Recorded on July 28th, 2016
I just had the good fortune to go to all three days of An Event Apart right outside of Washington, D.C. A passel of smart designers, developers, and strategists gave typically great presentations, as they do every year. Two themes really hit me:
- Websites are used by humans, not devices.
We get so caught up in which devices are going to browse our sites and run our web apps that we forget that people are the ones using those devices. People who are “on the go”, sitting at home with a smartphone, using a desktop computer at work, using a laptop computer in a hotel on a crappy connection, using a tablet wherever. Those people aren’t thinking about the device, or the code running on it — they’re thinking about the content they want to find and the task they need to get done. We fail them when we make assumptions about what they want to do based on the paltry data we can collect about their devices.
- The web works on all kinds of devices naturally.
This one I got straight from Karen McGrane. It’s so obvious that we should be embarrassed to think of it as a revelation. The first HTML page written by Tim Berners-Lee worked as well on the first web browser at CERN as it does on a modern small smartphone or a new widescreen monitor attached to a desktop PC. We only got into trouble when we started introducing complicated layouts and making assumptions about the monitor sizes everyone was using. If we unwind those assumptions and do the work to make layouts more fluid and flexible, we’ll get back to our roots. We only have to joyously embrace the fact that we have no control over device sizes, connection speeds, and input methods anymore. This constraint should be a huge inspiration to us.
Recorded on June 17th, 2016
I read Jessica Hische’s essay, The Dark Art of Pricing, about four years ago and it still sticks with me. I’m not even remotely a freelancer, but it’s so standout-helpful that it could make the wheels in a person’s head start turning. It is a gem, dense with practical advice about how to price your design work, especially when licensing and rights-management are part of the equation. If you make your living from selling your work to clients — or if you know someone who does — The Dark Art of Pricing is a must-read. I passed it on to an artist friend recently and they thanked me profusely.
Recorded on May 27th, 2016
Thanks to the always great “Good Morning RVA” email newsletter from RVANews, I was late to work today. At the end of every morning issue, they include a “This morning’s longread” section. The one today was called “Crying”, written by Robin Weis, a software developer. It’s a funny, nerdy, long explanation of how she logged every time she cried for 589 days, along with the intensity of the cry and some notes about where she was, what time it started, how long it lasted, and what caused it. She generates a bunch of positively Edward Tufte-ian visual analyses of all that data, and it’s delightful to see what her conclusions are.
What I love about her site even more than that article is the home/about page, where she has a high-level view of the events in her life and roles/jobs she’s had over the past 10 years. It’s beautiful:
That graphic is designed in the structure I didn’t know I needed until I saw it. I’d like to follow its lead for a time map of major things I can remember that have happened to me so far. When you arrive at the 45-year mark, it can be hard to organize your memories, and you just drift from one year to the next. Something like that grid could help put things in some kind of order while I can still recall enough to write down what was what.
She has other cool examples of data-gathering and analytics, all of them brilliantly executed and designed. Check it out!