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Reading Notes, April 2020

Tweet: @dresouzax

Things we make will usually not be perfect. Absolute perfection is always elusive. However what makes us manifest palpable “perfection” is care. You can sense care, just as you can sense carelessness.

Article: “Inspiring high school students with HTML and CSS”

A cool story.

So I pulled up my website and asked if any of them knew what the browser developer tools were and no one did. So I explained how on any website they visit, they could right click, find "Inspect" and click on that and view the code for a website.

I opened the DevTools on my site and there was an audible gasp from the class and excited murmuring.

"That's your code?" A student asked.

"Yes, that's all my code!"

"You wrote all of that?!"

"Yes, it's my website."

And the class kind of exploded and starting talking amongst themselves.

Article: “Overlay gap“

Jeremy writing on how so many of our problems are problems of human communication and understanding, not technical problems.

We like to talk about how hard and complex our technical work is, but frankly, it’s a lot easier to get a computer to do what you want than to convince a human.

He continues:

let’s say it is someone in the marketing department who is pushing to have an obtrusive newsletter sign-up form get shoved in the user’s face. Talk to them. Figure out what their goals are—what outcome are they hoping to get to. If they don’t seem to understand the user-experience implications, talk to them about that. But it needs to be a two-way conversation. You need to understand what they need before you start telling them what you want.

I realise that makes it sound patronisingly simple, and I know that in actuality it’s a sisyphean task. It may be that genuine understanding between people is the wickedest of design problems. But even if this problem seems insurmoutable, at least you’d be tackling the right problem.

Sage advice.

Article: “Caroline Jarrett discusses forms, surveys and the need to be brave”

Caroline is asked: “What’s the most consistent usability issue you see being repeated in forms?” Her answer (emphasis mine):

Without a doubt, it’s people thinking that they can solve the problems in forms by addressing the technology and interaction design issues. Yes, the technology must work and the interaction design has to be easy, but what it comes down to is why you are asking the questions. I constantly hear people saying that if they use this new technology, they’ll get better forms. But you won’t, not until you’ve worked out good questions, why you’re asking those questions and what you’re going to do with the answers. Changing technology will never solve the problem of asking a bad question.

It’s so easy to jump in and “fix” a form by changing its visual design or layout. But form follows content, and asking the right questions is the foundation of building great forms. But those questions have to be based on trust, which stem from the business not the design team (emphasis mine):

It’s all about value. I’m going to share a shocking secret with you: some people don’t always answer personal details truthfully on the internet. Forcing people into a situation where they’re already untruthful to your organisation because you didn’t respect their need for privacy, that starts them on the wrong foot. You’ve already set out on a damaged relationship with that customer. They didn’t trust you with their personal details, why will they trust you in the future? Respect [your users] and their privacy and their needs to reveal information when it seems relevant to what they’re doing – not before. I’ve never seen people reluctantly put in their true address when they got to the point of buying something and it asked for a shipping address.