I’m not a big fan of Facebook, and certainly don’t check it often, but now I’m even less engaged. No matter what I do, even reinstalling the app I can’t get the notifications count to drop below 1. So now I hide Facebook behind the “my apps” view and avoid it pretty much all together. Thanks Facebook for helping me disengage.
I frequently become emotionally connected to my work as I’m crafting it, a practice I’m trying to eliminate. It’s actually quite amazing how I see myself in my work, and when I don’t like something I’ve done I violently discard it. And yet, when it’s something I’m happy with, I nurture it, I envision how it will grow, and how others will of course compliment it. To this I say:
Don’t become emotionally invested in your design until the people who use it do.
— Jesse Friedman (@professor) February 26, 2015
When we start a new project we often work with it one on one, at least in its infancy. Even if you’re working with a team your piece of the puzzle is most likely yours and yours alone.
It’s not until we have matured our wireframe, design, pull request, documentation or chunk of code that we feel comfortable sharing it. It is at this junction you have a choice to release your emotional connection with your work, or risk being bound to it.
One thing I’ve grown accustomed to, is sharing my work with my team (we’re hiring by the way) as soon as possible. The earlier I start getting critical feedback, the faster I can iterate, and the less likely I am to have fallen in love with what I’ve built.
Spending too much time alone with your work may result in a bond that makes it hard to be objective. At that point critical feedback can result in defensive maneuvering rather than logical debates. Fresh and new ideas that have been forked from my own can be seen as an imposter trying to one up my own work. User testing can be clouded by questions that lead rather than uncover. It goes on and on.
Not to be confused with designing for or with emotion
You should bring joy to people through thoughtful design! But, you can’t without empathy, and even then you shouldn’t become overly attached to your work until you know the value it brings. You shouldn’t eliminate emotion from your work, just be aware of your emotional connection to it.
Only after others have had the opportunity to interact with and love your work should you do the same. At that point you become an advocate for the people who use your products, rather than an advocate for your design.
Have you ever experienced an emotional connection to your work that has clouded your judgement? Come chat with me and others about it on Twitter.
Primavera by Ludovico Einaudi is one of the most amazing pieces of modern classical music I’ve ever heard. Einaudi’s work is by far my favorite music to listen to when I’m working.
— Jesse Friedman (@professor) February 25, 2015
I find it amazing that the experience I have on the weather.com website is so much worse than their app. Even watching their Weather Channel station on the tv is so much better than the website. There is 1 thing that is hurting the entire design, layout, content architecture and overall experience of weather.com. It’s that they are forcing content I’m not interested in, in my face. Fix that one problem and you will have a website you can start to feel proud of.
Weather Channel (tv)
The Weather.com App has ads, has additional features, and content that I’m not really that interested in. However, the most important things are there, and it is a very simple and clean experience.
Instead of commenting on this post, come chat with me on Twitter.
— Jesse Friedman (@professor) February 3, 2015
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robins are awfully proud of the hand washing instructions they created. They should be, they are pretty clear. But wait… it’s apparently more expensive to upgrade the instructions then it is to upgrade the bathroom.
Look, the video below is admittedly funny, but the point is that Dunkin should follow through with their plan. If you take the time to design such specific hand-washing instructions then it’s obviously really important, and if it’s not, then rip them down.
It’s like a cute beauty mark on my Toyota Sequoia Limited.
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
“This opens up a completely new field of biometric insight related to applications, experiences, entertainment and more. We’ll be able to provide levels of biometric awareness to our applications, our developers and our friends. This enables powerful levels of emotional acuity and intervention, and it will affect everything we do, from entertainment to general consumption to dating. I refer to this as biometric marketing or emotional marketing.”
Verizon residential services has a notoriously abysmal billing system. It’s so complicated that when speaking to customer service reps on the phone you get the feeling that they don’t even understand how to read your bill.
Aside from the fact that this plan is too convoluted to even work, the videos themselves don’t even play.
Verizon, please just invest whatever amount of money it takes to create a new and easy to use billing system. The money will be made back 10 fold when you can reduce customer service calls, get paid faster, and no longer need to support personalized billing video libraries.
By summer of 2014 Spotify, one of the most popular music apps in the wold has 10 million paid subscribers and 30 million free subscribers listening to 100’s of millions of songs everyday. In today’s most recent version of Spotify, version 1.9, users can shuffle their playlists with a rather large button seen in Figure 1. Pressing this button activates the “shuffle” feature which randomly selects the next song in the playlist. The button functions, however there is a major experience flaw with turning it off.
It is safe to assume Spotify did their research and through a data driven decision the shuffle button became the largest call to action in the playlist view because users want to use it. However the experience can be greatly improved by finding a new way to toggle off shuffle play.
Examine Figure 1 and think about how you would currently turn off shuffling? It’s not that apparent is it? In fact can you even tell if this playlist is currently set to shuffle? I can’t.
There are only two ways to know if your playlist is set to shuffle. The first is to memorize your playlist and know that songs are playing out of order. The second is to find the shuffle toggle switch, which is the same way you turn it off.
You must press the current track title (notice the red arrow in Figure 2) to open the settings panel. In Figure 3 you can see that shuffle is currently on because the shuffle icon is green.
Let’s look at ways in which we can improve this experience. Take some time to think about how you might solve this problem before you continue reading. Use Figure 4 on the right to start sketching ideas on ways we can modify this experience with the least amount of UI impact.
In this example only the “Shuffle Play” button has been impacted allowing us to find a solution quickly, so Spotify can ship and iterate faster. It’s important to focus your efforts on solving the problem, rather than rethinking the entire UI of the app. You can sketch your ideas either by printing Figure 4, or working in Balsamiq by downloading this mockup file.
Another way to approach this problem might be to solve it without modifying the current UI all. Can you think of anyway to improve the “shuffle workflow” that would improve the experience without requiring any changes to the interface? Here’s a hint: What action would a person using the app take if they decide they know longer want to listen to songs in a random order?
Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to work through some of your own ideas. Below are my two best solutions to the problem.
My first solution is to solve the problem without affecting the UI, and while I like this solution I do not think it’s the best stand alone fix. In my research I discovered an interesting fact, people select shuffle because they don’t want to have to interact with their playlist in order to get variety.
Spotify has dedicated this large UI element to make it easy to start playing music without too much interaction, in this effort they are successful. In finding a solution it’s important to note how someone starts playing the playlist without pressing the shuffle button? You need to press a song to start playing. Since the shuffle button wasn’t pressed I would expect my music to play in order.
My proposal for part 1 of this solution is to simply turn off shuffle every time someone interacts with specific songs in the playlist. The main reason I press a specific song title is to hear that song, and take back control of what music is playing. I believe this is a good opportunity to turn off shuffle and allow music to start playing in order.
I also think that anytime Spotify is re-opened, or the current playlist is changed then shuffle should default to off, even if I previously pressed it on. This will be a successful solution because we can lean on the button’s size and the prevalence of the call-to-action.
The second part of this solution comes with a modification to the UI. Inside the same size shuffle button a toggle switch will be introduced. This switch will clearly represent the current state, and also give the user some satisfaction in pressing the button.
Combining the change to the workflow, mixed with the toggle switch will create an inverse proportion of work to benefit. Spotify can build this solution quickly, and expect to see some excellent results.
— Jesse Friedman (@professor) January 5, 2015
An important element about crafting amazing experiences is that it isn’t only about your products, software and apps. It’s also important that your events, brand and marketing are just as amazing.
I’m was distracted by the exit signs, and I think it was uncharacteristic of Apple to have an event at a location like this.
I’m not sure why I need the ability to put in emoticons when I’m logging into Spotify for the first time. The just got in the way, and oddly enough replaced the “@” symbol which I really needed quickly when I was typing in my email address.
Infinite Crisis looks like an amazing game. The trailer is really impressive (check it out below), I watched the whole thing, and immediately decided to sign up.
When I arrived at infinitecrisis.com it all seemed so simple. All I had to do was fill out this form, and I can start playing. In step 1 seen below it actually just seemed like the game was all online. It’s not till later that I realize downloading software is a requirement.
After choosing a username, and giving up a lot of personal information I move on to step 2, seen below. An email confirmation is required. Now switching to my email and then back again, I notice a very tiny button that says “download game”.
Ok, now I’ve confirmed my email, and I’m ready to start playing. Wait! I can’t play, because I use a Mac. Right? Or maybe there is a way to play with a Mac. Check out Step 3. It says “Recommended System Requirements”, does that mean the game plays better on a PC or that a PC is required?
Now I’m confused…
I head over to support, which is a joke, and there’s nothing there to help me.
Fine, I decide to accept that I can’t play this game because I don’t have a PC. So now I’m really excited about something that I can’t use, and I’ve wasted my time.
What could they have done better?
Well, other than creating a game that I actually get to play. You could tell me that I can’t play it, right up front. It is so easy to detect why kind of computer I am using. How about a simple message that says:
Currently we don’t support game play on a Mac computer. Feel free to sign up and we’ll notify you if this ever changes.
This is a perfect example of real-time site personalization that we can all start doing today. There is no excuse for poor experiences like this one. Fix it and keep your users happy.
Frank Underwood is the definitive villain that we love to hate. Ethics and morals don't really apply to Underwood. He's a bit like a 300 ton locomotive; once he starts down a path, nothing is going to get in his way, and nothings going to stop him.
House of Cards debuted on Netflix last week to 15% of Netflix's 31 million subscribers. That's a lot of viewers and a lot of people eager to see this malefactor make his next move. However entertaining, the writers have constructed a relentless, educated and very calculating character; of which we can actually learn something from.
What follows are 5 lessons in leadership that I learned from Underwood.
1. Dedication and perseverance is almost always rewarded
Underwood rewards his loyal followers with more opportunity to follow Underwood. There is little reason for them to be loyal to him, other than the risk of being left hanging in the wind.
There is still something to learn here. Underwood still has an amazing ability to recruit and build a following. A strong leader can build fellowship through poignant and strong messaging. Regardless of how Underwood uses his people, there is no doubt that when he moves people follow.
2. Patience works until it doesn't
Underwood is a careful planner. He throws a pebble into a pond and watches as the ripples reach their targets with exacting precision. However, there is the occasionally unpredictable ounce of chaos that falls into the pond. Underwood would rather wait it out than dive in and expose any element of his plan, but there are times where he must wrap his hands around a problem and fix it expeditiously.
The nature of a great leader is found in their ability to think before they act. Brash decisions are usually fed from impatience, and the need to move faster than competitors, threats, or the chase of defeat. Methodical beings stow their ideas, and launch them in profound and powerful ways.
Whether you're building software, running a team, or in Underwoods case a government, you need to plan ahead. This plan must compensate for all the players. If things don't go as planned, do not panic, get your hands around the situation and fix it.
“Indecision is the thief of opportunity” – Jim Rohn
3. Define the goal, then never ever take your eye off it
Underwood is a champion in the ring, and his biggest heavyweight competitors are disruptions. He lines up barters, bribes, and even dirt on everyone he knows he'll come in contact with. Like Muhammad Ali, he wins the battle before it's even begun by knowing his enemy and putting at their feet, their own personal demons.
A great product manager will define the finish line on paper. This finish line is the solution, the product that they are building, and this manager will also be aware of the distractions that will get in the way.
A distraction can be feature creep, people, sales teams, and much more. A smart product manger will not only know what's coming, but they'll have a plan to get through these distractions.
Never be surprised! Surprises should be kept to Birthdays, which oddly enough, Underwood refuses to celebrate. If you're surprised at work you didn't plan accordingly. Know your market, your product, your team, and who's going to expect what when.
4. Words are only counted on paper
Journalists line up at Underwoods door at an opportunity to break his resolve. Some as we know, have gone to jail to bring out the truth. They are relentless, and their weapon is the written word.
Words are just that, words. No matter what you put down in paper, or on screen, you have to build an actionable reliance to backup those words. As they say "Actions speak louder than words".
In House of Cards the journalists make a lot of reference to the length of their articles. You could do the same with your product plan, wireframes or prototypes. Documenting code, user stories and market plans are a great way to plan.
However if you're not moving forward, working on your project, and actually building none of it matters. It doesn't matter how great your idea is, it will never build itself.
"Always be shipping" – unknown
5. Learn from smart people, know your history and then forge your own
Underwood is a student of history. As we all know if we don't learn from our history we are doomed to repeat it. Since Underwood doesn't see anyone (currently alive) as his equal, he relishes in the legend of leaders past.
A good leader should always surround themselves with mentors and people they can learn from. Their position on the hierarchal org chart doesn't matter. I refuse to work at companies where I'm the smartest person on the team. I have literally left jobs because of it.
An open mind and a free spirit will keep your mind moving. You'll always be innovating, growing and you'll have great people to help you get where you're going.
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill
And since Frank Underwood is the down right dirty scoundrel, here are 3 things that would should never learn from Frank.
1. Don't use people
2. The ends don't always justify the means
3. ****SPOILER ALERT**** Don't throw Kate Mara in front of a moving train! It’s seriously not cool.
I hope I didn't spoil too much of Season 2 for you. Feel free to share anything you have learned from Underwood or other fictional characters.
For the last 7 years my home office has been an advertisement for Ikea. Comprised of Expedit shelves and a desk plus a few Star Wars Posters. Today, I’d say it is far more professional, and I honestly couldn’t love it more.
I bet the thing you see first is the desk, right? It was built in November, 1964 Continue reading My Home Office
Astonish is one of the most unique companies I have ever worked for. Everyone of their business needs was different from what I was used to. This was part of the reason I came on, I wanted the challenge. The other was the fact that I got to work with new and old friends. Many of the people who worked at Astonish 2 years ago (when I came on) were from a previous company we all worked for called BZ Results (which was acquired in 2007).
Rishi Bhatia recruited me to Astonish in March of 2012 to do three things. The first was to build a web framework on the industries most popular CMS, WordPress. This framework had to support hundreds of clients, scale, allow us to deploy websites quickly, and cater to the specific needs of the insurance space. I finished, tested, iterated on and deployed this new framework in the fall of 2012.
The second task was to lead a team of designers and developers who could run this system, build themes for the framework, interact with clients and work with intense deadlines and moving targets. When I left Astonish I couldn’t be more proud of every member of that team. Of the 9 members of my team, I recruited 6 of them. We created an amazing culture and put out some awesome work. Read more about my Creative Leadership process here.
The third item I was recruited for was to migrate the existing 450 clients from a proprietary .NET CMS which I had no control over or access to. We had to programmatically move these clients from one CMS to another, for those of you who work on WordPress or CMS’ you can imagine the extensiveness of this challenge. We completed our migration this winter, and most if not all clients saw dramatic improvement in traffic, site load speed, and optimization.
During the past 3 years I not only accomplished what I came on to do, but I also had the opportunity to invent, innovate and build so much more. In early 2013 I filed a patent application for an invention that changes the way a client interacts with a website, while catering to their needs in real-time. I also got to work with some amazing engineers who helped me bring my ideas to life.
Why I left
As with most things in life, all good things must come to an end. I really enjoyed my time at Astonish. As a leader, developer and marketing technologist, I accomplished all my goals. Now I was left wanting more, a bigger challenge, and a new road to travel on.
Well, I’m looking around and seeing what’s out there. I have a short list of companies that I know a lot about, and would really like to work with. I have reached out to most of those companies. However, if you’re in need of a talented leader, developer, product manager, and UX engineer please get in touch.
What’s the Perfect Role For You?
Since I’ve made the news of my departure public, I’ve been asked this question a lot. In my local circles I’m the “WordPress-Guy”. Around the country I speak on topics related to WordPress, UX and business strategy. I can offer a lot but if I was lucky enough to define my own role it’d the Director of Client Performance and User Experience.
What’s a Director of Client Performance and User Experience?
In an effort to correctly define this role I have written up a requirements document and shared it below. I have pieced a few skill requirements from different open positions I’ve seen in the market. However, this is a role that I am very passionate about and have been thinking about for quite sometime. If I were start a new company tomorrow, this position would be one of the first I’d hire for.
Description of Position
Director of Client Performance and User Experience will be a confident business analyst who works as an advocate for the client. Their goals will be to analyze client performance, and identify ways in which things can improve. All performance enhancements will be made through improving the overall user experience of the website or app. It will be vital that this person can understand and improve the entire system, not just a single aspect of a website or app. As the Internet continues to grow and change, so does the need for someone to keep up with it. Clients will appreciate working hand in hand with an expert Marketing Technologist who can anticipate change and shift a product to grow and scale.
- Web agency experience
- Business analyst experience
- Experience developing requirements, use cases and user stories
- Very strong skills in information architecture and UX best practices
- Development experience is a plus
- Experience illustrating information architecture and user interface mechanisms to facilitate client understanding
- Knowledge of life cycle processes, to include planning, analysis, design, development, testing, etc.
- Phenomenal communication skills, with strong ability to facilitate or converse on behalf of engineers and clients
- Advocate for the client
- Innovative thinking and problem solving a must
- Experience managing Agile or Waterfall process’ a plus
- Organize client meetings with an emphasis on productivity and goal setting
- Deliver monthly reports on client performance
- Create a clear line of communication between all fellow teams, 3rd parties and clients
- Measure, track, and perform user testing on products
- Analyze data, metrics, and user experience testing to identify problems or areas for improvement
- Iterate and improve on product to eliminate problems
- Create storyboards, diagrams, wireframes, user stories and more to properly communicate the problem and the solution to fellow teams, 3rd parties and clients
- Work closely with everyone to create new products, and support existing ones
In the end
I’m extremely excited about what lies next. I am truly uncomfortable being comfortable. The second my job gets easy, I get bored. I love the challenge, and always making things better. I’m an innovator and creative thinker, and I look forward to the first step on this unknown path.
One of the more aggravating issues with filling out a form is submitting correct data types. Zip codes need to be 5 digits. A phone number field needs 9 digits but it can be 10 (if you add the country code), plus some people add spaces, periods or hyphens in the numbers. Email addresses have to have at least 1 @ and 1 . and the list goes on.
“You know you’ve built something great when the ripple effects of what you created are greater than the sum of all of it’s parts”