard work out of it but still don’t get in the way of you doing really good work properly?

I see a lot of I guess the things that I’m working on now. I’m working on this Pattern Lab thing which is trying to do that, which basically it’s – what it is, is it’s not like a solution. It’s not here’s your website and you could skin it however you want and here’s like all these different components so you could combine them however you want.

The idea is this is more like a framework for like stitching together your own interface. But what I’m really cognizant about in making this tool is not to influence how you want to create your own site.

So all the HTML, all the CSS, all the JavaScript, all the stuff that your website is made of, you still have full control over it. There’s like no dependencies. You could write code as crappy or as great as you want but really all this thing is doing, all my framework is doing, is making it easy for you to sort of stitch together this interface and stitch together, create your own like pattern library and stuff like that. But I see that also with tools like – have you guys seen like Jetstrap?

Per: Well, is that the tool that’s based on Bootstrap but you pull things in? It’s like a site builder but based on Bootstrap, right?

Brad: Right, precisely and so that’s what I like about that is that it’s this very easy, very drag and drop. You double click on the text and you could change the buttons and you could change the size and you could reorder things and stuff but you’re actually manipulating like real HTML ultimately, right?

So it’s very realistic and as far as like getting a quick prototype up and running to show someone here’s what we’re thinking or whatever, like that’s a great idea and what it does is it – so it doesn’t dumb down what’s ultimately being created. You’re not like creating like a drawing of a website. You are actually creating – you’re manipulating an actual website but they have provided this UI for you to sort of quickly and easily drag things on to the screen and reorder them and stuff like that.

So that I think that that’s the kind of thing that I’m getting excited about where it’s like how do we make it easier for people to construct web experiences, to do their wireframes, to do their Java a lot better without having to go through all the tedium of like manual code and every time I want it on another list, I’m going to have to write all that stuff from scratch.

I do like the idea of like giving people like a better starting point but still give people the flexibility and the power to like get under the hood and really do things the way that they want to do them.

Per: I’m really loving Bootstrap these days. I’m using Bootstrap a lot for prototypes and I’m realizing how much – bringing it closer to something that looks like the end product makes it so much easier to communicate both with developers and with the clients, so I’m all for that.

But then there’s always the next step of actually building the site as well and making it optimized and streamlined and whatever and sometimes there are so much belief in that what is the prototype is something that you can just take and just modify a bit and that will be the final product. That’s what I sort of am seeing is the danger in the projects that I’m participating in right now is they don’t see how far we have left because there’s a lot to go and ways to go after that as well.

Brad: Yeah. It’s like wow, it looks like we’re done. Yeah, no, not really. But yeah, and I think that is certainly again something that requires education where it’s – listen, we’re showing you this prototype and stuff like that. Yes, it is working. Yes, we’re showing active states. Yes, we’re able to click from page to page and stuff and that’s so, so much better and more effective than printing out a 90-page PDF of like here’s what your website is going to be with all the annotations that are just so verbose, it’s amazing.

So yeah, like that definitely gets us a lot closer and stuff but then ultimately yes, you have to build the thing for real. But I will take a prototype and an explanation over intentionally dumbing down things on paper just so that whenever we build the thing, we are only building it once, right?

James: And after all this, we’ve got the next phase which is websites need to be run. They have to be taken and lived with after you’ve done a new design, a new skin to it all or bumped it into a new tool.

Brad: Yeah.

James: And that’s often where they start to fall down and fall down rapidly.

Brad: Right.

James: And maybe the frameworks will help us take a little step beyond that as well by standardizing or reusing a lot more. Maybe it will make it slightly easier to maintain sites and keep them running and tweak them instead of rebuilding them.

Brad: Right. Well, so, this is where something where it’s one thing to talk about frameworks as a prototyping tool and stuff and I’m all for that. I do shy away from it for like production builds and stuff just because some of the clients I’ve worked with in the past. Like Nike isn’t going to make like a Bootstrap site for like your site.

You know what I mean? But Dave Rupert had this great post talking about responsive deliverables and he worked on Microsoft.com and he was talking about how we need tiny Bootstraps for every client. So the idea is no longer here are your page templates and I’m going to run away and see you next year or whatever.

The idea is that we now need to deliver these full-on component libraries and commented code and here’s how you use this stuff. Here it is in context and all this and I totally love that idea of yeah, we have to live with these websites and the clients have to live with the websites. The organizations have to live with them and what better way than to actually instead of just throwing them over some final code or whatever, let’s actually deliver them this full-on system that’s nice and extendable.

They could take it, run with it and maintain it and pass it off to different people and everyone will be brought up to speed instead of just this like sort of like black box like OK, here’s your home page. Here’s your contact page. Here’s your check out page like whatever.

We need to get a lot more sophisticated than that. That’s why again the tools that I’m working on now are trying to sort of venture into those waters.

James: I think that’s great and also then we come back into the whole honesty thing again and that organizations themselves need to be honest about whether they can deal with these frameworks and systems and so on that we’re presenting to them. It’s too easy for them to say, “Yeah, yeah, just bring it on. We will do that,” and then they can’t actually cope internally with using it and getting on with it.

Brad: Yeah, yeah.

James: So it would be better for them to say, no, hold on. I think this has stepped too far. So dumb down or go back a step and you’re like OK, well in that case we will do this because we think this is more achievable for you right now and because this is good groundwork that we’re laying. Maybe in a year, we can revisit this a bit and we can take the next step when you’ve matured a bit more organizationally and then we can do the rest.

Brad: Yeah. A post I just posted yesterday was sort of introducing this concept, just to – because a lot of people, again education, they don’t understand that. They don’t just need another design that they need this – to think of things as more like a systematic sort of approach. So I just wrote something called interface inventory and the whole idea is like basically the steps you take to create an interface inventory. So you take whatever your client site is and then just start screenshotting the crap out of it and sort of clumping them into like different buckets and stuff.

So it’s like here’s our button styles and here’s our form styles and here’s our breadcrumbs and here’s our tabs and here’s our accordions and whatever. But basically, you’re deconstructing the interface, the existing interface into like a keynote like presentation or something.

The whole idea is to sort of show a lot of like the inconsistencies that arrive whenever like we just treat things as like pages or whatever or have 17 agencies working on the website or just seven different teams and stuff. It’s staggering like how quickly everything could fall out of whack and I use my bank as an example which is just all over the place. I screenshotted a bunch of their buttons and they have like 100,000 different button styles that are all similar but no two are the same.

James: I think it’s great. It’s a great example of that picture on the blog post.

Brad: Right, right.

James: Makes me laugh but then some people are going to go, “What’s the problem?”

Brad: Right. I think that anybody would – and you would acknowledge that as a problem. But the thing is, is that like you were saying is like from an organizational standpoint. Like this is the kind of stuff that you could put in front of them and say, “Here’s where we’re at.” You could look at this picture of 100 different button styles and realize that yeah, we probably should do something about this. We should probably have some guidelines. We should probably think of things in a more systematic way.

So again, really like something – a tool like this, like a technique like this is more or less just to educate, just to get people on the same page, to convince them that like yeah, we just don’t want to go down yet another redesign path again for no good reason other than you have a little money to spend.

Per: I like that because it sounds like it’s an activity that anyone could get started with quite soon. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time but it’s really enlightening for the whole organization about what’s going on.

But also you would want to create something that perhaps not only the people within the organization could use but that other suppliers could use because that’s a problem I sometimes run into that when I’m hired by a large organization, I don’t get the tools that allow me to access the CSS files and stuff so I can’t create the – I can go visually and look at the stuff and they probably mean like that and I can create something similar but I don’t get the tool set that will help me to actually do it exactly the way they want to or the way they should want to.

Brad: Right.

Per: That’s what you’re really getting to when you’re providing this tool I think.

Brad: Yeah, and I’m working on some other stuff that’s trying to address that too, just because again I’ve worked with a lot of brands. I’ve worked with a lot of different agencies, a lot of different third party vendors, a lot of different – but even just internally, people come and go and they take the knowledge with them. They know where the latest files are and stuff like that. It’s amazing how much of an ordeal it is just to even get like a PSD or just to get a style guide or just to get – it’s like locked up in like final underscore version two, underscore for print, underscore for printer, underscore version two dot PDF and it’s like oh yeah, it’s in page 14 of that. Everybody knows that.

It’s just it’s amazing like how disorganized these organizations could be and so I think that in order to do really sound work, web work and stuff especially, with these organizations that are just so big, you need those guidelines. You need those starter PSDs. You need those component libraries in order for you to know what you’re working with, how things should be done, but also to get an idea of like where you might be able to like bend rules.

I see a lot of this like systematic design and style guides and stuff like that not as like here’s exactly how you do things all the time. But rather as like a good baseline of like here’s where we’re at. We do have some flexibility hopefully to like do some really innovative things and stuff. You shouldn’t only be limited to what we have in our style guide or a pattern library or whatever and just arrange them in a certain way. That’s not terribly fun.

But at the same time like just know the difference between making something intentionally different versus totally unintentionally different. I think it’s a really important point to get across.

James: I think it’s – you can’t start too soon or too small with this. I mean even if you’re a small organization. One thing I’ve done over the years with small clients who maybe just want to work a site with a standard template, I make sure – I encourage and educate them about keeping track of their little style guide even if they don’t have an official style guide or brand guidelines. I mean most of them have some kind of logo or there’s a font they use generally or there’s some type of colours that they’ve chosen.

So I make sure I kind of get them to write up somewhere. That’s a hex code for your colour. This is roughly what we do with the logo and how much space we’re going to use and help them understand that when you open that Twitter account, maybe you’re not doing it now but you’re going to open it up. Then choose this colour as the background colour or get used to picking that colour so you get some consistency because the amount of these small clients, they – you see quite a lot that they will have like 5000 shades of red …

Brad: Oh, definitely.

James: It’s red and they don’t really understand how you – be consistent, so small and large. It’s never wasted time to kind of have a central place where you keep the details to help you be consistent.

Brad: Yeah.

Per: Isn’t this also gentlemen actually a nice segue into future friendliness, that this is actually the baseline for making it future friendly? Have something in place – yeah, you don’t want to really spend time on all this. I mean the amount of time you spend and actually trying to find those documents but the version 2 underscore 3.6. That’s time that could be spent doing so much more things that would be better for the user experience.

But it’s actually having the baseline of something that is a guide. Then regardless of technology in the future, you would go back to the guide, and see how that fits and how you could actually develop that with the future technology that is existent whenever.

Brad: Right, exactly. I think that this is – a lot of the stuff reflects the fact that you can’t control the technology landscape. You just can’t.

Per: Yeah.

Brad: And nobody knows where it’s going to go and then so really the basic question is like, “Well, what can you control?” Well, you can control your own stuff and so this is what we’re doing. We’re trying to make it easier for people to control their own stuff, to have a better idea of what the organization is, what it does, who they’re trying to reach because those things aren’t going to change hopefully. I mean like your audience and stuff might over time but like – but today, it’s iOS apps. Today’s it’s Android apps. Today it’s a standard website and really who knows what sort of stuff we’re going to be making just a couple of years from now.

But having that inventory, having that strong sense of like this is our red and this is our tone of voice, I’m sure you guys have seen like voice and tone by MailChimp.

Per: Yeah.

Brad: Yeah. Just having that sort of stuff today just absolutely prepares you for whatever is in store.

Per: I think that’s really important to stress touching upon there. Like it’s not only style but it’s also like microcopy, the little – how you stay say stuff, how the error messages should be presented.

Brad: But even just – again, like what is our company. What does it stand for? What are our values? What are our things? It’s like it is. It’s amazing how many people don’t have that stuff in place. It’s crazy.

James: But I’ve said to a few clients recently, well, every single webpage needs to have a goal and they go, “What? Every one?” Yeah, because why is it there? But that’s just too difficult. Yeah, no, it’s not easy.

Per: How else can we measure? Well, we measure whatever how many people visit the site. Yeah.

James: Well, I think it’s probably time for us to wrap us, isn’t it Per?

Per: I think so. There is one question I have for Brad and that has to do with his avatar because I was really curious about it. Is there a story behind the space helmet?

Brad: Yeah.

Per: Because I know that Luke Wroblewski has a space helmet. So I guess is there a meme going on here that I don’t know about?

Brad: Yeah. So a few of us got together outside of Nashville around the Breaking Development Conference. This is now almost a two years ago I think but it was basically a bunch of people that all care about the web and sort of where things are going and all these different mobile devices and stuff like that.

So we all got together to discuss these things in this house and the result of that sort of little retreat was the future-friendly manifesto which is online now, which is …

James: All right. All the names. All the undersigns.

Brad: Yeah, yeah. So what ended up happening, the story of the helmet is that at this house, it just happened to be this astronaut helmet there.

James: Just happened to be?!

Brad: Yeah, I know. It’s just it’s pretty – yeah, it’s pretty fortuitous there but yeah, so that sort of became the de facto sort of like icon for the whole thing which was pretty appropriate because we ended up calling it Future Friendly. So yes, so that’s why Luke and Jeremy Keith and a few others had their space helmet avatars.

We actually just created a United Pixelworkers future-friendly helmet t-shirt and all the proceeds are going to Archive.org to helping them back up the internet.

Per: Nice. I had no idea about this.

Brad: Yeah.

James: That’s something we have to buy Per.

Per: Yeah.

Brad: Yeah, but yeah, so that’s the story behind it and I really like it. I like having my professional headshot be a – picture of me in a helmet.

James: I think most of us got a little astronaut somewhere inside us.

Brad: Oh, yeah, absolutely. But that’s what I do. I love that about being future friendly is that it is something that I think a lot of people can just understand whenever I explain it to clients or I can explain it to other people. They’re like oh yeah, that makes sense. Expect that things are going to change and make things as friendly for whatever is coming down the pipes. Like that makes perfect sense. I do. I love that. It’s pretty accessible.

Per: Excellent.

James: Excellent.

Per: Excellent note to end on as well.

Brad: Cool. Yeah. Well, thanks for having me.

Per: Oh, thank you for giving us your time.

Brad: Yeah, it’s no problem.

James: I think we could have you on every week.

Per: Yes. I think so as well.

Brad: Well, feel free to give me a call in a couple of weeks. I will be happy to do it.

Per: Great. What time is it over there?

Brad: It is 11:11 on July 11. Wow, I just looked it up in my computer.

Per: Oh, wow.

Brad: It’s like ultimate wish making stuff right there.

James: A binary end.

Brad: Yeah.

Per: OK. Then have a good lunch and we will let you know when we post the show.

Brad: OK. All right. Sounds like a plan.

Per: Yeah.

James: Thanks very much Brad.

Per: Thank you.

Brad: All right. Hey, thanks a lot guys. Take care.

Per: You too.

James: Take care.

Brad: Bye-bye.


Per: Excellent. I think that was great talking to Brad and that was so funny about the story about the helmets because I sort of wanted to start off talking about future friendliness. We talked about so much other stuff and then all of a sudden, the helmets had something to do with future friendliness which was really quite funny.

James: We had a half hour intro to what you wanted to talk about.

Per: Yes. I think so.

James: I think we did quite alright there and not turning into a love-fest because what we realized is that Brad is on the same track as us.

Per: Yeah.

James: He has got a lot of same ideas, understanding and hopes and dreams about what we can do in this wonderful world of web and digital. He sits a little bit more on the developer side than us.

Per: Yeah.

James: Which is an excellent insight.

Per: Exactly.

James: Additional insight.

Per: And a concept of anyone calling themselves a UX designer. I like that actually. That’s what has happened. I mean there are a few of us who call ourselves a UX designer that actually have any sort of formal education.

James: We touched up on the whole title of UX, didn’t we a few episodes ago? That’s one of the things we basically came to conclusion on that. It doesn’t really exist, does it? We’re all doing UX to a degree. We’re just doing other things under the umbrella of UX. When it boils down to it, we all just need to get along.

Per: I think so.

James: To quote Jack Nicholson from …

Per: From what movie?

James: Why can’t we all just get along?

Per: OK. So the next challenge is for us to record the next episode while you’re away on vacation.

James: Yeah, I think I’m going to be out of the country next time.

Per: Yeah.

James: We been assured we’ve got internet so we will – well, hopefully that will work.

Per: It usually does in some way.

James: It’s all sticky-tape and string anyway. We’ll work it out.

Per: Yes. OK. I think I heard your kids shouting in the background.

James: I think they’re still on the property. I can still hear them so they’re not too far away. Well, I’m going to go and salvage them from whatever mischief they’re getting up to while I’m recording this with you.

Per: OK. Excellent. To our listeners, remember to keep moving.

James: And see you on the other side.

Hide the transcript

#50 James & Per begin with words

Separated by a hundred million square kilometres of Atlantic Ocean, James and Per bring you a link show featuring three articles we’ve found during our digital travels.

We start, as the article itself prescribes, by discussing content, words in particular. We then dovetail into Atomic Design and using chemistry as a conceptual metaphor for web design. Finally we look at persuasion profiling and how the psychology of persuasion could be used in our work with websites.

(Listening time: 32 minutes)



Per: Hello and welcome to episode 50 of UX Podcast. You’re listening to me, Per Axbom.

 James: And me, James Royal-Lawson. Fifty episodes!

 Per: Fifty episodes.

 James: Fifty.

 Per: Yes.

 James: Oh, 50 episodes.

View the full transcript

 Per: And to celebrate, I’m in the country of 50 states. In our efforts to actually produce this show during the summer as well and we find ourselves in different locations. So I’m set …

 James: Really different locations.

 Per: Really different locations. I just woke up actually. I’m up north in Michigan in a town called Charlevoix or Charlevoix if you speak French but Charlevoix in American English, in a quaint little hotel and I just sent my family to breakfast. I’ve been vacationing now for a week and a half up here. So I’ve been having fun. It has been really, really hot. It has been like 30 degrees Celsius, in the 80s if you’re speaking Fahrenheit and been having a good time and then James reminded me via Facebook we have to record the show and here we are.

James: I’ve kind of grabbed you now. You must be a week and a half into your holiday. Your brain must be like jelly because your body starts relaxing right now in hot temperatures, taking it easy and not working and things. So it’s going to be a real struggle getting anything useful out of you today.

Per: Do you think?

James: We will see.

Per: There’s no difference from my voice. But you haven’t left from vacation yet, have you?

James: No, I’m really busy today. I’ve got a deadline in two and a bit hours. Yeah. So I’ve been frantically producing a document. I’m actually trying to design a model for measuring usability. We can actually do a whole podcast about that. Oo, now there’s an idea.

Per: Excellent.

James: I mean model for measuring usability in a very limited number of hours based on stuff that already exists.

Per: Yeah, designing the model. Then actually using the model and writing up the report.

James: Frankly, I’m not – this particular model, I’m not using it and writing it up.

Per: Oh, OK.

James: Someone else will have the joy of doing that.

Per: Oh, excellent.

James: But as for me, it’s nearly 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I’ve been at this now for – actually I’ve been at this for like seven hours. Might as well just …

Per: You’re probably actually – I went to bed quite late so you were probably waking up when I went to bed.

James: Probably. So my brain is probably nearly as much jelly-like as yours but for a completely different reason.

Per: Oh, wow.

James: Anyhow, yeah, so today though we’ve got a link show.

Per: Yeah, to make it a bit easier on ourselves.

James: Yeah, not subjecting a third person to this time zone mayhem. The link shows means for those who don’t know is when we take –well, in this case, three articles that we found during our digital travels and talk about them a little bit.

Per: Yeah. And I think the theme of today is sort of going back to basics. I love it.

James: Oh, yeah. I like the way that these three articles interconnect and interplay. It’s quite a nice little threesome. Did I just say that?

Per: Yes, you did just say that. Oh my god.


Per: Anyway, I really love you found this – the first one we’re talking about. It’s called Words and it’s one of the best things I’ve read in a long while I must say. It’s just words basically on a webpage and it’s beautiful. It makes me cry almost.

James: It’s actually excellent. It’s sort of what you engage, just HTML with text on it. Only it has got the title “this is a webpage” and I mean I could – it’s almost like you want to read this one out. It’s one of those kinds of ones. But the gist of it is that this webpage, it’s just words. You’re reading them when you visit it and the most powerful tool on the web is still just words. I think what brings a smile to you. here and make sure you really think about this a lot is the bit where it says – he says, “I remember teaching my daughter to code HTML when she was eight. The first thing she wrote was a story about a squirrel,” which he has actually linked to the story.

She wasn’t writing HTML. She was sharing something with the world. She couldn’t believe that she could just write a story on the home computer and then publish it for the world to see. She didn’t care about HTML. She cared about sharing her stories.

Per: And the next line is actually one of my favourites also, “You are still reading,” and it’s down in the middle of the text.

James: Yeah.

Per: Yeah, it really does make a read and it has no fancy design and has no columns. It has nothing, no graphics.

James: No images.

Per: So yeah, it’s …

James: No distractions. It’s wonderful. It’s taking the essence of what the page is about and it’s sticking to it and it’s keeping you entertained, engaged, and on topic.

Per: Yeah. We’ve talked about those before about one-column layouts because you and me both like one-column layouts and this is like even more proof that yeah, that’s what we’re going for here because we just want everyone to just focus on the words, on the text. My one complaint with something like this and what it’s trying to prove may be that what really made the web like go mainstream is sort of graphics and the ability to help people understand stuff.

James: Do you reckon …

Per: I’m thinking the first graphics web browser Mosaic is what – well, made people – well, it was a real eye-opener I guess.

James: Wasn’t it bandwidth?

Per: No, no. Listen to that. We should play that like modem thing when it takes like 15 seconds.

James: But that’s fun. We have fun with it anyway. Without the bandwidth, we wouldn’t be able to do some of these designy, flashy things.


Per: … it all dovetails into one another, I think.

James: Yeah, you’re right. It does. But thinking back when we first started using the webinar in the 90s, back in ’94 on the first time I opened up a web browser and started searching for stuff, it was text. You searched for things in text and you went link to link. You hopped from link to link to find stuff often and they were text links, hyperlinks and you went to another text-based page. Occasionally you’d have a little crappy picture and so on because back in the 90s, there weren’t so many digital cameras. There wasn’t so many ways of getting content, digital imagery onto the web. It was all crappy icons if anything.

Per: Actually you sort of swore when you saw a picture because it took so long to download. You only saw the top part of the picture and then five minutes later you saw the whole picture.

James: You cursed the people who didn’t save their gifs interlaced.

Per: Yeah, exactly.

James: Oh, how the world was simple.

Per: Oh my god. Now we’re an old man again. OK.

James: Now we’re talking about responsive images and everything. The essence of this though is we don’t have to make things overcomplicated. Content is possibly – we talked about content being king or not. Context is king is what I like to say but the two interrelate.

Per: That’s another thing that actually I don’t like with this article is it has no date.

James: No.

Per: It has it in the text but not like you can find it when was it written. You have to read sort of into the text, didn’t know that it was written on June 20th.

James: Yeah.

Per: And it already has like 15 different translations as well. I love that.

James: I agree with you about the date, but you’re picking a little fault there and I do like the fact that it has inspired people to create their own language translations of the post. I also like the fact that he did a next step call to action as such on the end of the article. You can find it where to follow him, what’s his name, and then it says, “I’m writing a book. I’m building on building and launching things on the web,” and have the link to it there. The guy who wrote it by the way, is Justin Jackson.

Per: Right.

James: I will link to his Twitter page from the show notes. But content, I mean is it – you got to start with words and yeah, you do need to start with words, I think.

Per: I totally agree.

James: Or at least start with thinking about what you’re going to say and what you’re going to achieve.

Per: This is all back to the lorem ipsum or “lorem shitsum” as I call it, the fact that we always hire these agencies and they have placeholders for content which is often lorem ipsum content and we don’t really think about what we’re going to put into the content before we actually then – well, it’s too far gone. The graphics doesn’t fit with the content and so on.

James: It’s belittling your content.

Per: Yeah.

James: It’s from this first moment. It’s making the content less important than the template, the design and so on.

Per: Right, so the main point is actually making this that – start with the content. Make sure that you know what you’re going to say and then if you can find some way to support that probably with anything else, then do that. But if you can’t find anything to support it, then just stay with the content and text on a page because that’s what people want and that’s what people came for.

James: Yeah. And how many times have both me and you been involved in projects where you’ve had to – well, ruin a headline on a page or boxes on them because there’s not enough space for it in the design or you’ve had to take away paragraphs from text because it doesn’t fit.

Per: Oh, and the menus …

James: You’ve had to merge menu items or create submenus because there’s only space for, I don’t know, five menu items across the top.

Per: Yeah, exactly. We don’t care what people have to say. We care if it fits into this space over here.

James: Yeah, we prioritize designing something and we pay for the design. Then we’ve got to cram all our stuff into it. It is a topsy-turvy way of going about stuff really.

Per: Let’s move on.

James: Let’s move on.


Per: To Brad Frost.

James: That we like.

Per: Yes, we do.

James: Well, that I like. Sorry, I’m just saying things for both of us like we’re tweedledum and tweedledee.…


Per: Name of his post, Atomic Design, and you found this one as well James. I hadn’t actually seen it because I’m on vacation and …

James: You’re still reading stuff.

Per: Yeah, I am actually. He starts off with a quote there, “We’re not designing pages. We’re designing systems of components.” The article sort of goes into setting up different parts of a webpage, sort of like a periodic table of the elements with small components being the atoms and larger components being molecules and organisms and so on. I kind of like this the first time I read it. I kind of liked it.

James: Yeah.

Per: Having just read the Words article, I was wondering where are the words because I couldn’t find them. I don’t know where they were.

James: Exactly. I love this too, just the periodic table and the analogy with – yeah, like you said, chemistry and physics and the atoms, molecules, organisms, templates, pages being the building blocks of what we’re doing there. It looks wonderful and gives you one of those satisfying feelings when you read this and look at this.

Yeah. No this makes sense. You take the smallest component possible of the web, of HTML, and group these together in various different stages and ways to build a solution or a system or a site.

Per: Yeah.

James: So it’s a nice model and a nice way of working.

Per: It’s a way of thinking about – making sure to think about the small details and the small components as well as the big picture because sometimes we forget about the small components, I think.

James: Yes, and creating consistency.

Per: Yeah.

James: I had a flashback in reading it to gosh it’s another old man comment.. Some of the digital style guides that I was part of producing maybe 10 years or more ago.

Per: Yeah, exactly.

James: I mean I used to love producing those. At least back then we were building style guides built on the back of brand manuals. I chose a few that were – were down to this kind of atomic level you could say of – the molecular level where there was – we create examples of oh this is how – a right hand menu object should …


Per: I’ve done exactly the same and I think we called it design patterns. Well, based Yahoo who the made their design pattern library available a long time ago. So the design patterns became one of these buzzwords as well and that’s how I sold it into some companies that I put together and exactly as you were saying, I had an example. This is what a search box should look like. This is what a Submit button should look like. So those were the tiny components of the page and then it had this is what a table should look like which was a bit bigger and then perhaps this is what we use the right hand column for which was even bigger than part of the template.

James: We know that – well, consistency is an essential part of good usability or the user experience and this kind of atomic thinking helps maintain consistency, I think.

Per: Yeah, I agree.

James: But at the same time, exactly on the back of the Words article, this is – it’s not obvious from Brad’s article about the importance of words or micro content.

Per: Yeah, exactly.

James: I mean when you read it, I mean it’s clear that the words are reasonably important when you start getting into producing, what, molecules, as he calls them. The molecule here, an example would be – he announced that he has got a search group so you’ve got your field, your button and the heading above that collection and to be together, those three – three atoms I guess produce a molecule. See I’m hoofing – I’m kind of just winging this.

Per: Yeah. I know you are but I’m sort of interpreting it in the same way. I was thinking that’s almost too big of a molecule but whatever. The word in the button is search. That would be the atom and the whole button would be the molecule. You can interpret it however you want as long as you adhere to the principles of actually having smaller components build on bigger ones and staying consistent.

James: What you’re saying there is – well, in the atomic level, those three components, the label, the input and the button also have a textual atomic component.

Per: Yeah.

James: It’s like antimatter.

Per: We’re getting into physics now. I have no idea what I’m talking about.

James: I hope no one who understands physics it listening…

Per: Yeah.

James: We would get shot to death. But if you look at the end, there was also another – it gets really satisfying when you get into the templates and pages and we’re getting closer – worryingly close to lorem ipsum stuff towards the end of the article. But there’s a pattern lab and some of the comments, a good example of these patterns labs where they built collections of code snippets, ready-made code snippets that are built up into these – well, atomic groupings and we’re calling them pages and templates and so on which means you’re a step closer to putting in real content before you’ve gone too far.

So I think it is an excellent way of going forward so that you can at the same time bring in content that is real and real situations, real scenarios and actually produce something that’s going to work.

Per: Yeah. I like how he ends it as well with some further reading and how he actually realizes that this is something that he thought about a lot. Then he starts to search. After he wrote the article, he started to search and realized, “Well, other people have been thinking like this as well.” That’s like finding confirmation on that thinking in the right way and you’re on the right path and I sort of like that way of working actually and sharing the stuff that you found that really fits into the same type of thinking, the same line of thinking. Yeah.

James: Yeah. It was one of the further readings there. It was Responsive Deliverables by Dave Rupert. He talks about the idea of constructing tiny bootstraps for every client. I like that quote as well.

Per: Yeah.

James: But for those who don’t know what bootstraps are, bootstraps are these – kind of like development platforms, ready-made tweakable platforms for HTML that you can quickly create sites or prototypes and so on.

Per: Yeah, I’m a big fan of particularly the one that actually is called Bootstrap.

James: Yeah.

Per: I’ve been using it a lot over the past year.

James: And they’re good. So …

Per: Again, moving on I think actually. I need to go to breakfast.

James: It’s the hunger taking over.

Per: Yeah.


Per: The last one is something I wanted to include because I think it’s one of these buzzwords that are going to make the rounds over the next few months and perhaps it will make it into mainstream, perhaps not. But I already found there’s a conference that has been going on for six years around this. So maybe it’s not that new but again like – sort of like the – when we started talking about customer journey paths and stuff like that. All of that suddenly became the new thing in UX but it has been in use for well, 15 years at least, if you talk service design.

So this is something that’s really interesting and well, in UX, in the UX arena we really like to grab stuff from other areas as well and this is – persuasion profiling is really about psychology and …

James: That’s the first time you mention that, you need to explain a little bit Per about what we’re talking about.

Per: We’re talking about the article that this guy Michael Straker who wrote the blog post, he attended a virtual seminar or a webinar and it’s about persuasion profiling. It’s the subject of the seminar and persuasion or rather the psychology of persuasion which we’re really talking about can be subdivided into like popularized themes like authority. We tend to listen to authority figures and what they say.

So that’s one persuasion technique. It would show someone, an authority figure, telling you to do something and perhaps you would make people do that and we tend to do stuff that other people like us do and we commit to something. If we are given something, then we find a need to reciprocate and do something back and that’s one way to persuade people to do something as well. So there are various different techniques.

James: Social proof is one of the ones we’ve heard an awful lot of talk about in recent years where you follow – we show that other people have done something and then people just follow suit.

Per: Yeah. When you talk about persuasive technology, it’s really about designing to influence people’s attitudes and support positive behaviour change and you could argue a lot about the positive behaviour change because sometimes you just want to convert and that’s what this article is really about.

It’s conversion optimization, i.e. getting people to buy or do whatever you want them to do online and could persuasion profile help in that and persuasion profiling, building on these building blocks of persuasion and within the psychology, is finding out what your particular user groups or target groups or users or personas. This could even be – serve as a really good complement to personas, finding out which one of these persuasion techniques is the one that works the best for your particular target group and work with that.

The article really made me think about this is one way of finding out what you would A-B test perhaps. Different messages and content based on these different persuasion techniques and test different ones and make sure you’re using the one that works best over the whole site because you’re finding out what really works for your particular target group or your users.

James: Yeah. I think the article actually goes on to talk – well, it talks about each visitor more than …

Per: Yeah, and I’m not sure I really like that.

James: That was one of my worries on reading it, was that I know that it’s the optimist’s dream or the marketer’s dream that you have data on every individual visitor and you know what they’ve done and what they’re going to do and you can work on it. Yeah. But unfortunately, that causes lots of problems when it comes to integrity and privacy and so on in many countries and all kinds of laws that stop you from doing some of these kinds of suggestions.

One suggestion here was to build a persuasion profile for each visitor. We must follow the person around for a while …

Per: I didn’t really get what he means with that.

James: Well, it means tracking the individual on the website.

Per: Yeah. So you put cookies on the site and make sure if that person comes back, then you would use the same persuasion messages again.

James: Yeah, exactly. So you want to be careful though that you’re not tracking them in a personally identifiable way.

Per: Right. And we know this doesn’t work because we have so many different devices that we have logged on with and so on.

James: But because it does work when you’re an Amazon or Facebook or something. Then people are, or with an app. You’re logged in from …

Per: Oh, yeah.


James: In a logged-in environment, then profiling becomes a lot easier because you’ve got a database of stuff and you’ve already accepted terms and conditions that allow them to do this kind of profiling and going back to the last episode when we talked about terms and conditions and privacy. This is exactly the kind of thing that’s in there in these terms and conditions. So they want to be able to use your behaviour and data to analyze, to tweak and to sell you things.

Per: Yeah.

James: But for a website that has not got a log-in product or log-in side, then it gets more difficult and then down to an individual and you may be shouldn‘t but you can fall back to personas and try and group people and classify them and maybe you make use of variables and tagging in your analytics system to keep track of these and see what’s happening.

Per: Yeah. One of the reasons I actually wanted to include this article is because there has been a lot of discussions about the usefulness of personas in the UX community over the last year or so and people are adding this stuff. People have dogs and they have this type of job and it’s – well, you’re sort of trying to create empathy for a user and making – helping people who are developing the site whether they are UX designers or developers, whatever. Understand the needs and behaviours of that particular individual and then people are constantly asking, “Well, why did you include that specific bit of information?” I don’t know how to use that to actually make a design decision.

But the more we can include about it that actually helps us make design decisions, the better, and I think persuasion profiling is attaching to that something that we can actually show people, show even executives down to developers and show that we’re doing this because we’ve realized that people are persuaded in this particular way as long as we can get the right data out there.

James: You can’t go for too many persuasion techniques…

Per: Oh, yeah, exactly.


Per: Yeah.

James: the same time – that ties in what we know about and talk about, that you can’t have too many goals on a webpage.

Per: And you can’t design for everyone.

James: On a product. You can’t expect everyone is going to do every single goal on your page all the time and this is an extension of that. So a question there is, “Do you have a single goal for a webpage or do you have a single persuasion technique for a webpage but potentially multiple goals?” for example. So it’s an interesting aspect and maybe you could even create personas based on persuasion techniques.

Per: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking, that you can actually use a persona, have a persuasion technique for that particular persona and make sure that – then you would understand that this is the reason they’re taking this design decision. We’re using that authority figure or we’re not using the authority figure because that person doesn’t respond to it.

James: Sometimes the – a secondary aspect would be the target group as such. You could build the base the personas first and foremost on persuasion technique, like social proof and then split that up into target groups within it.

Per: Yeah.

James: Oh god, sounds expensive Per.

Per: Well, you make assumptions. I think it’s always you have to make some assumptions and then you keep testing. You never like lock down the document, even a persona. I don’t think you should lock it down.

James: No.

Per: You need to be always discussing it, have it on the wall, and have all of the persuasion techniques on the wall. I mean this is good stuff for people to know about and talk about and have a meeting and think about. Well, if we talk about it this way, is that a good way of persuading people? Maybe not. We have all these other techniques that are available as well. If you have that on the wall as well, I love this – because it’s like the pop culture of persuasion profiling.


James: I think one way I would like to tie up all three of these articles is just reflect on the challenge of running a web presence and especially one that’s of a reasonable size because if you think of these three things we just discussed, words, the content, design or development of design, using the actual purchase and the way they’re going to fit into and then profiling, the underlying work to work out what the way users want and the way we want and how do we get them from there to here. You scale all of these three to a large site with thousands of pages and tens of thousands of visitors.

Per: Yeah.

James: That’s difficult, keeping track of all this and pulling it all together.

Per: It is, yeah. It’s a big job.

James: These are three highly interconnected – you used the expression “dovetailed” areas and if you don’t weave them in correctly, then it’s not going to work. It’s going to be suboptimal. There would be a compromise or a cost.

Per: And I’m going to have to say that whichever way you start, you have to start with the words anyway or the main message you want to get across.

James: You got to have a goal.

Per: Yeah. That’s always nice to end with. You have to have a goal.

James: It is and with that, you’ve got a very specific goal and that’s to eat breakfast.

Per: Yes. Yes, I do. I haven’t found the menu online so I’m going to go down and check.

James: Is that what you’ve been doing? While we’ve been talking, you’ve been searching for the menu. Focus, Per. Focus.

Per: I’m coming home in like another week and a half and it’s time to record again. Where will you be at?

James: Oh look, there’s have a quick look, it’s Thursday the 27th of June for anyone that’s still listening and still interested. Yeah. That means we’d be recording around about the 11th, 10th, 11th of July, episode 51. I’m here in Stockholm.

Per: Oh, wow.

James: And you’re over there. I think I will be here in Stockholm. Yeah, I might actually be at my summerhouse. We will see.

Per: We will see. That will be interesting.

James: It’s the one after that I think I’m in Spain.

Per: Yeah.

James: The police, they usually come out with reminders this time of year. Don’t tell everyone when and where you’re going to be on holiday. I just realized we’re sat here doing a podcast discussing to everyone.

Per: I stopped listening to the police actually.

James: I thought you were going to say you stopped listening to me …

Per: I haven’t heard yet of any example. Maybe our listeners have where somebody has posted that away on Facebook and then apparently burglars go into your house because they read your Facebook account, I don’t know, or Foursquare even.

James: On Twitter or Instagram.

Per: There are so many to choose from anyway. Everybody posts where they are.

James: Yeah. Anyway, on that note …

Per: I no longer have anything valuable anyway. OK.

James: It went last time …

Per: Should anyone be listening. Yeah, exactly. I already have that, my house burgled. OK. I guess we’re finishing off and I’m going to breakfast and you keep working on your deadline James. Ha Ha.

James: I will. Thank you.

Per: People, remember to keep moving.

James: And see you on the other side.

Hide the transcript

#49 James & Per accept your terms and conditions

On the back of the NSA Prism revelations, we’re joined by Pär Lannerö to talk about internet privacy and the complicated world of terms and conditions. How can we make them more simple and manageable? How can we tip the balance back in favour of the individual?

Unknown to us, Per’s microphone was broken. So at some points we’ve had to rely on the sound picked up by James and Pär’s microphones. Sorry about that!

(Listening time: 45 minutes)



 Per: Hello and welcome to episode 49 of UX Podcast. You’re listening to Per Axbom.

James: And me James Royal-Lawson.

Per: And today it’s a lovely weather outside actually.

James: It is.

Per: We’re set in the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority Office because we have a guest today.

View the full transcript

James: Not because we’ve just broken in or …

Per: No. You might think that. We’re actually three consultants sitting here in like a cafeteria or a sofa area.

James: Yeah.

Per: And James, what’s the topic we were going to talk about today?

James: We’re not going to tell you.

Per: Oh, OK.

James: That was terrible. That was really bad. Privacy.

Per: OK.

James: A little bit kind of inspired by the whole PRISM disclosure just last week. The American government has been prying on all our things and what we say and what we do and emails and everything.

Per: So the PRISM surveillance program.

James: Yeah.

Per: That we really don’t know a lot about.

James: Well, we’re not completely sure about everything. A lot of rumours and as usual, these kinds of things, a lot of rumours and speculation but it …

Per: Yeah. You have the idea that we should bring in the guest because we don’t know a lot about this stuff.

James: Well, it’s not our …

Per: We immediately thought of somebody who had – on our list for a while now, Pär Lannerö who sometimes tweets about privacy issues and so you’re quite active in this discussion as well and you’re Plannero on Twitter and I always thought that had something to do with you being a planner or something and then I realized, “Oh my god! No, it’s his name.” So welcome to the show Pär.

Pär: Thank you very much.

Per: I imagine you’re a consultant as well.

Pär: Yes.

Per: And you founded it and you’re a consultant for a company called MetaMatrix.

Pär: That’s true.

Per: So tell us a bit about what type of work you do.

Pär: Well, I’ve been an internet consultant for the last 14 years, I think, since we founded the company. I’m doing 14 years of internet work. You get to try out lots of different things. So I’ve been a teacher. I’ve been a programmer. I’ve been writing market surveys and doing user studies and all kinds of things. But everything has been circling around the web and recently it has been a bit more about privacy and especially about contracts on the web.

Per: OK.

Pär: You know, the documents that you never read, the terms of service and the privacy policy.

James: You just click and go, “Yeah! I’ll have that.”

Pär: Yeah. Somebody said there are two human constructions that can be seen from outer space. Do you know which ones?

Per: Well, the Wall of China I’m going to guess. Yeah, yeah.

Pär: That’s one of them. The other one is the terms of service of some website because it’s so long.

Per: Excellent. So I mean that’s usually a common usability issue that we talk about is having to click in that box and saying that you agreed to the terms and I watch people do this and I see them never ever reading this stuff. Then all of a sudden, somebody comes out and well, there’s the scoop. Oh my god! They have this in the privacy terms and there’s media coverage around it and everybody is outraged and they sign petitions and they join Facebook groups and we didn’t know about this. Why are people so surprised? They obviously checked the box that said they read the privacy terms.

James: I think one of the first large scale examples I can remember of that was when a few years ago now where suddenly everyone was worried that Facebook was going to use their photos in adverts because they had introduced their check box somewhere that basically allowed this to be used for that.

Per: Right.

James: So it was a massive storm, people closing Facebook with accounts left, right and centre trying to protect their pictures. It does happen constantly.

Per: Yeah.

James: It scares.

Per: So your project Pär is sort of an attempt to solve this problem, I think.

Pär: Yes. Actually a dozen or so projects around the world that try to solve this problem which we call the biggest lie on the web and the biggest lie of course is yes, I have read and agreed because you haven’t read.

Per: Yeah.

Pär: There’s especially one project in Germany I think that’s called ToS;DR. Have you ever seen the abbreviation TL;DR?

James: TL;DR?

Pär: TL;DR. It means too long, didn’t read.

James: Right.

Pär: Then some people from Germany started this project called ToS;DR which means terms of service, didn’t read.

Per: Right.

Pär: And they are trying to solve this problem by having people – they have a crowdsourcing project. They try to get people to put grades on different website’s terms. So for example, Facebook may get a C because they have some good terms and they have some bad terms and overall it’s a C. Google maybe gets a B because they are doing pretty good efforts to have good terms. Facebook are trying. They are also trying.

I don’t remember the actual grades but this project is nice because they have crowdsourced the evaluation of the terms and then they produce browser plug-ins so that once you reach a website, if there is a grade, you will see it. It’s signed somewhere in the browser periphery. So you know if there’s an F grade. You should be …

James: You should actually bother to read the terms and conditions.

Pär: Yeah. But if it’s an A or B, then it’s probably fine because some people have looked at it and they said it’s OK.

James: You’re not selling all of your soul to the devil.

Pär: Exactly.

James: Just a little bit of it so it’s OK.

Pär: Exactly. So that is one nice approach and my project is a little different.

Per: Well I must say where that approach actually fails is having to install the browser plug-in because I mean how many people are going to actually do that.

James: I would say it’s low.

Pär: You’re right but you have to start somewhere and …

Per: Oh, absolutely.

Pär: If the browser plug-in turns out to be very efficient and well working, then maybe some of the browser manufacturers will include it from scratch.

Per: Yeah, that’s a good point.

James: You have to think about the way that the privacy certificates have evolved over the recent years.

Per: Oh, yeah, the SSL certificates.

James: Yeah.

Per: Locks and stuff.

James: Yeah. I mean I don’t completely agree of all the implementations of it but that’s an example of something which effectively started out as a kind of like a plug-in and has become a mainstream feature by visualizing, “Is the certificate valid or broken or are we secure or not?”

Per: Right.

James: So there’s a chance I guess I think. It could become mainstream.

Pär: Anyway, I really applaud this project ToS;DR but I also have my own project which I run not alone but with the help of some friends and people around the world. It’s called Common Terms, CommonTerms.net. We have a slightly different approach. We let the website owner or the lawyer working for the websites make a self-declaration so they produce a one-screen summary of the most important parts of their terms and then we have a proposal for a standardized layout of this one-screen summary and a method for selecting the most important stuff. From maybe 20 pages, you have to extract one page.

Per: Yeah.

Pär: So there must be a standardized way of how do you select which ones to display and how do you formulate so that it’s consistent between websites because the idea is that people should start to feel familiar with the presentation and recognize the formulations so that they don’t need to read everything all over again.

Per: Right.

James: Kind of like semantic terms and conditions.

Pär: Yeah, standardized formulations. So we have a database of common terms. That’s where we got our name and this database we created by a detailed study of 22 agreements that we found on different websites both the big ones and representatives for smaller ones and we found some 450 different terms and we selected from those 450 maybe 30 that we think are more important for the user before signing up. As a basis for this selection, we use the EU recommendation for consumer protection. There’s an old document that enumerates all kinds of terms that users should be wary about.

Per: OK.

Pär: And that’s on consumer agreement.

James: Yeah.

Pär: In the US there is a similar thing called the FIPs, the fair information principles. I don’t remember the exact words but it’s a set of recommendations for how privacy information should be presented.

Per: OK.

Pär: What aspect of privacy should be presented and those have been in use for 20 years, I think. They can be used as guidance for what terms should be in the one-screen preview. So I’ve been working on this project for two and a half years and we received funding several times from Internet Fonden which is the Swedish Internet Infrastructure Foundation.

So we’ve been able to put some effort and some – we’ve been able to keep going for more than a year and many of these projects, they get some ideas and they start working and they find out oh, this is really tough. I can’t do it. So after a few months, they drop it. But thanks to the Internet Fonden we’ve been able to keep working and I’m now leading an international email list of other projects that have the same goal. It’s called OpenNotice.org and we have also regular teleconference to discuss and to coordinate and that’s where I’m at, with the guys at ToS;DR for example. There are few other projects as well.

For example, there is a project from a New York start-up called Docracy. They are harvesting terms and conditions from websites and extracting differences. So, if they get it every week and if there’s a change from one week to the other.

James: Ah they monitor a particular site but you say OK, one is Facebook. I mean alarm bells ring when they notice some wordings change somewhere.

Pär: Yeah. If something changed, you wouldn’t get to notice.

James: Right, yeah.

Pär: And there’s an API to their service and the EFF, Electronic Frontier Foundation. They have a similar service. It’s called TOSBack. So that’s yet another approach and there are even more projects trying to solve this. For example Youluh is a project that tries …

Per: Makes me think of my kids running around yelling, “Yolo!” right now. You only live once.

Pär: Oh, right. That’s when we’re reading it. When you download software, you have to accept the ULA.


Pär: That’s very much the same problem because you don’t read that either.

James: Again you don’t have much choice. It’s like the whole Facebook thing.

Per: And it’s the same thing. It’s also always at the end. You already filled in a lot of information. You’re not going to stop there.

James: You’ve had a need. You’ve realized that, I don’t know, you need to buy Photoshop because you’ve got a project where you have to use Photoshop. When you got to the point of actually buying it, you’ve got a manager to sign off on funding it to actually get it and so on. You’re not just going to suddenly start reading it. Oh gosh. Should I run this through our legal department? Should I actually say yes before I download this and actually install this?

Pär: It’s not reasonably.

James: No, it’s not going to happen. No, it’s the same with Facebook. Now with the penetration of Facebook, a lot of people now are not going to say – they’re not going to click no to the terms and conditions when they’ve decided to sign up for Facebook and 99 percent of their friends are on Facebook. It’s never going to happen.

Pär: That’s right. So you don’t have a choice and still you’re forced to lie.

James: You’re bullied into accepting the terms and conditions on their terms without any negotiation.

Per: But you’re right. It’s a lie because you’re not accepting the terms. You’re just checking the box really because you don’t accept them. You don’t know what they are.

James: You’re doing a mechanical – you’re just mechanically clicking something.

Per: But it seems like there are a lot of projects then working with this. What are the big challenges of actually going from these ideas to widespread adoption?

Pär: Before starting this recording, you mentioned a website called 500px and they made a pretty nice attempt at simplifying their terms by having a two-column layout where the left column includes all the traditional terms and legalese and the right column contains just bullet points with simple phrases.

Per: If you go to UX Conference, I mean that slide is bound to come up with that example actually.

James: It did. It actually came up at UX Lx with one of the things I went to. One of the complaints there was that when you have all the simple text at the side, taking away from the legalese, why can’t we just get rid of the legalese and make it even simpler and just have the simple text that you have read maybe and have agreed to.

Pär: Unfortunately, it’s not doable because lawyers do have a right to exist and they do have a very important function.

Per: They’re people too.

Pär: When there’s a conflict, sometimes you need an agreement that will stipulate what should be done and lawyers are trained to phrase this very, very precisely and sometimes it’s not precise but it’s still very – it’s not by chance that they formulate them the way they do.

Per: To me it always sounds like they do this because they need a job.

Pär: Well, yeah, they do but …

Per: But there is motivation for it.

Pär: There’s a very long tradition of contract writing …

James: Exactly, yeah, this long tradition. I think here it’s an example again of how we’ve scaled with the advent of the internet and the adoption of thousands of services. I mean most of us now have a hundred or so apps on our phone and God knows how many business software, computers and everything we’ve agreed to. We’ve gone from a time not so long ago where you maybe have signed a few contracts in your life. Maybe a job contract, house contract and maybe a few of the services and things but that was pretty much it whereas now, we’re accepting contacts and signing contracts effectively on a daily basis.

Pär: Oh, yeah. There was a study saying that you must spend 76 working days per year if you’re supposed to read all of those contracts in full and still you wouldn’t probably understand everything. So yes, you’re agreeing to a lot. Where was I?


Pär: Yeah, the 500px, they did a nice try. They put a simplified version in the right column and there was a long discussion. I think it was on Y Combinator or Reddit. Someplace, there was a discussion regarding what side is going to hold in court. Which side are the judges going to look at? The answer seems to be that whatever side, the simple one or the complete one, that is most generous or in the interest of the consumer will be the one that the court will look at and say this one is valid. So it’s impossible to have …

Per: So basically you have two agreements and the one that’s more generous to the user will actually be the one …

James: Go back to what I said. If you do get rid of the complicated one and the simple one, then the simple one does win.

Per: It’s not just a simplification. It actually changes the terms.

Pär: Yeah.

Per: Yeah.

Pär: It seems to be impossible to have a contract that is simpler than what they already have in the long ones because the simpler one will win over the complicated one and the interpretation, because it’s simpler, is going to be less specific and the court will judge in the direction that is most …

James: Lenient, yeah to the …

Pär: Yeah. So that is not protecting the owner of the service.


James: The way we got there, you can’t read – so you got two things on the same page then of course you’re accepting the page and the simple one has gone to it. It makes complete sense, yeah. So maybe you should get someone to outsource it, get someone to write an independent translation of it [Indiscernible].

Pär: But I guess since there is a big problem here, a usability problem and the legal problem, I guess in legal philosophy you’re supposed to have the meeting of minds whenever you have the contract. That is the people who agree they should understand what they’re reading because you don’t have that meeting of minds today.

James: Quite a few contracts have been thrown out I believe in the past where there hasn’t been …

Pär: Sometimes the contracts are deemed as not valid because there was no meeting of minds.

Per: Oh, really?

Pär: But sometimes, well, you actually write that off when you tick the box so that signifies that you – you say you have read it so you’re accountable to this if you had read it. So it’s usually they hold but philosophically it’s not good from a legal standpoint and from a usability standpoint. It’s not really good because users don’t know the rules. People spend a lot of time on Facebook and they don’t know if the rules – they spend a lot of time in the country and they usually have some idea of what laws are governing the life in this country. But when they spend so much time in Facebook, they don’t have a clue what rules apply.

Per: That’s a very good point.

James: It was a very good point. We also have the problem that people think still that they’re speaking in closed rooms. Like now. Once upon a time, us three would sit here and we would have a private conversation and we were pretty sure that it was private. People have transferred this way of thinking onto the internet and a place like Facebook and they’re at times quite confident that they’re talking to just their friends or just a subset of their friends.

Per: So it’s a maturity issue basically then that you don’t realize that …

James: I think it’s maturity and also complexity because we’ve seen examples – often it’s sports people for a bizarre reason where they’ve written something defamatory or even maybe racist or something and they publish it to their friends on Facebook and then maybe somehow their privacy settings have been altered so they made it public. That causes …


Per: … somebody was able to share it.

James: Exactly. Someone shared it. They don’t realize that it doesn’t stop inside the original room.

Per: That was what happened to Mark Zuckerberg’s sister.

James: Yes, the picture, the – it was a Thanksgiving kitchen picture. That’s exactly what they – yeah. That was Twitter though, wasn’t it?

Per: Maybe it started on Twitter. No, it was Facebook.

James: It was Facebook but it was published on Twitter. It said, “I’m not sure you’re wanting to publish that.” Yeah. So again, we’ve lost the walls but you think the walls are still there.

Pär: And they’re moving.

James: And they’re moving for you and they can move because there are bugs in software that we’ve all suffered from. Again I’m going to talk about Facebook because it’s just so ubiquitous. You go to the app and you notice that the privacy settings in the app are public but you can be sure that you’ve had them set to something more restrictive on the web version and they’ve changed. They’ve crashed or whichever and altered each other quite a few times for me and for lots of other people I know.

Per: Over the next few years, we’re moving into an area or a time when people actually have wearable cameras taking photos all the time. I mean from there to microphones on all the time. We’re already getting reports that it’s easy to bug phones and actually turn on the microphone and listen to it from a distance. So I mean the privacy issues we’re talking about that we’re not aware of on Facebook, they’re going to have to apply in the real world as soon as well actually.

James: In addition to this, we’ve got the privacy settings that we think we’re aware of but we know that there are possibilities to restrict the viewing of content. But we take it once step further to our maturity or knowledge of it all. We don’t really quite yet understand just how permanent a lot of digital artefacts we produce are. Once you’ve produced something digitally, it’s incredibly easy for that to be left somewhere or to be copied or to remain after you’ve deleted something or closed something down.

Before we could burn – we could rip up contracts. We could burn them in the fire afterwards, the classic thing you see on films where someone rips that up and then the Hollywood thing of throwing in the fire and the flames and it’s all done. The moment is gone. Whereas oh, with PRSIM and with other things, you can see that data can be reconstructed and pieced together again reasonably simply and …

Pär: The contracts that we have today are accepted once and then it’s always there. There’s no negotiation really. But have you heard of CRM systems?

Per: Customer relationship management. Yes.

Pär: Did you ever hear about VRM systems?

Per: No.

Pär: That’s vendor relationship management.

James: All right.

Pär: The providers of services usually have CRM systems because they want to manage their customers but we should really have vendor management systems.

James: Turn it around, flip it.

Pär: Vendor relationship management because we should be able to manage our vendors and have a track record of did they behave well. What interaction have I had with them? There’s a project called the VRM project that is developing tools for vendor relationship management.

Per: OK.

Pär: And that includes contracts. So whenever you accept the contract, you download it or maybe you upload it to a cloud service of your own and when you go back to them, you can maybe point to that contract which you have already and if they change something, you will be able to tell them and there will be tools for negotiation in the VRM project as well.


Per: … also with the grading of the different terms of service. So it’s more of a crowdsource solution where people have together actually evaluated the terms of service that are out there instead of – in that sense are actually pushing on the vendors to actually shape up and do something about it.

James: You’re right. I mean we touched upon this kind of thinking with profiles and with all the settings, privacy settings. A lot of these situations should be flipped and we should sit in the centre as individuals. Banking, we haven’t talked about this at all. All my finance stuff, I would like to have – I’m the centre of it all. Why can’t I decide what I pull in and pull out?

Per: I want to visit like the pension management company and financial services and the stock management behind the bank.

James: Yeah. Well not to go there …

Per: It’s all my money and I want it in the same place.

James: So in future years, we have to be the centre and focus on a lot of these things to make it manageable.

Per: I mean thinking about it, how many of these terms of service did our like parents have to approve each week? I mean I approve one of these terms of service every week now because I try out some of the new services all the time. I mean it’s unheard of, the history of having to agree to so much stuff all the time. It’s a huge new problem.

James: Yeah.

Per: That’s why you don’t have the meeting of minds and next you’re just copying and pasting it and producing new stuff all the time.

James: So we’re using terms of conditions history going back decades and decades of tweaking and these certain paragraphs, exactly how they work for a non-digital world and then kind of cramming them into the last 15, 20 years of the digital world and trying to get them to work. Does anyone – has there been any cases where someone’s – taken some terms and conditions to court and tried getting them thrown out on a usability front. We’ve seen plenty of dodgy terms and conditions, the dark methods, dark patterns with hiding checkboxes and getting them to agree to stuff without giving them a chance to read stuff. Has anyone managed to throw out terms and conditions because of the bad usability?

Pär: There is something called clickwrap. You probably know and there’s also something called browse wrap which means you are accepting the agreement by just reading the page. There may be a notice down somewhere on the bottom of the page and I think browse wrap can be considered non-valid contracts by a court. But clickwrap usually applies. It’s valid.

But sometimes when people are – there’s a conflict and they go to court. They will say that well, I didn’t really understand this or I didn’t expect this and in a few cases, you can get the contract reverted and usability could be one of the grounds for that decision because you didn’t really have a chance to read it somehow.

But many times, the court says no, it’s valid. You really did check the box and well, checking the box usually is something that you’re conscious of doing. If the box was pre-checked, probably that would mean it’s not valid because then you could theoretically have missed it and just clicked the next button. If it’s not pre-checked, then I think it will hold.

James: It’s also the onas is on the developers to make sure that their projects and sites work on absolutely every single potential device that can display those terms and conditions. There are other situations where I’ve been using slightly odd devices where things haven’t displayed properly because they only will be checking the box and go forward but maybe I haven’t been able to read everything because I couldn’t scroll the page. I couldn’t zoom in on something.

Per: Or the font is too small but it’s also interesting if you have an error message. You don’t check the box. You click OK and there’s an error message and depending on what the error message says, that could probably deem it irrelevant if it says you have to click the box and it doesn’t say anything about the agreement and it just says we have to click the box. OK. I have to click the box and then continue not realizing that that also means that I have to agree with the terms that I haven’t actually read.

James: We have to make all this simpler from a language point of view and a usability point of view because it’s just not feasible to expect every generation of person from minors up to silver surfers and all the generations to understand and manage all of these different situations.

Pär: It’s not obvious that you have to read everything. You shouldn’t really be forced to read. You don’t read the full collection of laws but you’re still expected to follow the law. You can use brands that you trust and usually companies with the brand will behave.

James: They generally don’t do evil.

Pär: Yeah, but in the digital world, the investment that companies need to make to put up a website is so small that there’s really not a big brand to protect when you’re new. It is when you are new that lots of people are expected to read those terms because when you are new, that’s when you try out the service especially if you’re like Per who is trying out every new service. So you try them when they are new and when they are new, they don’t have a brand to protect. They don’t have an investment to protect. So they can really misbehave so it’s not very easy to say. Should you read everything? Maybe not.

Per: But also on the point that I’m actually talking to you and I’m realizing I signed up for all these services and I’ve checked the box and maybe in the services it says I agree to all updates of this agreement. It’s just floating around out there and they have all my data and all of a sudden they just take the agreements to say that they can share that data with other people. It just doesn’t matter because at some point in time, I actually said yes to that.

James: Yeah, we’re very bad at tidying up after us. Digitally.

Per: Yeah.

Pär: When they hide things in these agreements, the most common naughty thing they are hiding is exactly that. Yes, we can change the terms anytime and you’re expected to accept it silently. That’s the most common known accepted thing.

Per: That’s really scary.

Pär: In the 22 agreements that I studied in close detail, I think I found it in seven or so.

James: Oh, god, that’s a high percentage.

Pär: Yeah. Well, you shouldn’t quote me on that figure but …


Pär: So that is probably the most common bad thing but then there are some funny things as well. For example, some of these documents, they contain a paragraph that said, “Congratulations. You read every sentence until this one and this one says you will get monetary reward if you just send an email to this email address.” So few people are reading that they can afford to give $1000 to everybody who sends an email, so that has happened.

Per: Oh, that’s an excellent incentive to actually start reading this.

James: But that again surely could be used against them because if you end up in a court case about those terms and conditions and you ask them, well, how many people have you actually paid? And they said, “Well, we never paid anyone.” So that maybe would prove because people know that given that incentive, they would actually send email and would get the money.

Pär: But people have gotten money from a company that did this and another company, a game company I think, they said that you are – testament here, what’s that in English?

James: Your will and testament. You mean after you die?

Pär: You’re donating your soul to us if you accept this.

Per: Oh my god.

Pär: So that means in court.

Per: Yeah, exactly.

Pär: I don’t know. So there are all kinds of funny things in these documents when you look at them and there are all kinds of very, very boring things too.

James: That’s the case with the …

Per: That’s what you expect, boring things.

James: Does MailChimp have two versions?

Per: No, I don’t think so.

Pär: MailChimp, yes.

James: I think they do because they have the legalese and then I think to the right, they have the on-brand funny monkey stuff.


Pär: Actually I’m friends with Gregg Bernstein, the UX expert at MailChimp who worked on these terms and conditions for MailChimp the last year. He has been contributing a lot to Common Terms as well. They did a very serious work to simplify their terms but they really had to keep the complicated things for legalese.

James: The Californian-based, the American-based.

Pär: I don’t – he lives in Atlanta, Georgia I think.

James: Either way, it was America. I was thinking about the legal context.

Per: Yeah.

Pär: So they really wanted to simplify but they found that they couldn’t but they did lots of graphical design improvements and they revised the language and they put all these explanations by the side and everything they could to make it accessible.

Per: So the company is trying and they’re putting a lot of money and effort into actually changing this stuff but I mean I would expect that people are still not reading it.

Pär: Probably yes.

Per: It’s sort of built into your body now that you just click that box and get on with it. Something else has to actually change.

James: They’re still not entirely sure that government aren’t allowed to just override all this and read it anywhere. We have data that’s flowing between countries because it’s not necessarily – the data centre is not necessarily within country as the country you sign the agreement in.

Pär: Are you familiar with the Open Source world?

James: Yeah.

Per: Yeah.

Pär: They do have the GPL contract and the GNU less[er] and everything, the Apache contract and BSD contract. That probably amounts to a dozen or two dozen standard contracts and when you have a dozen, it’s actually doable to read them once and for all and learn about them. Then when you stumble upon another software package that you need, you recognize oh, it’s still the GNU contract.

James: Yeah, “that one’s trusted, we like that one”.

Pär: So I think having a bunch of standard contracts is a good idea but for general online services, you cannot have a few standard contracts because they are so diverse. But the idea with Common Terms is that OK, you cannot have a full contract but you can have the building blocks, the clauses or terms. That can have standard formulations for them and then you can have tools that highlight the ones that you really should care about.

Per: Right.

Pär: So it’s a very big challenge to get this working but we are still working on it and we think maybe in a few years’ time, it can be useful for most websites.

Per: I like that approach of actually piecing it together, some things that people recognize. Then you’re struggling with a paragraph and you realize, yeah, that’s the paragraph that I recognize from over here. As long as I know that it’s taken from the standard set …

Pär: If you have your own storage with things that you have accepted before, then you can automatically highlight OK, this new contract contains only these three bullet points that I have not yet seen. So you can take a stand on those three things.

Per: Exactly.

Pär: So I think things could improve here but it’s not in the interest of the big online giants right now because they’re pretty happy with having people sign up for whatever.

James: We’ve probably got to wrap up I guess now.

Per: We’re wrapping up, absolutely. We took a lot of your time here Pär but I appreciate that.

James: With terms and conditions and privacy, I love these things. We’re really pushing tradition – well, old mechanisms to the absolute limit. It’s beyond the limit and it can’t cope and we’ve got an awful lot of work to do to help humans deal with the new world of digital because it’s very, very different to how it used to be.

Per: Yeah.

James: We’re a long way away from making this all work from – just from that side of the terms and conditions but also from what I said about the dealing with privacy settings and running your life in the same way you think you’re …


Per: … it’s more than the agreement. It’s actually just understanding this world that you’re now living in.

James: Yeah, it’s going very fast. We can come and get things very quickly and we can sign a lot of things very quickly and government can do a lot of stuff very easily as well as we’ve seen.

Per: So I will definitely start marketing Common Terms to my clients as well. I mean …

James: Yeah.

Per: … a lot of people out there could make use of this.

James: Yeah.

Pär: Probably they will not be able to use it right away but they should look it up.

James: Get awareness.

Per: Or something, yeah.

Pär: Yeah, they should get used to the idea of maybe presenting a summary and maybe contributing to the project by trying it out. But it’s still not mature.

Per: I mean the reason that the 500px example is so good also is because you need good examples. So we need more examples out there of companies doing this as well.

Pär: Just one last thing.

Per: Yeah.

Pär: The 500px really did a nice summary and simplification but their terms aren’t really good. They’re not at all in favour of the user.

Per: Well, that’s an excellent point because that’s so funny because at the UX example …

James: Well, you know that because they made it so simple to understand.

Pär: They got lots of good …

Per: Nobody read the simple one either.

Pär: They got lots of credit for the simple terms but not many people read them and agreed with them. Stated that oh really, these terms are bad but they’re clear.

Per: That’s so funny.

James: That was fair enough.

Per: That’s a good point to end with. So should we finish off on a note? I mean we’re attending a conference in September aren’t we James?

James: We are.

Per: Conversion Jam.

James: Three.

Per: And Conversion Jam 3.

James: Conversion Jam 3, yeah. We were there last year.

Per: We were there last year and so if you’ve been with us for a while, you will remember that we interviewed.

James: Brian Clifton.

Per: Brian Clifton, Craig Sullivan, Annelie Näs.

James: Yeah, and …

Per: Someone else.

James: And Marten.

Per: Angner.

James: Angner.

Per: Right.

James: Yeah.

Per: So good line-up of speakers this year as well with Brian Massey and Nathalie Nahai, Craig Sullivan.

James: Again.

Per: André Morys, Ton Wesseling and John Ekman of Conversionista himself, the conference organizers. So that’s really an excellent conference that we really recommend.

James: And we’ve got something for the listeners.

Per: Oh, yeah, we have something and that’s why we’re mentioning it right now because …

James: I haven’t got the date but I think until the end of this month you can …

Per: Or even June 21st.

James: Oh, yeah. A little bit longer.

Per: In a few weeks’ time you have the cheaper price for it.

James: Yeah, we got a 200 kronor discount code. Really good for you, for anyone in Stockholm, in Sweden and maybe someone else might want to come across from another country and say hello to us while we’re recording some podcasts. So it’s UXPODCAST, capital letters, according to the info I’ve got here.

Per: Yeah. We don’t know how picky they are.

James: No, but UX Podcast, capital letters, would give you 200 kronor off the Conversion Jam 3 ticket which is – is it the 10th of September Per?

Per: 10th of September in Stockholm, so great chance to come and meet us as well of course.

James: Yeah, forget all the speakers! They’re not relevant. It’s us you want to see. Oh, yes.

Per: So thank you again Pär Lannerö for doing this with us today.

Pär: Thanks.

Per: I learned a lot.

James: Yeah, I learned a lot as well.

Per: And I’m off on vacation now.

James: Good for you. I’m not.

Per: Some of the upcoming episodes I think where actually I’m going to have to do it over Skype. I’m going to be in Michigan.

James: We haven’t synchronized our calendars properly. So you’re going on three weeks holiday and then I’m going on two weeks holiday straight after that. So I think we’ve got at least two episodes where we’re going to be Skype-ing across the world.

Per: Yeah, because we, actually our effort is still in there to actually still do biweekly but biweekly episode meaning two episodes every month. We just had an argument over …

James: It’s my job to confuse everyone.

Per: What biweekly really means.

James: Twice a month, we have UX podcast and we’re recording it all the way through the summer for your listening pleasure because we love you all so much.

Per: And everybody is just dying to hear more from us. OK. But remember to keep moving.

James: And see you on the other side.

Hide transcript

#48 James & Per look at users from the inside

After returning from Intranätverk, an intranet conference recently held in Sweden, James shares some reflections. We also talk about user centered design for the digital workplace and how intranets are the “poorer brother” of the world of web. Has the world of intranets finally started to catch up? Read More

#47 James & Per say goodbye to UXLx 2013

This podcast is episode 7 of 7 recorded at UXLx 2013

That’s it. it’s all over. Time to board the aeroplane and head back to Stockholm. It’s been a fun and intensive 3 days of conferencing, including 6 podcasts recorded on location. In this final show from UXLx we chat a bit about the conference day yesterday and also look back on the conference as a whole.

(Listening time 16 minutes)


#46 James & Per & Chris

This podcast is episode 6 of 7 recorded at UXLx 2013

In the bar of the Tryp Oriente at the end of day 2 of  UXLx 2013 we settle down with a  beer and reflect on the conference so far together with Chris McCann. What themes have we noticed? how were the 4th workshops? and how did Per’s Eliminate Design lightning talk go down?

Read More

#45 James & Per & Luke

This podcast is episode 5 of 7 recorded at UXLx 2013

It’s just before lunch on day 2 of UXLx 2013 and we were lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Luke Wroblewski‘s time right after his morning workshop Organizing Mobile Web Experiences. We chat about device proliferation, device ergonomics and some of the other challenges heading our way.

(Listening time 13 minutes)



#44 James & Per & Jeff

This podcast is episode 4 of 7 recorded at UXLx 2013

It’s the end of the first day of UXLx 2013 and we grab a few minutes just before they lock up the venue for the night to chat to Mr Lean UX, Jeff Gothelf.

We had a little problem with the sound during this show, some echo and hiss appeared from nowhere. Sorry!

(Listening time 12 minutes)


#43 James & Per lean on better meetings

This podcast is episode 3 of 7 recorded at UXLx 2013

The first morning of the conference is over and we’re straight out of our first workshops. James attended Better Meetings by Design with Kevin Hoffman and Per attended Lean Ethnography with Kelly Goto.

Read More