Gavin Wye

Lying Awake Dreaming

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Agile UX – How To Avoid Big Design Up Front By Pretending Not To Do…

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The best project (process) ever!

I was talking at work recently about Jared Spools comments about designers coding and it sort of spawned this post about how I used coding to my advantage in a really small project. It's not really related to the argument of should designers code or not. I'll post my thoughts on that later.

When I was freelance I worked on a fairly long but ever so small project. I produced HTML wireframes using the Blueprint CSS framework. The client was the end user so that made it fairly easy. They loved it as they could see it evolving right before there eyes. I'd build something and put it up and they would play and feedback.

I never had a conversation with them about signing stuff off they just kept asking for more functionality. Sometimes I'd say I don't think that will work, but I'll prototype it for you and we can see if you want. But they paid for the work and then we had something to talk about. Sometimes I'd be right sometimes they would be right, but It's never about who is right. I got paid because I estimated work in small chunks. They got to try out their ideas on the cheap don't forget this was a prototype. A win win.
When it came to the time for visual design I got the designer to work from the HTML. There was a bit of a problem here as they initially preferred the HTML wireframes and asked for the visual style to be toned down a bit. But that was it.

Then at the end of the project when we had the functionality that we all wanted in place I got the back end guy involved in tying it the back and front end together. I'd been talking to him along the way so he knew what he was getting in to but there was no documentation for him, apart from some comments in the HTML. Now this site wasn't that big and didn't have that much interaction. But there was also no formal sign off the client just took the site and owned it. Everyone was happy.

The important thing here was they came on the journey they tried things that didn't work and they tried things that did. But they knew what was happening. I didn't disappear and come back to them with a solution. I didn't start doing that until I started working in an agency environment. But that's another story.

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An Event Apart: What Every Web Designer Should Know | Luke W’s write up of Zeldmans Keynote

In his opening keynote at An Event Apart in Boston, MA 2011 Jeffrey Zeldman talked about the skills and opportunities that should be top of mind for everyone designing on the Web today. Here’s my notes from his talk on What Every Web Designer Should Know:

  • Increasingly on the Web, everyone can create content and share through social media. What does it mean for how we design Web sites when people can control the presentation of content within your designs?
  • It’s not just the visual experience that you might not be able to control. Through tools like Instapaper and Readability, people are time and design shifting to experience your content the way they want.
  • But this isn’t new. People have always been able to experience the Web in different ways through different devices, browsers, and even their own user style sheets. We’ve always had to account for this but it’s more apparent than ever before.
  • It’s not just how we experience sites that’s in flux. It’s how we define what we do as well. Every year the AEA survey uncovers many different names for the same job: webmasters and creative directors are often doing the same job. People in this profession love to argue about what to call themselves.
  • Design that does not serve people does not serve business. When you do things that are anti-user, you are designing anti-user patterns. Example: services that spam your address book without you knowing it.
  • Content precedes design. Design without content is decoration. It used to be that you worked on look and feel before you thought about content. But it’s actually very hard to do design without content.
  • When the Blogger team asked for design templates, it was really hard to create anything appropriate devoid of content. Doug Bowman made a universal template that was minimalist and ended up on 20 million blogs. It was the best solution for the problem of designing where you don’t know the content. But it’s one of the only success solutions to this problem out there, which illustrates how hard it is to design without content.
  • Websites are simply delivery systems for content. Even something as simple as a little call out needs to have actual content in order to test out how it will work in layout.
  • You can’t solve a problem until you can define it. And you probably can’t solve it alone. To help you can turn to design testing with users. But ideas can also come from within. Innovation does not have to come from asking people for ideas.
  • We all have to learn many things about building Web sites. In advertising people kept secrets from each other but on the Web people share what they learn. We’re all interested in each other’s techniques so we can learn.
  • Right now is the best time to create Web sites and applications. New opportunities like Webkit & mobile, html5 & css3, UX & content strategy.
  • Many times when we say mobile we are often talking about small screen. Small screen design adapts by adjusting layout and media to fit on smaller viewports. If you are primarily a content site, you might need a small screen strategy not a full mobile strategy.
  • Real Web designers write code. Always have. Always will. You need to at least understand the principles of semantic mark-up and know what is possible with HTML and CSS.
  • Progressive enhancement is a universal smart default. Most of agree that it’s a best practice to create an experience that can reach everyone.
  • HTML5 has design principles that also apply to Web design. Pave the cowpaths = make things work based on how people expect it to work. Find a way to make things work even if people try to “wrong” thing. Fail predictably.

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Cry Wolf – email marketing.

Really is this message important? I don’t think so. If it was really that important would you be trying to get me to follow you on Facebook. This is the cry wolf of email marketing.

How can I now distinguish between what really is important and all the other marketing messages that you send me? You just lost my trust. If there really is something important in this email (which I doubt) I’m missing it and to be hones I’m fine with that.


Admittedly this example is see in gmail where I can see the first line of the email but you should be checking that. It’s your job.

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Which remote research tool should I use? | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

I had forgotten about this but it was just posted to a thread on the IXDA list.

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State Of The Browser – London Web Standards

What is State of the Browser?

Representatives from Opera, Google, Mozilla and Microsoft will be on hand to walk attendees through each of their web browsers. You’ll get the skinny on how they’ve implemented exciting new technologies and find out where the web is headed at breakneck speed. Through keynotes, Q&As, breakout sessions and socialising, you’ll get a better understanding than ever before of the browser in 2011.

Who Is This Event For?

State Of The Browser is being organised by London Web Standards, the group for London’s creative web industry. We welcome anyone with an interest in creating content for the next generation of browsers. Whether you’re an HTML5 guru, an IA looking to understand what new experiences are being opened up, or you dream in HTTP, this event will give you the inside track on what promises to be one of the most exciting years yet for the browser.

This looks very good I think I’ll be trying to get a ticket.

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Journal of Information Architecture

The mere fact that you are reading this Journal tells me you’re different. You will inherit the earth. Not because you are meek, but because you recognize the importance of information architecture.

Read Issue 2, Volume 2 of the Journal of Information Architecture »

Made me smile. I don’t think it’s true but it made me smile.

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A Common Visual Language

I sketch a lot in the early stages of a project. That's not really anything to be surprised about any more most UX'ers sketch nowadays in the early stages of a project.
Sometimes a page goes through 10-20 iterations. I try not to think about structure at first and just sketch let the ideas flow it's kind of using my hand as my brain. It's done it lots of times before so it knows what to do and I trust it. I have come up with (almost by accident) an copied lots of different styles for drawing things. Boxes, headings, links, drop-downs, overlays.
At times a wireframe will just be a series of lines and I show this to the people I'm working with. I often wonder if the people I'm showing sketches to understand what they are looking at. It's very hard to talk about ideas such as "when you click this it transforms in to this" if you don't have this shared understanding. For this reason I thought I would document my visual vocabulary. There really isn't a lot it its a few elements that I use over and over again. Here they are not very sophisticated but they work for me.
I have tried slightly higher fidelity versions using color to pick out links (blue), errors (red) and success (green) but it always feel like I'm getting in to the territory of marker visuals when I do this and that's not a sketch If I want to do something like that I'll jump in to InDesign, Illustrator, Omnigraffle or whatever other app I feel like using that day.

Oh and if your keen to know how I'm getting on in my resolutions just look at the date of this post. Not exactly what I was planning but better late than never.

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Here’s a few to kick
of the new year.

  • Learn about fine Scotch
    Whiskey and how to differentiate the good from the bad.
  • Learn about Oysters and eat more of them.
  • Forage for more food including going fishing every now
    and then.
  • Write at lease one post here every
  • Do things that are productive and add
  • Don’t be a slave to email.
  • Don’t moan about things instead frame the problem and
    find a solution.

I’m writing all this down
so that I can look back and see how I did at the end of the year. I
think it will give me impetus to do something about it. I did this
when I gave up smoking and that worked. It also helps me set some
constraints to write within. Tip: I smoked for quite a
long time, and giving up was really really hard. The best tactic
that I found when giving up was to tell as many people as possible
that I was giving up. Then you have to do it. Not following
thorough would have meant letting those people down.
back to the point… I’m going to write something here once a week.
Hopefully it will be fun, informative and punchy. It will probably
be about User Experience Design and sometimes about working culture
and the ways that knowledge workers can be more productive. there
is a possibility there will be a bit about customer service. I’ll
try and limit myself to 500 words. I’m also not going to spend a
lot of time composing these posts. I’ll do a couple of versions
have a read through and then set it free. I tend to be a bit of a
perfectionist and hide things away until they are finished; this
often means that things don’t get finished at all or get left to
rot. I’ll try not to rant or moan so I’ll try to suggest a
solution. I’ll try to be reflective of things that I actually have
experience of. I’ll do my research first before I write something
so that what I write is informed. I’m not going to worry about if
what I’m saying is completely the right thing to say at the right
time. It’s about forming and articulating my opinions as I go. So
that’s at least one quickly written researched 500 word post a week
that is fun and informative. Yes I do like a challenge, and for the
record I don’t think I’m very good at writing. I feel like I should
say a bit about what motivates me to write. It is primarily to
educate myself and solidify my ideas, I always find that once you
start discussing things and hear how they sound you can rationalise
them. It’s also to make me a better designer, I’ve always thought
that as a someone who works in the web industry I should share my
thoughts. I think about this stuff a lot so here goes…

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Who is this bloke

My name is Gavin I'm User Experience Designer at TH_NK in London. I have been trying to make the internet a better place for the last 10 Years since graduating from Sheffield institute of Art and Design in 1999.
I think a lot about the process that we use to design things particularly digital products and experiences.
I get frustrated by badly designed products.