Archive for February, 2014

When A Camping Form Feels Like Applying For A New Job

I’m not an avid camper, but now and then I actually like to get out into the wild. About 2 years ago, we went to a camping place called Beaverlac. A beautiful place that’s definitely worth it. But I found it a bit weird that they don’t take any bookings. You just pitch up and pitch your tent. If they’ve run out of camping spots. Well… then you need to find another place.

In my search for a camping place for next weekends outing with my dad, I went to the old trusted Beaverlac website. But this time only to be greeted with a new booking form. Things has changed. You now need to book a place. Which, under normal circumstances, would be okay. But this form is a bit different… Apart from the normal name and date fields, there’s a few very odd ones that almost made me feel that I’m applying for a new job.

See if you can spot them:


Im not sure why they need my occupation, employer, and me to name 3 camp rules, but I assume they had quite a few problems at the camp site and now need to do more quality control. But now also to the cost of bookings…

Lesson learned: Make you’re form only do what it needs to do. Anything more than that and people might not fill it in.


Targeted User Interfaces

Over the past few months the concept of Progressive Reduction has started to emerge all over the web. In short what it means is that an interface will start to reduce itself based on how someone uses a specific application; unused features or design elements that isn’t used, will start to disappear in favour of a better user experience

A lot has already been said about this concept, so my intention with this post is hopefully not to rephrase these articles, but rather to add a thought that was sparked by one of my work colleagues…

A while back we were talking about how individual profiles is build up over time as we navigate ourselves around in the digital cosmos and how ads are served based on these journeys. What started out as a very casual conversation grew into a very interesting topic: How will these digital profiles of ourselves one day be used to serve different versions of the same website? In other words, user interfaces that are served based on an individual’s digital profile…

Let’s use a middle aged, medium to high income, black man from South Africa who has already purchased both a Samsung Galaxy, iPad and an Macbook Air on, as an example persona. He’s an experienced Internet user and love to browse sites like The Next Web and Mashable.

In the context of this idea, the next time he visits, he might be greeted with a different version of their home page featuring the latest iPhone 7 held by a black hand and complimented by imagery that supports his profile? Maybe even give him an interface stripped of design elements that would normally only be there for less experienced users…

It’s almost like google ads, accept that it’s a targeted user interface.

Sure, I have reduced this case to make it sound much more simple than what it probably is. There are more complexities and consequences to it than what I can think of right now. But I wanted to keep it simple for illustration purposes.

However, the same idea that might be able to cause people to have a better web experience, might now also be used to drive more sales. Which I guess is fine but in a way makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Not sure why. Maybe because there are so many anomalies that we haven’t explored yet. Stuff like security, privacy and ethical issues.

Perhaps we will never even see this idea take shape. But if this does, I hope that we have applied enough time and wisdom to figure out how it will pan out over a period of 10 or 20 years.

Let’s see how it goes…

Design Lessons From A Barber Shop

A month ago I decided to go for a hair cut at a new barber shop close to from where I live. Not because I was unhappy with the lady who’s been cutting my hair for the past 4 years, but because I couldn’t find an opening and by that time my hair has grown so long that it started to irritate me beyond control.

So I made the plunge…

Barber Shop Tweet

Well… I’m sad to say that it didn’t work out. For the month after that, I was even more irritated than before. My Barber Shop Friend succeeded in making me look like a douche bag [congratulations dude!]…

But not to worry, it’s a month later and my old hair stylist asked just the right questions to make me look like a shiny new penny [Thanks Candice! Here’s a shout out for Xco Man]

While we were talking about this unfortunate miss-cut, it dawned on me that the success of all the products I work on, hinges on asking the right questions and being really interested in our clients. [Yes, of course there are things like skill and management that plays a massive role, but for the sake of simplifying this analogy, I wont go into those.] When I had to tell Mr Barber how I want him to cut my hair without him even bothering to ask, I guess I should have known that we’re not a good fit.

It’s similar with working on websites and mobile applications. To ensure that I build the best possible product, I have to get to know the client and the people who will ultimately use the product I’m about to build. That way l won’t only have a happy client, but also a happy user; one’s that come back over and over again.

This isn’t a groundbreaking theory, but it just became very real to me over the past month. *Even though it cost me R120 and a bad hair cut…)

Design Is A Hypothesis

I listened to a podcast the other day where Jared Spool interviewed Jeff Gothelf on the concept of Lean UX. He mentioned something that is very applicable to where I find myself in my career right now:

Design is a hypothesis. No matter how great a designer you are, whatever you put forward is a hypothesis. So you need to validate that hypothesis both from a business perspective and customer perspective and so you want to minimise the time spending pursuing the wrong hypothesis.

As a relatively young designer, I have this inner conflict between protecting my first design ideas as the perfect solution and, putting that idea or concept out there so that it can be tested and validated as a hypothesis.

When Jeff made this statement I realised how liberating it is to present concepts as hypothesis so that they can be tested and validated first. It liberates me from trying to protect my ideas all the time and the constant fear of loosing them. It also liberates me from the idea that my value as a designer comes from the amount of unique and creative ideas I can come up with. There is nothing further from the truth than this…

My value as a designer comes from my ability to allow the people who use the stuff I make (with other people), have the best possible experience. And that’s something I’ll rather want to hold onto…