Pick a place

I bumped into this question on Quora the other day: Where is a good place to work that is related to UX design while I build a portfolio?

My short answer to this question is this: Pick any place and just be open to learn as much as you can.

My slightly longer answer is over here: https://www.quora.com/Where-is-a-good-place-to-work-that-is-related-to-UX-design-while-I-build-a-portfolio/answer/Steyn-Viljoen-1

Hi, my name is…

While I was waiting at the traffic light yesterday, I saw a man handing out little pieces of paper. They were thin strips of paper, almost looking like Bible verses from a distance.

Flyers of many colors and sizes have been handed out to me before, but I haven’t really received this size paper before. So I waited in anticipation as he made his way through the cars towards me.

When it was my turn, I rolled my window down and the man handed me one. I turned the paper around:

YOU CAN CONTACT ME ON: 084 7177 402

It was interesting to me how he introduced himself as a Malawian man. It seemed like it was something quite important to him. Something that would anchor the request and establish a sense of identity, credibility, and trust.

It made me think.

We all do that. Regardless of where we come from, who we are and what we do in life. We want to establish identity and appear trustworthy towards other people. So we anchor ourselves with the thing that gives us the most identity.

I am Dr. Livingstone.
I am a creative director.
I am the founder.
Proud problem solver.
Viking from Manhattan.
Giant cupcake.
Nerd fighter.

And so it goes on…

The first few words of an introduction are easily swallowed up by the many words that follow. But if you linger on them for a little while more, it might tell its own story.

What make these seemingly simple words more interesting is how they change as we move through contexts and as we move through life.

So with that said, I will suffice with a simple, hi, my name is Steyn and I’m a husband to a beautiful wife. 😉

Pair Designing Roundup

I’ve read Pair Programming Illuminated when I was still the only designer at Afrolabs, purely because I’ve seen the value of pairing together and the quality of work that results from it. But when Jess joined the team in Feb, I started to do a lot of reading on pair designing and how we can improve our work by pairing together. At first I thought there wasn’t a lot of practical, hands-on information on the topic, but I soon realised the opposite.

For anyone interested in pair designing, below is a list of all the articles I’ve found so far on the topic:

Cooper: https://www.cooper.com/topics/pair-design/
Pivotal Labs: https://blog.pivotal.io/labs/labs/pair-designing
UX Mag: https://uxmag.com/articles/pair-design-pays-dividends
Ian Schoen: https://medium.com/goodux-badux/turning-to-pair-design-dafa4c95ef91#.ij26cumxt
Adam Morris: https://medium.com/the-many/pair-designing-d10668c4318d#.o2w9df3n7
Creative Bloq: http://www.creativebloq.com/why-pairing-can-improve-your-design-work-8134179
Mariya Yao: https://uxdesign.cc/three-models-of-pair-design-f75e3b29a51a#.hecfsafob
Anders Ramsay: http://www.andersramsay.com/2009/05/01/less-wireframes-more-collaboration-with-pair-design/
Invoke: https://www.invokemedia.com/unicorns-exist-using-pair-design/
AppNexus: http://blog.appnexus.com/2015/pair-designing-at-appnexus/
Jess Klein: https://bocoup.com/weblog/adventures-in-pair-designing-pomming
Dsign at Slack: https://www.fastcodesign.com/3060607/inside-the-organic-ux-design-process-at-slack


Videos & Slideshares
Interaction Design Association: https://vimeo.com/86688345
Air Mozilla: https://air.mozilla.org/pair-design/
Karl Dotter: http://www.slideshare.net/k4rl/the-psychology-behind-pair-designing

A Bizarre Accidental Scene

Yesterday I had coffee with Steve. As we made our way down the street towards Cafe Frank, we came across a car which appeared to have been in an accident. It was right in the middle of the road, a few meters away from the pedestrian crossing we were about to cross. The whole front grill was smashed away with liquids streaming out of the car, down the street.

There were a couple of random people at the crossing, just standing or waiting or watching the scene as 3 men were pushing the car out of the road. The accident seemed fresh so I think some of them might even have seen it happen.

We were standing there as well, waiting for the cars to stop at the crossing. But maybe more so trying to make sense of this bizarre scene. There was only one car (the one who crashed). No objects in which it crashed into. And 3 men pushing it out of the road.

I wanted to ask the people waiting at the crossing what happened but I was a bit too shy or maybe too keen for a coffee.

The cars didn’t stop at the crossing so we did what a good pedestrian would do and quickly ran to the other side of the road — off to Cafe Frank.

– – –

After an hour and a good coffee (Steve had juice), we were back at the crossing with the scene still playing out. Our fellow pedestrians were obviously gone by now and replaced with a police car and 2 cops. They were talking to the 3 guys and taking notes. They weren’t shy like me so they were probably trying to figure out how they crashed their car without any obstructions.

Perhaps there was a big elephant in the road. But then what happened to the elephant? I don’t know, but I guess anything could have happened. This is Africa after all…

Dear Movd

Dear Movd,

I’m sorry for being so quiet lately. I know we haven’t spend a lot of time together over the past few months, but I’ve been working on some really epic things that required a lot of my attention. (And by no means do I say that you’re not epic. You’re beyond epic!)

So this is just a quick hi to let you know that I haven’t forgotten about you yet. I’ll be back soon again with more awesome stories to share with you. In the meanwhile, hop over to thispattern.com to see what I’ve been up to.


PS: This Pattern is a place where you will find UI Design Patterns that work – effective, human-friendly, usable and accessible.

Divorcing Design & Reality

I found these great words while doing some reading on Christopher Alexander’s work on architecture and patterns:

Images in the 20th century had a unique power where image became divorced from reality, and often more important than reality… Buildings were judged – at least by members of our own profession – more by the way they looked in magazines than by the satisfaction people felt when using them.

This is true for the web or any form of digital design as well. I’ll rewrite:

Images in the 21st century have a unique power where image become divorced from reality, and often more important than reality… Websites and apps are judged – at least by members of our own profession – more by the way they look on Medium, Forums, Dribbble and Behance than by the satisfaction people feel when using them.

Thundafund – The Beginning of a New Story (Part 1)

February 2015. The IL team was sitting around a table (not a round one, though:) with a brunette, a blonde, and a baldie (and no, this is not a joke). They were 3 Africans whose passion to turn ideas into crowd fundable stories, outweighed their pain to do so…

Up until that point, they had successfully helped more than 140 entrepreneurs get funding through Thundafund (TF); breaking new ground as an African crowdfunding platform.  These 140 entrepreneurs represented 70% of all the projects that had already received funding successfully. In comparison to Kickstarter’s 37% & Indiegogo’s 10% success rate, a 70% success rate is almost unheard of and a staggering achievement!

Now, what makes this such a staggering achievement, isn’t necessarily the high rate, but the fashion in which a team of 2 people guided these entrepreneurs to successfully get funding for their ideas.

Because Thundafund is running a lean startup, project submissions were done by filling out a 22 page Word document. These Word documents were revised and iterated upon by emailing it back and forth between a team of 2 and the project creator. More often than not, project photo’s would follow in separate emails – some of them humongously big and others pixelating small. Unavoidably, 1 email would become 10; multiply that with 100’s of projects, and soon you have something that doesn’t scale very well.

The first of 22 pages to capture and submit a project to Thundafund


So how did they do it? How did they take almost 200 entrepreneurs through a 22 page Word doc and still managed to achieve such a high success rate?

The Beginning of Interaction Design

In 1984 (the year I was born:), Bill Moggridge gave his first presentation on what we know today as, Interaction Design, except at that point the discipline didn’t exist yet.

In the early 80’s there were computer scientists who had a very technical and performance-based vision of design. Then there were also human factors specialists who had backgrounds in psychology and was trained to test prototyped designs. These specialists did a great job in generating incremental improvements, but it didn’t encourage radical innovation.

It was with this realisation that Bill felt there was an opportunity to create a new design discipline, Interaction Design, a discipline that, as Bill described it, “would be concerned with subjective and qualitative values, would start from the needs and desires of the people who use a product or service, and strive to create designs that would give aesthetic pleasure as well as lasting satisfaction and enjoyment.”

There’s a rather funny part to this story in that it wasn’t always called Interaction Design (or IxD for that matter).

At the time he called it “Soft-face”, a combination between software and user interface design. One day one of his friends pointed out that Soft-face sounded like a description of the Cabbage Patch Dolls, a popular stuffed doll of the time, with chubby cheeks, but not so much of a design discipline.

Bill recalls, “so we went on thinking of possible names until I eventually settled on ‘interaction design’ with the help of Bill Verplank”.

And that was the beginning of Interaction Design – a discipline that would be concerned with the needs and desires of the people who use a product.

Quoted from Bill Moggridge’s book, Designing Interactions.

Becoming An Effective UX/UI Designer

I was recently asked to answer this question on Quora (emphasis mine):

“Hypothetically, if you had less than one month to learn how to become an effective UX/UI designer, what resources and programs would you focus on the most?”

One Month?! Obviously no one can learn UX/UI in this amount of time. So in a sense, the question was a bit pointless. Nevertheless, I still wanted to answer the question – especially because how to become an effective UX/UI designer, is a great question.

I wont copy the whole answer here, so go and check it out on Quora.

Learning Code As a Designer

The desire to learn to code has come and go multiple times over the span of my design career, but the fear of {words in curly brackets with: colons} has always outweighed the desire to acquire the skill. In 2013 I decided to at least give HTML and CSS a go. I successfully managed to complete a relatively easy course on Codeacademy.

Webflow’s easy drag-and-drop platform and the busyness of life, alienated me from this new acquired knowledge quite soon.

And so time flies… It’s nearly a 1000 earth orbits later, and I’m still as afraid of code as I was in 2013. But it’s different this time. I decided not to abide to fear. I’ll rather not learn to code because of some other lame excuse than being too afraid. I’ve completed several grueling trail races before, learned After Effects, many other software applications and married a beautiful woman:). I was convinced that even if don’t master writing code, I can at the very least overcome the fear of not trying.

So 2 months ago I plunged into the world of Swift.

I was clueless about Xcode, iOS and Swfit when I bought Meng To’s Design + Code material, but it got me out of the starting blocks. Learning Xcode’s Storyboard was fairly easy and made me naively confident about my new adventure. I was excited and spending my early mornings, evenings and weekends learning Xcode was fun and I was finally overcoming my fear! (The problem with naivety though is that you think you know but actually you don’t.)

A couple of weeks ago, one morning, it dawned on me that I was still clueless and afraid. A seemingly simple piece of code like this

class MenuItems:NSObject {
    var sections:[String] = []
    var items:[[String]] = []
    func addSection(section: String, item:[String]){
        sections = sections + [section]
        items = items + [item]

was gibberish to me. I really didn’t get it. I was discouraged and I wanted to quit. Again.

I had to ask myself a very important question that morning: “How badly do you want to learn code, Steyn?” The answer to the question would determine whether I would slowly fade out and quit and maybe try again in a few years time or, whether I will push through the slump, even if it was only for that day.

I decided to press on…

It’s been 2 weeks now and I’ve been asking myself that question every morning since then. Some mornings the desire to learn is stronger than other mornings, but the question stays the same: “How badly do you want to learn code?”

Is learning code as a designer easy? No. At least not for me. But with Stack Overflow, 100’s of free tutorials,  and a bunch of geeks around me, I’m fighting ahead to become a better designer and problem solver.

To learning code as a designer!

Image from Wikipedia