There is a hashtag-day holiday almost every day it seems. Sometimes, these days seem nothing more than the commercialization of an ego. Othertimes, it seems to draw attention to the kinds of concerns which seem to fall swiftly under the covers of day-to-day life. Such is the weirdness of today’s #BikeToWorkDay — at least here in the auto-centric USA, this day has become something of a trumpet for those who enjoy cycling, but can’t seem to break from the constraints of needing to drive to work or dress/appear productive even when they want to ascribe to fit/affluence/etc. These days are kind of a world witihin our world; signaling some aspect of what we want to be, but also granting some freedom to explore what life could be along that hashtag-analogy.
Here are this week’s reads — who follow their own hashtag-analogies:
And a few 🔗 from here:
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Last week was a flashback to the posts shared last year (April 2018). For this week, it’s a look at what was shared a month later, May ‘18.
Perspectives & Concepts
There’s a pattern to each week here. The long-post to start the week is both summary and launching. Then something in the middle of the week — a concept or a flashback. Then the close of the week where items of the week’s interest are shared (and those following via the site/Microblog see a bit more throughout the weekend). It’s not all that efficient for creating, but it is sufficient for the type of things created.
This navigating of efficiency and sufficiency comes up often in prospective and active projects. Usually, the intention/ask is to make something more efficient — but what’s really being sought is a better association to sufficiency in process, activity, and/or product. In being given a look into what creates outcomes, efficiency seems to be the measuring stick. And to some degree, you can merit some success when removing friction. But, that can’t be the goal. Sufficiency can be the goal, but after a very early point, it’s not so much measured as it’s felt — that is, what’s actually done becomes understood and analyzed well above the scope of what metrics define efficiency.
Can’t take credit for this framing. A recent read at Treehugger opened the topic and made very clear that the aim shouldn’t simply be making a process or series or products efficient. If looking at what people are doing isn’t the metric first, no amount of efficiency actually solves the problem. It actually adds inefficiencies.
But, can an effort like Avanceé subscribe and then ascribe to its clients such a philosophy? Likely, yes. This is the domain not only of an SME, but also of being forward in such a way which respects the people who own the journey. It’s likely a divergence from what you might be used to — but, it wouldn’t be drawing on the outside of the box if it didn’t look at effects/affects like this now would it?
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Perhaps it is more about paying attention to what matters for most people. What matters are the smaller bits. The digestible bits. What effects me today? What is the friction I can respond to which affects me/my family? The wider view is a harder one. It means you either are forgetting what’s in front of your nose for what’s in front of your feet; or that you are fully taken care of in those more immediate cares, willing to look at the macro-view towards how it will effect you. Themeing this week’s roundup around such a macro view — conversations like these aren’t frequent enough of all of our circles, perhaps by design.
A few opinions from here:
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Flashbacks to what talked about on the site a year ago:
Wondering why design tools have been reluctant to evolve
Conversations about design methods and software often bracket the week. If it isn’t another software/service, it’s a design system or a shift in a large/influential company’s motivations which sparks things. And it’s not a bad thing. Design is the language of making something functional and addressable for someone else. When it works well, it should be applauded. When it fails, it should also be elevated as lessons to build from.
Yet, there is this gap in the methods and implementing of design where — if you inhabit the space long enough — you realize that the tools are woefully equipped to transmit the best fidelity of what’s intended. The tools — everything from the napkin and pen to the metrics suites used for assessing usability, frequency, and issues —are developed around the idea that value is being communicated and can retold at each step of the journey. For the most part, this seems to be true, right until a shift happens.
Previously, we ran a post titled The Ethics of UX As A Social/Security Vector. It is the kind of post which can fly under the radar of those in design spaces because it seems to run similar to the other “UX is not doing right by us” theme. Yet, when poking past the questions posed in that piece, one can start to see a tension within the tools and methods designers use to communicate. In a few examples, we can see where it wasn’t the design of the end product where ethics issues lay, but it was in the tooling itself that never asked the designer/developer to consider more than their own intent. So, what happens when the tools evolve to asking these perspectives?
One thought is that the tools we use need to be embedded with ethical and organizational intelligence at a higher place in the ideation process. For example, a tool like Figma is excellent for designers and developers as various bits of communication have been solidified and there just needs to be some work around the edges. Once a design system has been created with Figma, one can make the assumption that the logic needed to build and implement a system has also seen some considerable attention towards its value to various audiences.
Chances are though, more designers have spent time in a scenario more similar to the other image in our frame — Microsoft’s Sketch2Code. S2C is an experimental interface using Microsoft’s lessons in image and intelligence to take whiteboard/napkin sketches and turn them into code. Not interactive, not even mapped against an org’s design system. S2C merely trims the work from those executive thoughts (“can we do it like…”) to elements which can build towards the final product (code, code snippets). However, S2C has a problem, it’s just snippets and a contextualized journey, it isn’t a map which can be built from.
Design tools actually need to bridge what’s explained here between S2C and Figma. And that evolution not happening (fast enough?) with the tools. It is on the whiteboard, and it’s long been the case that some analytical software can check code for logic/rule/regulation after its built. The tooling of enabling the designer to be poked during the fact isn’t there. And maybe it can be for a while — then turned off when those “training wheels” are no longer needed. Or, maybe they aren’t turned off — the ethics which guide why we can’t have this info populate a field because of our company’s stance on this or that probably does mean it evolves.
Much like an mobile operating system learns its owner and begins to recommend items at various points of use, perhaps its time for design tools to get a similar bridge — even if that tool is camera looking at that whiteboard sketch, validating the idea, preparing the code for inclusion to the backlog and branch, but also elevating where it conflicts with the design system and ethics of the attending org/nation. A previous shared concept pointed to this line of thinking. In between communicating and designing, there’s a better behavior to be esteemed. Maybe the evolution of the toolkit could do that. If the tooling evolves at this point, then perhaps the rippled effects of abuse, market gain, culture/language, etc. can be given a more valuable bit of attention.
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Each week, looking back over what has been an influential read is something of a joy and a hurdle.
It’s a joy because there are connections made with particular items. There are insights, dissections, and connections which have made an impact at that very moment. Or maybe, it was an impact better felt when combined with something else read/created previously.
At the same time it’s a hurdle, because everything that you read is not necessarily meant to be taken in. Everything that falls into a feed is not meant to be consumed. The hurdle can be explained simply: is this important enough to come back to you later, or was it just a distraction for the thing you were supposed to be concentrating on?
With that kind of perspective, looking back over 6 to 7 days of notable reads takes on a different priority. It doesn’t mean that everything matters, it just means accepting the challenge of respecting the moment.
Here are a few of the items which stuck out this week:
Only one article this week:
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Bending UX to see other vectors of organizational ethics
A friend and I joked about a photo sent to him. He asked about the name scribbled on the cup. To him and his SE USA context, it came across as a push/play on the term “field negro.” To him, it was a bold play. Now, the name on the cup (“fields”) was in reference to the name of the drink (Strawberry Fields Latte), but it did invite us to take the convo further. What if my name were Fields? Do I even look like someone with that name? And then there was my push: could I change my name in the Starbucks app to “Field Negro?” If so, would they call out the whole name? Would it be shortened?
At that point I put forward this point:
Now wondering if there’s field validation on the names in their app to prevent that
For those involved within web technologies, the idea of field validation is an important one. From in putting the correct information, to validating whether or form is ready to be completed, field validation stands as a very important topic. And I will not even get started in talking about the various ways that web developers, designers, etc. all display whether a field has been successfully validated or not. Suffice to say, that is a seriously challenging subject.
But, I didn’t stop there. I went further with my comment and introspection into field validation:
But… they (Starbucks staff) all went thru sensitivity training right? If UX is the digital modeling of the org’s character, shouldn’t field validation (in their app) be tested for that too
Here lies will where we find a different factor for user experience and then what may have been considered before. If user experience is a successful translation of a company‘s values to the performance of its software/services, it would make sense that something as simple as field validation would also go through the same lessons/outcomes of sensitivity training that those who work with the inputs or outputs have also gone through. If you will, making it digitally clear that every aspect of an organization is showing forth the ethics the company says it espouses.
This quickly goes from being a technical question, is there a field validation for a specific string of characters, to an ethical question, should a company that is allowing a field for identification prohibit certain strings of characters from showing in order to display it sensitivity to a particular group of people or cultural context. That’s not an easy answer; that is an easy answer.
What about a naming field tells you that a company has considered points of view outside of a dominant narrative? There was a story a few years ago about a person in Hawaii whose name was too long to be printed on a drivers license because it contains too many letters. Is it the responsibility of the department of motor vehicles to consider that native names, when written in Latin characters, can be much longer than byte lengths allow? What happens when the byte is too small? Do we change their name to fit our structures? What about password requirement scenarios? Being asked to create a password of a specific minimum number of characters, containing a certain number of symbols, numbers or upper/lower case characters seems to be a sensible framework. But what about when it isn’t? What about when that kind of framework actually limits how the system can be secured, and also enables people to be more easily surveilled?
I will admit, this line of questioning and hypothesizing serves no specific end personally. Professionally however, it opens a door up two types of automation/machine learning in which humans are helped out of their biases, instead of entrenched within them. Going forward, it may not make sense socially to change my name and a Starbucks application for kicks, but it does make sense to explore why some of those changes should not happen. Yelling “fire” in a movie theater doesn’t just test the people sitting in it, but the frameworks supporting those people who came to watch the movie.
Paradigm shifts are interesting. Usually, we don’t recognize there has been a change until after the changes happened. But, there are a few people who live on the precipice of those changes. People who, for better or worse, have their senses already tuned to what the shift will be and can recognize those changes before, during, and after they actually happen. In some respects, this presents those people who recognize paradigm shifts as something of an anomaly. Change always happens, but those people who recognize paradigms and the conditions for change seem to have a different set of senses. A conclusion you can draw: seems like those people are the actual shift the paradigm is trying to get you to recognize.
And with that, let’s share the last weeks notable reads:
A productive week, and a few pieces native to the paradigm shift of this endeavor:
A common question grants a canvas to an uncommon answer: ”So what exactly do I/does Avanceé do?”
Heard somewhat often because explaining “experience design” to those who may be around design tangentially is a dice roll. For those who are familiar with design and it’s many permutations, an explanation goes into some specifics and vernacular. For those who don’t have that association, syncing activities and intentions to a space they are familiar with grants the desired clarity. That said, coming via card/site/social media doesn’t always grant the same context. So, consider this a mild explanation of those bits talked about on the About page and those images occasionslly shared
Mobile and Connected Device Subject Matter Expert (SME)
As it relates to mobile, wearables, and other connected devices, some work primarily centers around how to better understand behaviors and content going into those types of devices, what kind of services can be enabled from those devices, and what can be understood from the behaviors and analytics. Sometimes, this means merely looking at data streams and interpretation get next steps or gaps in existing flows. Occasionally, there’s room to concept better approaches which might improve customer experience, user experience, and technical performance. And sometimes, there’s just play — which becomes products themselves.
User Experience and Process Design SME/Consulting
At times, the work encompasses experience design for new or existing products, which often includes looking at the process by which those products will be developed and implemented, not just how those products look and function. These projects are usually not talked about directly because of nondisclosure agreements, or they fall under a slightly different window of access. However, the subject area for these projects is a consistent theme for nearly everything done to date.
Digital Life/Digital Humanism Coaching and Strategy
Through some of the more executive and strategy conversations, some work and consultation has also spoken to the prospects of what it means for digital and connected artifacts to enhance or degrade humanity. Digital humanism is a pretty frequent topic because many are looking at what it looks like to be committed with technology, while also being in a state of balance despite it. To date, work on this topic has been through posts and a few presentations. However, it’s because of this lens that “what exactly do you do” question gets asked the most.
Pattern Behavior Research
Pattern behavior research could probably be put under the same category with user experience and process design, but this work is a little deeper than what is traditionally experienced in either of those spaces. Also done with an executive component, pattern behavior research doesn’t just look at what it takes to build a product or service, but it looks at the underlying causes and implications of those products and services. To date, this has resulted in product scoping and market research for specific clients.
Wireframes, Interactive Decks, & Presetations
Thankfully, not everything has to sit behind a conversation. Some of the work that has been produced ends up in wireframes, interactive decks, and presentations. These are public facing, or publicly shared, components which allow a small glimpse into the finished products, while also not betraying some of the sausage-making which happens before and after these are produced.
Professional/Executive Innovation Coaching
And finally, there’s the piece which happens as a part of some projects/engagements, but doesn’t get as much publicity due to the intensity of the action - coaching. This has only happened on a limited basis, but has consistently drawn interest from executive-level supporters of Avanceé as a wanted serivce because of time spent in the other engagment spaces, and their enablement to take modern technology ans practices forward.
This is what Avanceé looks like to date. If there’s a common theme to most of it, it’s simply articulating systems by understanding design in order to re-engineer complexity. Perhaps a complicated way to say “see the forest and the trees while navigating in space,” but that’s how this endeavor has evolved.
If you think I/Avanceé can be of service to your teams/org, get in touch and let’s see how you will be able to move forward in your space.
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To be mindful or to be inspired? That’s where aspects of the week land when we talk of themes. Perhaps that is not a bad thing — seasonal contexts notwithstanding. Where some might design a better experience, others themselves inspired to do a bit more than simply exist. Aims of some of our most recent work has reset some groups from Strategy-Implementation to Strategy-Focus. It is spring for more than just the trees and allergies (in the northern hemisphere at least). Mindful experience design draws you inside, whereas inspired experience design spreads to others. Spring forth.
Here’s some seed or pollen from the reads this week:
And a few from here:
Collaborative software is validated through collaborative experiences before its individual features
One of the challenges in training software and process is found in the disconnect of knowing the features of an application/service/device, and the context in which it wants to be best used by those being trained. In the past, it was single-user perspective software which opens to a collaborative element (for ex, MS Word to make the Report was by a single author, but “track changes” was meant to make the editing process inclusive of more eyes). Now, the world of productivity software has both that and collaborative-first software. The former can be learned features-first, but the latter, learning features first is the surest way to failure — especially when training/leading in new or infrequent spaces.
So, how does one get up to speed with collaborative products if the training industry still begins from a single-user, features-first perspective? Playtime. Intentional playtime.
Services such as Slack and Microsoft Teams are more or less useless without 3-5 people in the service concurrently. You need to not only have the largely, text-base conversations, but those who will use the app versus the website, those who grab add-ons to make aspects easier, and then a consistent-enough stream of activity. Now, if the latter doesn’t happen, then Slack/Teams becomes a wasteland. Or worse, your content management platform is another network file share, your collaborative word processor is no better than MS Word 97, and everyone wonders less about their competencies, and more about the focus of the technology leaders within the organization.
If something does take, you find new shapes of productivity forming, some of which has no present metric by the org’s existing performance standards. And at the same time, individuals will need to learn quickly how to manage the old way of doing things, and the newer ways the collaborative product has invited into the workspace. Groups start lifting styles of notifications, shortcuts to other features, or repackaging of binders/files/processes into a mastery of something more than what the outputs are — they strike towards a mastery of what it means to work.
A mastery of the features then isn’t even the mastery of the collaborative service — that’s just a mastery of a context within it. There are the secret commands, the bots, the use across other software platforms (for example, using Zapier to push info into and out of Slack based on triggers/commands). At that point, there’s enough mastery in to begin looking at teaching others how the collaborative product has value beyond their workspace. There’s only the words “innovation” here — risk and metrics are only defined by the features of what’s used, and the fear of what it portends.
So then, how can one evaluate the value of collaborative products if it needs others? That’s where your value system has to also update with the shape of the environment. Interdependent metrics such as friction to sharing, invasive/dismissive notifications, quality of communication, and resulting outputs are some measures. Should this be deployed to all groups? Maybe, depends on what value you think it will bring. It needs to be small enough to catch technical issues, and wide enough to get a range of users to identify gaps in what is and isn’t understood.
Expertise needs to be experienced — especially as it relates to the nature of collaborative software. Once it is, then there’s a canvas of possibilities towards its application to others.
As mentioned earlier this week, wanted to get back to letting the notable links/reads of the week sit on this pattern. It’s not that sharing a daily links blog is not important. But, it makes more sense through curation when you can figure out what some of those things look like, and how it impacts an audience.
Today, the theme is contemplation and breathing. Taking into account that not everything that we breathe in can be understood immediately, nor that everything that we breathe out will be something that lingers. There’s space. Space for contemplation in between the breath. And where that space is appreciated, beauty happens, life happens. And maybe, a return to a better rhythm.
With that, here are those items which stuck out this week; and just as previously, the order presented as a team just as important as the individual articles:
Just one piece authored this week:
Previously shared notable lists:
Some weeks back, started to share notable reads as a daily, rather than weekly supplement. And while this was a good idea from the standpoint of traffic (likely, don’t even look at the stats) and visibility, much about what this space is has gotten lost in the spreading. For example, part of the missing content here has been the long-form posts — item like this one where a few hundred words are spent expressing a piece of a lingering idea.
Those lingering ideas helped to generate the meaning for those reads, as well as served as fuel for concepts and projects as they happened. It also made for a space to continue to practice using the Tap wireless keyboard (of which am greatly out of practice) and other computing accessory items which point forward better than the cases, keyboards, and other tropes which bolster similar sites. Lingering ideas and continual experiments invite a fairer attempt to figure out what worlds sync with now, and which worlds have yet to be explored.
For example, there’s a form and shape to apps which want to help people write apps without writing code. These take the same shape and behavior of asking the person to stencil shapes together with logical statements, usually not looking like the language the person is readily familiar with (for example, Appdoo). Instead of starting with “what do you want to do” and getting embraced to getting there, they are starting with “here’s how this works, can you fit your problem into this.” Not right or wrong, but it’s a shape.
On the other hand, there are fewer experiences where people get a chance to leverage some understood analogies, and then create something programmatic with it. Products like LiquidText get towards this — and Ink and Switch’s Muse goes further still. These kinds of experiments and experiences push forward the concept of taking items which have been engineered as complex, and transform them into accessible spaces which better express the intent of the creators, not simply the abilities of the toolmakers.
Hence, getting back to this pattern — augmented by a simple program’s ability to do some neat things, and pushed forward thru contemplative leanings. To reflect again, and share a piece of what that does forward is what this space is for (in part). And maybe then what’s notable doesn’t just come forward more, but enables a little less complexity to get into the hands of others.
Moving back to the weekly share next week. Noticed a few things effected by the lack of better curation, especially from a retention-application standpoint.
Started to just skip the links for yesterday given the various pranks. A later sharing of the non-prank reads makes sense instead
Notable Reads for Mar 30
Notable Reads for Mar 31
Notable Reads from 24 Mar
Notable Reads from 23 Mar
Building a design ethos, one conversation at a time
In talking with people about Avanceé, one of the questions that comes up from designers, or those with a design background, is “how often do you work with other people versus how often do you work by yourself?“ This is a very valuable question, and it tends to be answered honestly — depends on the project. For many organizations however, the work that happens is actually not doing design artifacts (strategy, research, wireframes, proptotypes, and products), which might require individual or collaborative efforts. The effort/work that is design happens within conversations.
As unique as it might seem, design is not noticed by many people. They notice an aesthetic. They might notice friction when something that is favored turns unfavorable (“this is designed wrong”). They might even notice beauty that is their perspective only, versus beauty that’s a shirt perspective of a group or culture (appreciation and appropriation). Design is communication. It’s a particular mastery of communication. Design should communicate value. However, the value that design communicates is not a mastery of an aesthetic, as a mastery of an investment. Investment means data. Data means analysis. Analysis means communication.
Within some of our conversations, design is something that becomes understood as a way to attract someone to a product. But we often end up turning the conversation into “what is it that you want your product to communicate that’s valuable to someone else?“ When used in this way, the conversation evolves from an investment in some type of beauty, to an investment in some kind of clarity. This clarity often causes those organizations to revisit not only their request for design expertise, but the shape of the organization as a relates to what it is they truly are delivered.
If you look at design as the product that you are offering, you will end up focusing less on the value of what it is that you are communicating and more on the value of the shape of the thing you are communicating. However, if design is part of your very nature. That is, design is the very building block of how you make decisions about how your organization functions, then you communicate something a lot clearer, a lot cleaner, a lot more valuable to your prospective audience: you give them the ability to design their world instead of you designing it for them.