Archive for November, 2014

The Contradiction of Persuasion Design

For a moment I didn’t want to click on it but since I’ve been thinking about landing pages quite a lot lately, I decided to click on Justin Jackson’s article about tearing down Serial’s landing page. (Serial is a podcast that unfolds one nonfiction story, week by week, over the course of a season.)

I wasn’t surprised to find that indeed it was a tear down of Serial’s landing page. The main critique was against a copywriting mistake they made:

“…they’ve forgotten that when you’re trying to persuade someone, it can’t be about us, it has to be about them. Read it again, and look at the self-focused language:”


He continues:

“…writing has to be focused on the reader. The story we weave can’t be about us; the central character of the story needs to be them.”

He then rewrites the copy.

It seems sound and innocent. But making the story about others is, in essence, making it about us. If we read Justin’s opening statement again, you’ll sense the contradiction: “…they’ve forgotten that when you’re trying to persuade someone, it can’t be about us, it has to be about them. Read it again, and look at the self-focused language.”  It’s actually humorously contradictory. Read it again.

Persuasion is about making people do things you want them to do. There’s very little altruism in persuasion. No matter what story we write, when we want people to donate, buy or click, we will always put ourselves first.

No one puts it better than Victor Papanek:

“There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few of them…only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress other who don’t care.” Victor Papanek

If we are going to persuade people to do things, the very least we can do is to be real and authentic; not pretending they don’t know we care about ourselves first.

Whether it was intentional or not, I believe that’s what Serial did here…


The Home Page – Making a Long Story Short

Today, Apple’s elevator pitch is a full page product takeover. Words are as few and punchy as the product shots. TBWA’s, home page elegantly box the glory of their work with Windows 8 style tiles. And Stephan is a 37 year old Art Director from Berlin, guiding us through a list of clients and projects using a smooth parallax scroll.

Irregardless of how stereotypical these home pages might sound like, they are all in pursuit of what we’ve been trying to do ever since Web 1.0; make a long story short.

We all have a story to tell and we need to make it short. This is what the Home Page always was and still is today: The synopsis to our stories; an abridgment or condensation of whats buried in the pages beyond the first click.

It remains dauntingly difficult to tell this story and make people stay longer, read more, and click through. And rightly so as well: consumers have become more infatuated with the topics on a content page than the people who authored them. And that’s why it’s so damn hard to engage people.

Bringing It Home

This website is about design & technology, and maybe that’s why you will follow me on  and Behance. But it’s more than that. It’s about me and my story. And as you start to explore my background, methodologies and experiences, each topic I write about and every User Interface I design will come to life and add more value to your’s.

This is true engagement; getting people to care more about your story than the topics you write about.

To make a long story short, that’s what the Home Page should do. Whether it be with product shots, client badges or beautifully crafted words, let’s make it the beginning of a great story worth following…

You don’t like my food, you leave my restaurant.

A colleague of mine once went to an authentic Italian restaurant. Out of habit, he asked for tomato sauce with his pasta. With hesitancy in her voice, the waiter responded that they don’t serve tomato sauce with any of their food. Annoyed by this seemingly lack of care, he asked to speak to the man in charge. A minute later and a chef, the main chef, made his way through to the requested table. With a weight and pride in his voice, the chef asked him to leave his restaurant: ‘You don’t like my food, you leave my restaurant.’

As owners, designers or decision makers, we need to be as proud about the products we serve to the world as this chef was about his food. We need to be relentlessly brave when it comes to extra feature requests. Especially if we know those features will ruin the product’s taste…

“Let people feel the weight of who you are and let them deal with it.” John Eldridge – Wild at Heart

The Unintended Consequences of Noise

In response to a fan’s rhetorical question to never release an album on iTunes that downloads automatically to people’s playlists again, Bono answered with a rather interesting statement:

Oops… I’m sorry about that. I had this beautiful idea. Might have gotten carried away with ourselves. Artists are prone to that thing. A drop of megalomania, a touch of generosity, a dash of self-promotion, and a deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years might not be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there. I guess, we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.

There’s a lot of noise out there indeed. I do however think that noise is not really the bolded word here. Noise is around us all the time. Even right now as I’m writing this post from a coffee shop.

In the background I can hear Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song”, muffled under the sounds of a Barista preparing someone’s coffee, trolleys carrying vegetables in and out of a shop and a restroom door that swings open every so often.

The financial advisor at the opposite table looks uninterrupted while promoting his product to a prospective client. And so does the elderly couple two tables away. There’s just enough noise hanging in the air so that they, myself and everyone else, can carry on doing what we came here for.

An announcement over the intercom requesting Sam’s help at the teller, disturbed everyone enough to raise their voices a slight decimal higher, making the whole space a little bit noisier.

That’s how it’s online as well. Each of us is busy with our own conversations. I share my story to a handful of friends over twitter. Some acknowledge with a retweet or a favorite, creating just enough noise so that everyone else can carry on with what they came here for.

Sometimes we, like U2, fear that our stories will go unheard and, in this moment of desperateness, try to cut through the whirlwind of noise by shouting a bit louder, making it more difficult for everyone to hear each other.

The unintended consequences of noise are perhaps the biggest problem we have created for ourselves online. It’s hard one to crack, I know, but if there is one thing I’ve learned from the real world, it’s that trying to shout my story to someone who doesn’t care, ends up to be a disturbance to everyone in between.

Similarly, if there is one thing I have learned from U2, it’s that my story isn’t heard by shouting to the 1 million who don’t care about them but by telling a good enough story to the 30 who do…

Let’s Understand Our Users

In an expectantly fresh post, Eric Karjaluot paints the well argumented Invisible Design manifesto, with a trip to the bathroom.

If my bladder had a gauge, the needle would be at its highest point. There’s little time to waste. So, I locate a restroom, make my way inside, pee, wash and dry my hands, and I’m back outside – in less than two minutes.

After zooming in on this experience to explore the design details of a journey through a bathroom with automatic urinals, dispensers and hand driers, he backs out again and concludes this picture by relating it back to designing a website.

Because someone did their job well, I don’t need to think about, or know about bathrooms. I just use them and go on with my day. Just imagine if your website worked like that!

Someone did their job well. That’s the epicentre of this story.

Someone understood budgetary concerns, energy needs, waste water management, sustainability, and user safety. To build products that fits seamlessly into the lives of the people who use them, require us to understand these people. In product design, it might translate to conducting usability testing, drawing up personas, or analising Google Analytics. But most importantly it means getting out of the office.

Getting out of the office is hands-down the most crucial step towards understanding the people who use our products. Without this we cant do our job well and we cant create experiences where people don’t have to think.

It might mean using less affordances, adding an extra click or getting rid of the Facebook login button. Or perhaps even creating a bathroom that doesn’t  have automated urinals, dispensers and hand driers…

Let’s get out of the office and understand our users.