Exactly this


Learning through making

Earlier in the year I had the good fortune of presenting to a class from the University of Technology, Sydney’s Interaction Design course. As someone who occasionally hires designers, experience in user testing and a sincere integration of users in the design process is what makes candidates stand out. Why? Because this is what reduces errors, minimizes IT and build change requests and helps ensure users can understand and use our products. It’s a mistake to think something has to be detailed and almost production-ready to be tested. Test ideas, test sketches, test digital, test services. Test early, iteratively and often.


“It’s an error that makes good design look far easier and more replicable than it really is.”

“UX proponents tell tall tales about how good design really takes place. Bottom-up, evidentiary design implies that the designer is ultimately unnecessary, a mere facilitator who draws out a solution from the collective… And top-down, genius design becomes indistinguishable from salesmanship. As a result, design dissolves into other, more established disciplines like business intelligence, product marketing, and corporate evangelism. It’s an error that makes good design look far easier and more replicable than it really is. And worse, it allows people to conclude that their own expertise from data analytics to advertising to illustration is a sufficient stand-in for design.”


The design specialist versus the unicorn

Should you be a UX designer, a UI designer, a visual designer, a front end coder, or a back end coder? Can you be all of them? Can you be a few of them?

At various points in my career I have made a decision to specialise. For a while I was a visual designer who could write HTML/CSS (please don’t ask me to write code now). Then Java Script came along and I knew I had to make a call. These early decisions of mine in part follow a timeline of how technology and the industry developed — something that Russ Weakley has articulated perfectly in his presentation Specialise or cross-skill?

I was quite amused when Russ refers to the unicorn — that rare person who can do it all. Here is something I dug out of my email archives, a LinkedIn request that assumed I was one such creature.


We’re seeking a UI/UX web designer at XXXXXX. Keen to connect.



So if you are wondering what design field to specialise in, or whether to specialise at all, or if you are about to write a job ad for a designer please read this first.

Product design

Stan app dead end for curious new customers

I’m looking forward to seeing what Stan, Presto, and of course Netflix have to offer avid Australian movie and TV watchers like myself. I’m a ripe candidate for all of these new services: I don’t subscribe to Foxtel (can’t get cable at home), I haven’t bothered to bypass geo-location blocks to access US Netflix, I don’t want to download illegally, I don’t have an Apple TV (love hate relationship with Apple, hate relationship with iTunes), and I’m ready to see what else there is besides Quickflix for more than a few reasons.

Rather enthusiastically I downloaded the Stan app today on my iPad and was quickly disappointed. The first screen gave me nowhere to go: No information about the product, no hint of the launch date, no way to sign up, and no way to take any further steps. Even worse, it assumed I was already a customer.

The Stan iPad app. You can log in but if you’re a new customer you can’t sign up.

The website gives a few more options. You can read a bit about the service and more importantly sign up and register to an offer. Why isn’t this experience available on the app?

I can only assume its because its early days for Stan. To any Stan designers, developers and product managers reading this I don’t want to come across as a pedant, but am suggesting another form on the app page would be more appropriate. I am looking forward to seeing what’s in store. Good luck with the launch.

The Stan website has more information as you would expect and a more appropriate form for new customers and a new product.




The 8 traits of good and bad error pages

A little while ago I started a tongue in cheek collection of broken web pages on Tumblr called Shit Servers Say. It’s turned into a collection of what makes a good and bad error page. The best examples treat broken web pages as an opportunity to reach out to their audience. The worst do nothing.

The best error pages

1. Acknowledge the mistake and are apologetic to the user.
2. Are instructive, sometimes even offering a pathway out.

The good error pages

3. Speak with the brand voice. This is often funny and shows attention to detail to the content and brand strategy of the company.
4. Use imagery, (illustrations, photos, video) to lighten the mood.
5. Promise that the problem has been noted and someone will get onto it.

The bad error pages

6. Serve up raw server messages full of technical gobbledygook.
7. Mention the Systems Administrator or a C-Panel. Wow. This one fills me with early internet nostalgia.
8. Are boring. Keep an eye out for the underwhelming Facebook errors.

Here’s a sample of what you will find but to see the full collection go to: