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From Boston to London

The second day of An Event Apart in Boston kept up the excellent standard of the first day. Alas, I couldn’t keep the liveblogging up for two straight days …I blame the Media Temple opening party.

Other attendees were far more motivated than I. There’s the Django app A Feed Apart that collates Twitter and Flickr posts from the conference. Then there’s the very cute A Seat Apart which allowed attendees to point out their place in the seating arrangement. In fact, all the attendees I met at the event were an exceptionally enthusiastic and lovely bunch.

The content was, of course, superb; Zeldman, Heather, Derek, Dan, Aarron and Scott all gave superbly inspiring talks. The event closed with Malarkey giving a rousing talk wherein he backed up the assertion already made by myself and Dan that no, for fuck’s sake, websites do not need to look the same in every browser!

That was certainly an emerging hot topic at An Event Apart. Now I’m in London for @media 2009, where it is beholden upon me to track the hot topics for the closing panel. So far, from an excellent first day, the topics I’m seeing are:

  • Process
  • Icons and metaphor
  • @font-family

And that’s just after one day of design-related talks. There’s a whole swathe of developer-focused hot topics still to come. I’m riding a wave of inspiration from two back-to-back conferences; I hope I can harness some of that energy in the closing panel.

An Event Apart Boston, Day One

The first day of An Event Apart is wrapping up here in Boston. Dan is delivering his talk Implementing Design: Bulletproof A-Z which I’ve already liveblogged from a previous event so I can give my fingers a bit of rest now.

The liveblogging was kind of fun. By keeping myself busy, I was able to stop myself from getting too nervous about my own talk. I’m so glad it’s over and done with now. Feel free to download a PDF of the talk, Future Shock Treatment. Also, feel free to reuse it—it’s licensed under a Creative Commons attribution license.

I actually enjoyed giving the talk a lot. It was much rantier than I intended but nobody seemed to mind. One of the reasons why I was ranting so much was that I was somewhat taken aback by the audience reaction to a segment on progressive enrichment and IE6. My basic question was Do websites need to look the same in every browser? I expected a resounding No! from my peers but I got some pushback from some people. That surprised me, given the savviness of the audience. I think it surprised (and depressed) Malarkey too. He wrote recently about this attitude:

Has the last ten years all been for nothing? I fear for this industry.

I hear ya, Andy. I’m off to drown our collective sorrows at the after-party.

I kid. Most people here firmly agreed with me. The others …are wrong.

Here are all of today’s talks:

  1. Revealing Design Treasures from The Amazon by Jared Spool.
  2. Content First by Kristina Halvorson.
  3. Thinking Small by Jason Santa Maria.
  4. Future Shock Treatment by me.
  5. Designing with Psychology in Mind by Joshua Porter.
  6. DIY UX: Give Your Users an Upgrade (Without Calling In a Pro) by Whitney Hess.
  7. Implementing Design: Bulletproof A-Z by Dan Cederholm.

I’m not sure if I’ll do any liveblogging tomorrow. I may just soak up the excellent content.

DIY UX: Give Your Users an Upgrade (Without Calling In a Pro)

The wonderful Whitney Hess is speaking about DIY UX at An Event Apart in Boston.

We are all user experience designers. Our users are suffering. Let’s help them. Whitney says we can be bumbling DIY hobbyists or we can be professionals.

Meet the founders of Iridesco, based in New York. They make a product called Harvest, a time-tracking, invoicing and billing tool. Their customers have really nice things to say about them. They handle their own help and support. They tried using Get Satisfaction but they saw that not as many people used it. Instead, they use labels in Gmail to tag feature requests and issues. They built a tool for themselves to handle this: Kaizen. They don’t just take feedback at face value, they want to get to the underlying problems.

We don’t just want to patch; we want to address the core problem.

When customers ask for a feature, Iridesco get in touch to try to find out what the customer’s workflow is. That gets to the heart of the problem. For more on design research, read Mike Kuniavsky’s Observing the User Experience.

Iridesco also use web analytics:

We don’t believe in data-driven design, but data doesn’t lie.

(Whitney adds: sometimes it does …data tells you what people are doing but it doesn’t tell you why)

Once glance at Google Analytics shows that people mostly log at the beginning of the week and then there’s a drop-off at the weekend …as you’d expect for a time-tracking tool. But they also noticed fewer visits in the middle of the month. They also use Crazy Egg to find out where people are clicking. Google Website Optimizer lets you do A/B testing. For example, green and blue buttons tested much better than muted grey buttons. They resulted in a 10% improvement in conversion rates.

Meet Matthew Marco. He’s a visual designer working for the House of Representatives. He also uses a lot of the same tools as Iridesco. He worked on House.gov which leads to about 600 websites. His biggest impact was on their search infrastructure. He created a big-ass table of search queries. It took thirty minutes a week over the course of nine months, on his own initiative. What he found was staggering: the top search results had no document titles; searches were case-sensitive. He sent a memo …a fairly harsh memo. He blogged it.

One day he noticed three times the number of queries that he normally saw. This was when people had started talking about bailouts. Two days later, the server crashed. Even though he was low down on the totem pole and shouldn’t even had access to the search logs, he was the only one who saw this coming.

For more on web analytics, read Web Analytics: An Hour a Day by Avinash Kaushik.

Usability testing; how well does your stuff really work? Shawn from Iridesco tests prototypes on his wife. This goes against the accepted wisdom on user testing but he knows that his wife will be honest. He doesn’t tell her what the prototype is supposed to do; he doesn’t ask what do you think? He asks what are your general feelings about this? and then lets her talk. The worst feedback you can get is it looks good. You want harshness.

You need to have humility and listen. Users aren’t always right but you need to hear them.

For more on usability testing, read The Handbook of Usability Testing by Jeffrey Rubin and Dana Chisnell.

Experiment and iterate. This is the web; you can be nimble. Risk is okay as long as you are always testing. Here’s the Iridesco process for a new feature:

  1. Sketch
  2. Photoshop
  3. Test
  4. Static HTML prototype
  5. Test again
  6. Working prototype
  7. Test again
  8. Tweak
  9. Launch quietly
  10. Get Feedback
  11. Tweak
  12. Get Feedback
  13. Tweak
  14. Get Feedback
  15. Tweak…

Iterate constantly. You need a culture of experimentation.

Meet Roz Duffy. She works at Comcast interactive media on Comcast.net. Her team—the front-end team—has no access to the user experience professionals in other parts of the company. She starting organising design events like Refresh Philly in the company lounge. Her team started gaining new skills because designers were coming into their space; they came to see the value in sketching (just as Jason was saying earlier today). She also puts a bunch of books on her desk (about design, IA, etc.) and encourages her team to borrow them.

We aren’t always working on the most interesting stuff but we always want to work smarter.

Read Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton.

To summarise: Always be listening. Ask questions. Use data and anecdotes. Test your designs; try to break them. Complete the feedback loop. Never stop trying to make things better.

Make your users happy and they will thank you …just check out the @harvest feedback on Twitter.

Designing with Psychology in Mind

Josh is at An Event Apart in Boston to talk about Designing with Psychology in Mind.

He begin’s with ’s equation:

Behaviour is a function of a person and their environment.

That’s quite a modern view that clashed with the prevailing wisdom of the time. Lewin’s equation is applicable to design because although we can’t change the person we can influence behaviour by altering the environment on the web. We create the environment. We create a universe for our users. In a way, we are playing God.

One of the most infamous experiments that demonstrates how much environment and behaviour can influence people is the .

The Stanford Prison Experiment

This change in behaviour was described as The Lucifer Effect. We often assign actions to the nature of the person but we ignore the external influences. This is the fundamental attribution error.

On the web, we often try to change people’s behaviour. Amazon is trying to change people from offline buyers to online buyers. On his own blog, Josh is trying to change people’s behaviour from casual readers to subscribers. Web designers change behaviour. Well, that’s what psychology is. So now we have another hat to wear, that of psychologist.

Behaviour first, design second. What behaviour are you supporting with your design?

We can use the egocentric worldview. We can’t help but see ourselves as the centre of the world. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is useful. Personal value precedes network value (for users). Josh wrote about this as the Del.icio.us lesson. Even if the social value didn’t exist, Del.icio.us would still provide real, personal value. Hunch is making good use of this principle. You provide Hunch with tons of useful information but you do it for your benefit. It turns out that most people represent themselves truthfully online even though, famously, on the internet, no-one knows you’re a dog.

Now for a test …an awareness test.

Awareness test

Humans have a single locus of attention. We can actively think about only one thing at a time. Jef Raskin talks about The Humane Interface. We are often interrupted from our locus of attention. The iPhone is successful even though it doesn’t have a large screen. That doesn’t matter because it’s so task-focused. There’s only ever one activity on the screen. In almost every iPhone app, there is only one thing to do. People love these applications. People don’t want to do other things at the same time. Compare the “regular” Amazon site with the iPhone version; the iPhone version is much more focused. Don’t distract people. Apple pitch their fullscreen view as work without distractions. Just like Writeroom.

Social proof: show signs of life. Yelp feels vibrant and in use. So does Amazon. According to Dunacn Watts, network effects can lead to a feedback cycle of popularity. So social proof can literally control what becomes successful. Avatars are a great way of showing social proof. Porter’s Law:

Avatars increase in size and realism over time.

Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment and penalty are all behavioural influencers.

The behaviour you’re seeing is the behaviour you’ve designed for.

People are reacting to what you have designed. Tumblr has some great positive reinforcement in its sign-up process that’s carried through to your first couple of posts. Positive reinforcement works but it doesn’t work over the long term. Know when to stop giving positive reinforcement and switch over to passionate engagement. Design to get people into the flow. There’s a lot to learn from gaming:

One cannot enjoy doing the same thing at the same level for very long.

People get bored by social networks because they are not being challenged. The only task is to answer connection invitations. Keep adding things to keep challenging users. It’s a Red Queen arm’s race. This is what Kathy Sierra talks about; creating passionate users.

Wait. Isn’t this all a bit …evil?

Isn’t this manipulation? Facebook’s original Beacon interface was definitely manipulative, possibly even evil, enabled through the design. They redesigned to give users more power and knowledge …although it took a few iterations.

We must determine what success is. If people are using something, why are they using it? Are you making people happier with your product?

Thinking Small

Jason Santa Maria, AKA Stan, is the man. Here’s here at An Event Apart in Boston to talk about Thinking Small. He’s my warm-up man.

He begin in the 1980s; Christmas day in the Santa Maria household—Jason gets Castle Greyskull. One Christmas, his parents played a cruel joke on him. Instead of getting him toys, they got him books. But these books were better than regular books. They were choose-your-own-adventure books; classics like You Are A Shark and War With the Evil Power Master. The best part is that they are interactive. Of course you cheat. You go back and see what would have happened if you had made a different decision. Let’s look at the decisions we make when we are building website. Jason will show us seven small decisions that change the outcome of a finished website.

Be a thinker

Don’t just dive into moving shit around in Photoshop. Stop and figure out the problem before trying to come up with a solution. Take a look at the Enterprise car rental site. It’s not terrible but it’s also not exciting. It’s just bland.

Take a step back. Start with sketching. Sketching isn’t about being able to draw, it’s about being able to think. Jason started a Flickr group for people to upload one page from their sketch book, no matter how crappy it looks.

At the beginning of a project, get acquainted with it. Get a feel for the content.

Find the message

The difference between good design and great design is intelligence.

Sum up a website with a message, as if you were introducing a friend at a party—what’s important? Everything on the site should communicate that message. The White House website does this. So does A Working Library.

Be a reverse engineer

Come at things from a different angle. Jason played Layer Tennis recently with Derek Powazek. They decided to play around with the format by introducing three truths and a lie. This prompted new ways of thinking about what they were producing.

Take lessons from improv. Play the “yes” game in brainstorming sessions. Take what people are offering and add to it.

Plot it out

Jason comes from traditional graphic design background of grids and systems. Cue obligatory Vignelli quote. But how big should your grid be? Just because you can go to 960 pixels doesn’t mean you should. Don’t blindly approach grids from a set size. The space on the screen is a valuable design tool. You can use for your grid but you can also use it for whitespace. Brockman says:

The grid system is an aid not a guarantee.

There are other kinds of grids, not just columns. It’s about choice. How do you choose to fill that space? 960 pixels is not right for everyone. Stop and consider. Big Cartel feels small and approachable because it doesn’t go full width. That fits the message it wants to communicate.

Grids don’t necessarily have to be uniform. Yet most grid tools start from that assumption. It seems like a small decision but it effects everything further down the line.

Think horizontally, then vertically

Thing of the page as a delicious parfait. The design of Jason’s own site can adapt to the content. His grid is just some horizontal strips. The different sections can then work together or stand alone. Within each layer there are then sub-layers. Only then does Jason think about how things line up vertically.

Design systems, not pages.

Stop, modulate and listen

Jason wrote a 24 Ways article on modular layout systems. You can narrow page elements down to identifier, size and placement: what it is, how big it is and where it goes. You can then apply those things to class names. Have classes for identification, size and placement. Then combine those classes e.g. class="pic two left" or class="pic seven right". Clients like the self-documenting nature of this.

Be a matchmaker

The state of type on the web today is still questionable. The choice isn’t large. It’s as if Netflix only offered four films for you to choose from. But type on the web is going to change soon. The conversations are already happening. In the next six months to a year, you will see more of a push for understanding of type and how to use type. Jason has some rules of thumb when choosing typefaces:

  • Don’t use two script typefaces together. Or two sans-serifs together (or two serifs together), for that matter. One of each is a good rule of thumb.
  • Pair fonts from the same designer. Perpetua and Gill Sans go great together because they were both made by that loony Eric Gill.
  • Find harmony and structure. Bedoni and Futura are very different; one is serif and one is sans-serif. And yet they share geometric forms.
  • Conversely, look for contrast. Caslon and Garamond are too similar to use together.

Step by step, all those decisions add up. It’s like Stewart Brand says in How Buildings Learn. People don’t begin building a house and plan for adding an addition but over time, bit by bit, you add to the house. Buildings adapt over time. So do websites.

The small decisions add up even if you don’t realise it at the time.

Content First

Because it takes two people to replace Eric Meyer, Kristina Halvorson has stepped into the breach at An Event Apart in Boston. At last week’s UX London, Dan described her as the patron saint of content strategy. Her talk is called Content First. She begins by listing a bunch of Twitter hashtags and pointing out the excellent A Feed Apart.

Kristina started out as a Copy Writer and morphed into being a Web Writer. For a long time, there was no such role as Content Strategist. That meant that the Web Writer was divorced from the rest of the team. Everyone was talking about user experience but nobody was talking about the content. We’ve got user flows, mental models, eventually the site map. At this point, everyone’s happy. Then someone looks at the schedule. Copy writing (usually lumped in with SEO) is allocated a couple of weeks at most. They call in the Copy Writer, show the diagrams and functional specs and say, off you go! Now you’ve got two weeks (tops) to figure out the content requirements and deliver the content. How did we allow this to happen?

Content isn’t a three-step create, revise and approve process. It’s much more complex than that. And it’s never done.

Kristina quotes the origin of the phrase information architecture. Then Tufte came along. Designers took it upon themselves to craft information that was understandable and digestable. Then the web came along. To begin with, it was treated as a visual medium. Jesse James Garrett changed the emphasis to user experience. But where is content in Jesse’s diagram? It’s on the second level. Then it disappears. We were approaching content on the same level as functional specs; a feature than can be ticked off a list. But content is a living, breathing thing that evolves over time. Once you put it online, you are required to feed it and take care of it.

Content is almost always the last thing to be considered and the last thing to be deliverd. This is the Content Delay Syndrome. In Kelly’s book, she says Accept it. Plan for it. Charge for it. Kristina thinks that sucks. Content Strategy is a better way.

Content can be text, graphics, video and audio. Kristina mostly works with text.

Strategy is often seen as what we’re going to do. But most people conflate tactics with strategy. Strategy is actually about answering all those good journalistic questions, why are we doing this?, who is this for?, what do we have to work with?

Here’s the homepage for Quicken. First thing you see is the happy guy. Then you see four red boxes for four different products. Then you see price points; a consideration to be sure, but this is your financial well-being we’re talking about. This probably all looked great in a wireframe. The content got poured in to the layout at the end.

Mint has an awesome content strategy even though they don’t have much content. The content is focused on you.

Plan. Create. Publish. Govern.

Governance is important. The Swiffer “live” YouTube channel has been left to rot. People still leave comments but the last curator login was nine months ago.

Right now, the mind set is launch and leave it. But content is cyclical. It needs a process.

Audit. Analysis. Strategy.

  • Auditing content is usually thought of as cataloguing pages. That’s a quantitative audit. It tells you where? and how much? Qualitative audits are more useful by telling you how useful content is. There’s also specialised auditing such as dealing with metadata.
  • Analysis is one of the most important things that a content strategist can do but it’s also often overlooked. Don’t just jump into action. You might think you don’t have the time or budget for this part; invest in it. You need to consider brand and messaging, the channels you will be using to deliver content, user research… Kristina is aware that most people don’t have the budget for all of this but you can still start introducing it a little at a time. There’s a whole bucket of other stuff to consider; technical infrastructure, internal politics, stakeholder swoop’n’poop.
  • Finally you can put a strategy together. This is where the content strategist really takes ownership of the content. That’s often the problem with content, right? Nobody takes ownership of it. Maybe it’ll be the information architect, maybe it’ll be the user experience designer. The important thing is that someone is in charge of it. Always consider what will happen when the content is out there. Don’t launch a blog, for example, unless you’re willing to invest time in it.

The page stack symbol in IA diagrams will kick your ass. As far as the information architect is concerned, this is where the magic happens.

The page template, usually filled with lorem ipsum, is a useful tool but it only shows you structure. It doesn’t answer any questions about what your users need.

Page tables are a new tool. They identify structure, but also the details and, importantly, the implications. It also poses questions, who is in charge of this?, how will this be accomplished? This is dirty work but someone has to do it. Of course, if you have 1200 pages, you won’t build page tables for each one but you should build a page table for pages with specific objectives and specific user needs.

Content inventory involves mapping out what you’ve got and what you’re going to need. This is usually a spreadsheet.

This is all something we can do. Imagine having this instead of lorem ipsum …lorem ipsum must die!

Why do this? Think about why people go online. They want content. Support your users in their quest.

How can you start? The reality is probably that you can’t just hire a content strategist tomorrow. But you can change your mindset. When we talk about user experience, content is missing from the discussion. Let’s change that.

Revealing Design Treasures from The Amazon

I’m at An Event Apart in Boston where Jared is kicking things off. He’s pinch hitting for Eric who can’t be here, alas. (Do you like the way I’m casually using baseball references like pinch hitting to ingratiate myself with the local audience?)

Jared’s talk is entitled Revealing Design Treasures from The Amazon and I’m guessing he’s not talking about the South American river. He begins by talking about milk. Two years ago, you could buy Tuscan whole milk on Amazon. The reviews are hilarious. Jared reads an over-the-top literary travel piece to everyone’s amusement. Another review is written as a romance novel. Another is written as Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. Another is in the style of a rock music review. Some of the shorter ones are hilarious too, Okay product, but you have to buy a glass to use it.

Here’s a comment that comes up at lots of planning meetings, I like the way that Amazon does this, why don’t we do it like Amazon? People don’t say that about QVC. What’s so special about Amazon? Well, for a start, it’s a very, very popular and successful site. Jared quotes the stats. But there are other little things that are almost invisible but are very appealing. For example, the search results tell you when something will be delivered—most sites provide this information on the product page, but not on the search results page. They also keep iterating lots of subtle little things like the add to shopping cart button. So it’s understandable that people want to do things like Amazon. But to do that, you need to know exactly what it is that Amazon does. Jared will now reveal all. Jared has spent a long time watching people shop on Amazon.

It all starts with the content. In the case of Amazon, that’s reviews. People read reviews on Amazon and then sometimes buy the product somewhere else. Amazon knows this and they’re okay with that. Jared compares two reviews of a Harry Potter book. One talks about the content of the book, another talks about the experience of getting the book delivered from Amazon.

As more and more reviews get added over time, quality reviews get pushed down the page. This isn’t good because reviews are so critical to purchasing decisions. Amazon solved this problem with a small, simple device. They added a little question, Was this review helpful to you? This small addition gained Amazon approximately 2.7 billion dollars in revenue. That vital little feature was rolled out without much fanfare. With that extra data, people can now view most valuable reviews, least valuable reviews, etc. It turns out that the only people who want to see reviews ordered by date are the author of the book and the people who wrote the reviews. It’s just not that valuable for customers.

For a lot of products, such as alarm clocks, you’re only going to write a review if you have a negative experience. How does Amazon get people to write reviews? Most people don’t leave reviews. About 0.7% of people who buy something leave a review. But because Amazon has such a huge amount of customers, that equates to quite a lot. So the next time someone says, we should have reviews; that works really well for Amazon, you can respond with sure, we should have customers too; that works really well for Amazon.

Frankly, review writers are the lunatic fringe of customers …and you need to encourage that lunatic fringe. This is what the discussions, listmania, and customers ultimately bought.. features try to do. Some of these ideas and experiments work but some of them don’t.

Remember the Amazon gold box that would wiggle at you from the top of the page? The idea was to show people products in a “treasure chest” to encourage people to buy those products. The goal was to let people know about all the other stuff that Amazon sells; they already know from your shopping history what you know about so they specifically showed you stuff you didn’t know about. People got really frustrated with this. People wanted to see things they were likely to want to buy but that wasn’t the goal of the gold box. After a while, people stopped clicking on the gold box.

Amazon added tags. Two of the most popular tags are book and dvd. Those aren’t very useful for navigation. Neither is a tag like not interested but people use that tag a lot.

One of the products Amazon sells is an ethernet cable selling for $500. Boing Boing picked up on this. People starting havig fun with the tags for the ludicrously overpriced product; snakeoil, IQ test, waste of money, etc. Well, try clicking the waste of money tag; there’s a lot tagged with that. Why would Amazon allow people to tag their products in this way? The tag defective by design is a protest tag for anything that uses DRM.

Here’s the lesson. If your people are saying we should be more like Amazon, that should really mean don’t fear new ideas. Experiment. Some experiments don’t work. Know when to drop the ones that aren’t working; you’ll need a good metrics system to know what’s working.

There are also lessons to be learned from the experience of using Amazon. Notice that they don’t ask you to log in with your password until you absolutely need to. That really matters. Some customers never need to give their password. Amazon has amazing security levels that they’ve put a lot of effort into:

  1. Amazon doesn’t know who you are (no cookie).
  2. Amazon knows you from a cookie—you can receive recommendations.
  3. Amazon wants to reveal something only you should know (password required).

There was a lot of negotiations with credit card companies to make the purchasing experience as good as it could be.

This is all about increasing Goal Time and reducing Tool Time. Struggling with security and remembering passwords is Tool Time. Finding the product that’s right for you is Goal Time.

Every time Amazon changes something, they are dabbling in changing the Tool Time. Amazon has changed a lot of over time. But most people don’t notice because the redesign happens slowly over time. This is in stark contrast to, say, Facebook’s sudden redesign. People don’t like it when things change suddenly. Amazon doesn’t have that problem even though it is constantly changing. Most users didn’t even notice when the mega dropdown was replaced with link list navigation. Here’s how they rolled it out:

  1. Show the new design to 5000 non-cookied visitors per day. That means switching on the new design for 45 seconds. These non-cookied visitors are the least risky; they haven’t visited Amazon before.
  2. After three weeks of that, show the new design to 1 in 5 non-cookied customers.
  3. After another three weeks, show 5000 cookied customers the new design.
  4. Show 1 in 5 cookied visitors.
  5. Show everyone.

That’s twelve weeks to roll out one change.

Search can be hard. How do you find the first Tom Clancy book to feature Jack Ryan? How do you find an inexpensive but high quality SLR camera? How do you find a good toy for your six-year old niece? How do you find all the novels by Nobel Prize winning authors?

Let’s say your new to Salsa music and you want to get the best Salsa artists. First you have to limit your search to music to avoid getting food products. Even then, you get greatest hits albums but you don’t know who the artists are. CD Baby handles this better than Amazon because they have curated content.

Finally, never forget the business. Jared will now share the secret of Amazon’s business.

You can buy an iPod nano on Apple, Best Buy, etc. for about $149. Amazon sells it for $134. That’s probably cost price. It turns out that Amazon can sell almost everything at cost price and still make a product because of volume. It’s all down to the Negative Operating Cycle. Amazon turns over its inventory every 20 days whereas Best Buy takes 74 days. Standard retail term payments take 45 days. So Best Buy is in debt between day 45 and day 74. Amazon, on the other hand, are sitting on cash between day 20 and day 45. In that time, they can invest that money. That’s where their profit comes from.

You have to start with a great business model to produce a great experience.

Jared leaves us with some homework. Visit the Amazon page for the Playmobil security checkpoint. Let that be a lesson to us.

  • Be careful when emulating features.
  • Some experiments don’t pan out.
  • Not every use case is the same.

June

This is a busy month for conferences.

UX London just wrapped up. I went along on Monday to listen to the stellar line-up of speakers before the subsequent two days of workshops kicked off. It was, as expected, fantastic. Judging from the scuttlebutt on Twitter, a good time was had by all for three straight days.

I had an all-too brief chat with Jared but I knew I’d be seeing him again soon. We’re both going to be speaking at . See you next week in Boston, I said.

The last time I was in Boston was back in November for Jared’s UI13 conference. I had a great time. Boston is definitely my kind of town. But then, as an Irishman, I would say that.

I’ll be bringing my mandolin along with me but I don’t know if I’ll be brave enough to actually play at any of the sessions. Still, if you live in Boston and fancy meeting up for a pint and a tune, let me know. If you don’t live in Boston but you’ll be attending an An Event Apart, then a Sam Adams or two is definitely on the cards.

I’m excited but nervous. Excited because An Event Apart is always such a great, great conference with excellent speakers. Nervous because… well, it’s a great, great conference with excellent speakers. The bar is set very high. I’ve been agonising over my talk—entitled Future Shock Treatment—and I keep vacillating between thinking it’s going to be quite good and thinking that it’s going to completely suck. I guess there’s only one way to find out for sure.

Once An Event Apart finishes, I’ll be heading back across the Atlantic to London …like, literally the moment that An Event Apart finishes. That’s because I need to get straight back for which starts right after An Event Apart. And I won’t be alone. Stan and Malarkey will be on the same flight, winging their way from Massachusetts to Blightly to reprise their talks.

For my part, I’ll be moderating the closing Hot Topics panel. I am rubbing my hands in gleeful anticipation. I love moderating panels. I get real kick out of being the .

See you in Boston, London, or wherever else I happen to end up this month.