Edge cases (part 1 of hundreds…)

What if their surname only has two letters?
Are we sure that button is big enough for translated text?
What if the user doesn’t have JavaScript on?
Can a colourblind user still understand that?
What happens when network connection drops?
Does this drag-and-drop work properly on a touchscreen?
What if a user receives an abusive message in this inbox?
“You have no friends.” What now?
Your server had a glitch: does the user understand what happened?
Is that target big enough for all users to tap?
What if the CDN takes a while?
Does that field work for people with non-binary genders?
Could someone just build a bot to get around this?
What if the browser is zoomed in?
What if they want to paste from a password manager?
Did you remember that for Amex the CCV is 4 digits long?
Have we tested with VoiceOver?
Wait, couldn’t this become a spam vector?
Does this even load on a 2G connection?
What if the user can’t point with a mouse?
We are stripping hyphens and parentheses from this telephone field, right?
Does that wrap okay?
Oops! They didn't mean to click that: what do they do now?
Doesn’t Apple hold the patent on that?

Exploring permanent roles

[Update, January 2016: my year is filling up, and a permanent role is now a less likely fit. I’ll announce any change to availability in due course.]

I’m starting to explore permanent roles. I’m interested in positions:

  • at design leadership level (Head/Director/VP);
  • based in London, preferably with a fully colocated team;
  • mobile-focused;
  • in an interesting and worthwhile consumer vertical (financial services, advertising, betting etc aren’t for me, thanks.)

I’m definitely happy to wait for the right permanent role. In the meantime, I’m also available for interim design management opportunities. Please let me know if you have something that may fit.

What “UX Design doesn't exist” means to me

Peter tweeted that there’s no such thing as UX Design. I agree. I haven’t gone by that label for years, because I don’t think it makes much sense as a title or framing for our work. Nor does it reflect my current interests. I wouldn’t use it in the title of my book were I writing it now. Opinions change; no big deal.

But to be clear, this doesn’t mean I think people who call themselves UX designers are worthless. Nor does it mean I think their work is worthless. The things UX designers commonly do are valuable. Please research users. Please prototype. Please test and iterate. (These activities aren’t the sole domain of designers either – everyone on your team has something to offer here.) 

I also think UX people are largely a terrific bunch too: insightful, analytical, strong systems thinkers. Now, I do think most are too narrow: I want designers who do all that and more. But my complaint is with the UX design label, not the activities. These activities happen in all good design: if you’re not trying to create positive experience then I don’t really understand what you are doing.

But it’s just metadata; the output is what matters. So long as you design better technology, I don’t really care what you call yourself.

AI and future user experience

Artificial intelligence is nearing genuine utility.

Exhibit 1 – a chess programme learned to play at International Master standard in 4 days. It did this not through brute force minimax (effective but not really intelligent) but via neural networks and self-correction over time. (This was the exact topic of my Masters’ dissertation – endless boring enthusiasm available on request.)

Exhibit 2 – OS giants are positioning predictive AI as central within their value propositions, viz. Google Now On Tap and iOS9’s Proactive Siri. They’re immature, but are clearly aiming to become connective tissue, bending to context and learning from rich user data. On wearables these agents become even more central, since physical input is constrained and context is richer. 

Exhibit 3 - I mentored at Seedcamp last week, and heard the phrase “machine learning” echoed in the majority of pitches. AI was the secret sauce, the differentiator. Now, these are early startups with a ton of thorny execution ahead of them – but it seems AI isn’t just for the big guns now. 

AI is becoming a cornerstone of user experience. This is going to be interesting (read: difficult) for designers.

1. No longer will products be fully deterministic. We won’t be able to enumerate every page, every response. Instead we’ll have to create frameworks / scaffolds / templates for AIs to deliver output through. These scaffolds may be sonic, tactile, and linguistic as well as visual.

2. The front-end engineer will no longer be the dominant manufacturer of user experience. Designers have become competent at working with front-enders to ensure UI quality, but now we’ll have to understand and partner with data scientists and deep back-end engineers too. Some stats knowledge and even some AI knowledge will probably be useful.

The role broadens once more.

[Inspired in part by recent conversations with Giles Colborne and Jai Mitchell.]

Available for consulting

Summer is coming to a close, and I’m emerging from semi-sabbatical. I’m now available for short-term or part-time consultancy from October 2015 onward.

I’m focusing on consulting rather than hands-on design. If you need help with design process, expert review, interim management, product strategy etc, let me know. More details on my Consulting page.