Design, interaction and the internet of things…

Design, interaction and the internet of things…

Buzz words are all around us and in 2016 the Internet of Things or “IoT,” is starting to make its mark but, more importantly, become useful. We have seen an explosion in the number of things now connected online and if you are not already familiar with IoT, I like to think of it as:

the connecting of everyday items, tools products and stuff to the internet that now provides us with a new and enhanced way to interact, learn, record and use them…

This list of things being connected is endless, from the water irrigation system monitoring the health and stability of your garden to a light bulb that uses WiFi to adjust colour temperature, IoT is definitely going to be the new normal. It seeks to capture record amounts of data and it is up to us to work out what we do with it.

The role design plays will therefor be increasingly prominent in the daily lives of consumers. How do we design for this and what does this mean?

The main challenge will be the “interusability,” between multiple things that results in a cohesive and translatable experience.  At the moment the sheer number of devices, manufacturers and things has seen disparate and discombobulating design patterns emerge which provide for a broken and often frustrating experience.

Wearables, in particular the Apple Watch, have started to offer an insight into how we interact with a traditional analog device that is now connected. It is also an opportunity to see how people respond in an closed environment where the language, style and design is consistent. It is an example of how IoT can offer both a standard for connectivity but also a language that flows across multiple channels.

Unfortunately for most things, they don’t enjoy a closed environment and have to interact with multiple devices, standards and patterns where subjective and compromised design decisions have been made.

What needs to be done is greater than any one product, its greater than any manufacturer and its focused on humans. At Embedded World 2016 we saw the industry moving towards an agreed upon technical standard for sensors, security and safety. This is an important step as it means we can have an agreed upon approach for things to interact with each other.

 but what about the agreed upon approach for how humans interact with things?

As designers we need to take the front seat and drive design standards across the industry. We need to start an industry body specifically focused on IoT where design is providing best practice guidance, approaches, research and insights and we need to be doing it now.

Given the IoT industry is tipped to reach 1.7 Trillion by 2020 (IDC: Worldwide Internet of Things Forecast, 2015–2020) it will affect every designer over the next 5 years and we need to have a clear, concise and evidenced based position.

My intention is to have an open dialogue with the community and look at how we can establish design thinking methodologies to manufacturers, devices and things. As someone who wants the next generation of connected devices to deliver beautiful physical and emotional experiences, it is important that design has a voice and important that we drive that forward.

Story telling, pitching and great UX…

Story telling, pitching and great UX…

What does animation and UX have in common? From more simple beginnings with Warner Bros and Disney to the more polished animation houses of Pixar and Dreamworks, animation has been used to communicate humour, adventure, drama and heroics. Characters have been created that are relatable and stories told that are emotive and engaging.

The process of telling great stories involves not just a fantastic imagination but an understanding of the audience. An appreciation of who is consuming their content further guides the story or flow of the animation. The flow of the story is a big collaboration with all the stakeholders, guided by those who consume, but driven by animators who create.

The obvious parallel to be drawn between UX and animation is in understanding the users (those who consume the content), the stakeholders, developing personas (characters) and the flow. Knowing who is going to use or consume guides and informs the design process. More broadly…

Both Animators and UX designers seek to develop journeys that lead to better experiences.

An area of animation that UX could embrace more is the concept of pitching multiple ideas as part of the peer review process. Animators pitch many ideas, flows and concepts to help create a more engaging story. The Dreamworks team have put together an exhibition which showcases how this process works in their teams. The following video example of how the team worked on Shrek shows how storyboards added to the pitching process of the film:

Encouraging multiple designers to develop different approaches to solving complex problems will lead to better customer experiences.It will lead to higher team involvement, broaden skills and foster an environment where ideas, patterns, interactions are tested, critiqued and openly discussed.

So, build in pitching as part of your UX methodology. Use pitching from whiteboard scamps and sketches to low fidelity wireframing and prototypes. Involve, collaborate and create.

Pitching is a fun, collaborative and creative technique. It will lead to better experiences for both the teams you are in as well as the users you are designing for.

Symbols, Icons & Emojis

Symbols, Icons & Emojis

We move through modern life and are constantly confronted by noise. Mobile, desktop, iPad, bus stops, train stations, TV, emojis, billboards, shopping, driving well I can keep going but noise is out of control. How do we cut through? Brands have known for years that the best way to slice through is to use devices that:

  • Reduce our thinking time
  • Make us feel comfortable
  • Are Easily recognisable
  • Resonate
  • Have meaning that is implied

The trap we are falling into now is we are all using the same symbols and they are loosing their efficacy with customers and falling into noise territory. 😉

Obviously certain symbols and icons make sense to have them carry a certain sameness when it comes to a website navigation say but when it comes to identity, awareness and emotion it is much harder to cut through when we are all using the same icons to do it…

When we look at emoji’s there is a very key reason why they are both popular and useful. They instantly convey a feeling or emotion across language barriers between two people. They provide a mental shortcut that we instantly feel comfortable with and immediately adopt into every day communications.

Now I get it, developing icons is not something a startup sees as a valuable and important use of their time.. I have had those conversations where clearly the time to make an icon plays second place to the app, tool, site, product being developed and pushed out the door.

I want to challenge this approach..

Emotion is a powerful state of mind. A heart = love, smile = happy, cross = religion, Apple = apple, xxx = sex. These are tools used by successful ad agencies for years as they recognise the power of emotion but it is something more recent altruistic designer’s seem to be missing.

Symbols and Icons are not to be grabbed at the last minute as part of the final push of your app, site or product. They need to be deeply woven into your thinking to ensure the customers you are targeting are able to associate or resonate with your path or product. Using symbols that forget this risk not only unwanted interactions but negative association with your idea.

Research is important, research is important, research is important. What I think we need to do is add symbols and icons to research to embed this as an important element from the beginning and to make it one of the key learning objectives..

If you know me you know mythology is important, but that I’ll leave that for my talk I gave at UXNZ… The point is that symbols are not only a useful tool, they are essential in what we do…

In a time where cut through is one of those challenging paradigms, making use of elements that help with cognitive dissonance are vital..we need to make use of tools hat form mental models and build them into our designs…

3 Lessons Thunderdome taught me about stakeholders…

3 Lessons Thunderdome taught me about stakeholders…

With the release of Mad Max 4, I thought it was time to share a few thoughts. But Adam why are you in a position to be able to comment on this? What does it have to do with UX and do you think the thunderdome is real?

Firstly on why. I must confess that, I was in Mad Max 3. I am one of those small kids who got introduced to leather and mud at a young age and got to sit with Mel Gibson and be part of the post apocalyptic world and thunderdome.. I have kept this one quiet for a while but I thought 30 years was a fairly safe time to share my story..

Thunderdome is one of those words to come from a movie that has entered the vocabulary. It is used as a way of describing almost any scenario where there is an anticipation of  conflict with one getting there way over another. It is associated with a scenarios that is almost a fait au complet where there is inevitably no way to successfully get your point across.

Like many words in the English language, their meaning often changes from when it was first coined. Thunderdome was always an environment where one would potentially triumph over another. But it is also one where the underdog is able to win against odds. I would say that this approach suggests that not only can you be in a hostile environment but you can successfully win agreement for your point of view with possibly negative stakeholders.

1. Always prepare for why: Coming into an environment where you feel strongly about a particular issue that is contrary to key stakeholders can often be a challenge. Simply basing your thoughts on emotions and feelings will often lead to you loosing the debate. You have to be prepared, come armed with evidence to support your decisions and put your case forward.

2. Keep a level head: This is not one of those family lunches where the crazy uncle has some opinions that are not based on any logic but he believes he is correct. With stakeholders it is important to always keep your head, be calm and put your case, argument or position forward in a reasoned way.

3. Be a story teller: Ideas or positions based on complicated problems are often difficult to put forward in a clear precise way. Story telling, by use of tools like personas, journey maps and sketches help to both visually and insightfully argue your ideas and justify your decisions. This is the most important of our roles as all stakeholders respond to being taken on a journey. Don’t resort to those long, come over for a viewing of my recent holiday photo stories but something with a narrative will help support your case.

I am not suggesting that you also carry heavy artillery like was in the original Thunderdome but I do think preparation will help you in your battles with stakeholders. The role of not just UX practitioners but all levels of business, calls for effective and positive engagement with stakeholders. Whilst I have ditched the mud and leather from Mad Max 3, I always aim to carry the tools and calmness to put my case forward.

You will not always win but if you are prepared, have a level head and tell a story then you will usually avoid the carnage and apocalyptic conclusions of Thunderdome…


Is Failure Bad?

Is Failure Bad?

Culturally and psychologically, failure be it in personal life or in business is deemed a bad thing. But is it really? I say this because we all have tough moments in life but should these really be seen as negatives or failures? Whether we forget to grab the milk on the way home of fail to land the $1 Million pitch we are going for, they are both seen as failures. Can we not however also see them as measures of success and a way to facilitate growth?

Earlier last year I heard Markus Zusak, author of many books including “The Book Thief,” speak about failure as a necessary part of every authors story telling process. Imagination and stories go down many paths before they materialise into a best selling novel. Failure is therefor a metric of success to aid in a better outcome, in this case, a globally successful novel. I encourage you to listen to his talk below:

The failurist: Markus Zusak at TEDxSydney 2014

Having been involved in the corporate and start-up worlds I have to say I have had some great achievements but I have also had some epic failures. I want to outlay three key leanings about what I think often goes wrong and why this is a good thing for me and for you as we strive to learn and change based on our failure:


In many projects, you want to hit the ground running and get cracking. We have an innate desire to immediately be perceived to understand a problem as we look for the solution. We jump then to problem solving but what happens along the way is we don’t have time or just don’t spend time on the details. My experience suggests that ambiguity will then arise. It can be as basic as assumed terminology to a complete divide between what artifacts and deliverables are needed as an output for a project.

Make sure their is clarity from the start! That the unknowns are discussed and the outputs are clear. My failures have taught me that the more work you spend removing ambiguity, the more successful your projects will be.

Stakeholder Management:

This is applicable to both Start-ups as well as corporate environments. Be it a VC from your first round of funding or multiple divisions within an organisation, the need to manage effectively will be directly tied to your success. Failure to manage this adequately can lead to scope creep, reduced involvement and sometimes a toxic project that needs to be ditched and started again.

Key here is the level of empathy you have and how you can use this as your own measure of success during a project or startup. Empathy is one of those things we all have but often don’t use in this situation. Understanding the needs of your stakeholders, constantly meeting with them and engaging with them will go a long way to keeping them focused, happy and committed to your project or end goal.


This is the most common of breakpoints in any interaction where a project is behind schedule and we fail to communicate. We don’t like to communicate negative information so instead of saying something negative we say nothing at all. Always say something, negative or positive. Failure to communicate leads people, projects, founders to go off and come to their own, usually negative conclusions.

When I have failed to communicate, projects have often gone off the rails. Kepp everyone involved, regularly communicate and projects will often cope through what we perceive to be negative issues.


If I hadn’t experienced these issues, I would never have been able to learn, remember the milk (using an app) and won business. I really believe we need to embrace failure as a positive part of our learning process, to be better in our professional and personal endeavors and to recognise that we may not be perfect but we can continue to learn how to be better.

Rise of the Incubator…

Rise of the Incubator…

At the beginning of 2012, the term incubator was more closely associated with chickens than with startups and entrepreneurs. They are not new in terms of innovation and companies have been using the concept to facilitate research since the 1950’s but their mainstream use was relatively unknown. Whats changed?

The main driver for the growth of incubators is the app economy. Never before has technology enabled as many entrepreneurs as the current climate but the working spaces of the past including corporate, serviced and home offices lacked the ability to support this and were too cost prohibitive.

So what is an incubator?

I have been based in Tank Stream Labs for over a year now and it can mean many things. To me it is about working in an environment where I have access to skills, expertise and knowledge that I wouldn’t normally have working from a traditional environment. Sydney has seen a explosion in the last couple of years with spaces like Fishburners driving the change. All the incubators do however have some common elements including:

Cost effective – Given a startup is often funded on sweat capital (no money) then having a cost effective space is vital. Everything is generally included in casual or monthly pricing and there are no hidden meeting room costs that used to exist in the serviced office model.

Collaborative – Starting a new venture can be an incredibly lonely journey. Being in a shared space and able to have access to other startups and resources means the incubator environment offers a quicker path to delivering on your goal.

Flexible – Flexibility to grow in relatively short time periods is also key. The incubator will make it easy to scale your startup fast and cater for multiple developers, designers and doers as you grow.

Networks – Most importantly, the networks you make in these spaces are crucial to success. From sourcing developer resources to beginning your first round of seed funding, it is the networks that you get from working in an incubtaor that make these spaces so compelling.

There is no doubt the incubator model is here to stay. They will continue to flourish and foster startups but they will also start to invade corporate thinking. As we look to new industries and technologies to drive the new economy, the incubator will continue its pivotal role as one that encourages innovation, enables collaboration and breeds a culture of success.

3D Printing won’t impact me!!

3D Printing won’t impact me!!

Rarely do we see a technology that fundamentally changes the way we interact with the world. There have been many tipping points in human history that we can point to including the introduction of the car, the internet and most recently the app world created by the arrival of the iPhone.

Just as these things have been pivotal moments for our modern society, so too have many millions of products and platforms failed. The claims are often grand and suggest they will change the world but none of them until now have had the ability to have such a seismic shift as 3D printing.

But isn’t 3D printing just one of those things that won’t affect me?

3D printing or Additive manufacturing has been around for a few years now but the many patents that surrounded it meant innovation and focus was limited to a few companies. They have managed to develop printing using a range of materials including plastics, steel, ceramics and even bio tissue. 2014 however, marks the end of the patents and the time for startups and entrepreneurs to focus on 3D printing has begun.

The growth in hardware startups on sites like Kickstarter has been exponential and the interest and investment being generated is incredible. Startups such asM3D whose charter is to bring about a low cost consumer printer to market starting at $349. Their goal was to raise $50,000 and they raised over $3 Million which is a phenomenal achievement.

Then there is the significant growth in innovation China is putting into 3D printing and large scale manufacturing. Up until now the costs of 3D printing meant traditional manufacturing was still the most cost effective. Projects like the one to construct houses not only radically shake up the commercial housing industry but also completely transform the building and commercial manufacturing industry.

Other incredible innovations include the trials of printing human organs, skin tissue and food materials. There is no material that isn’t being experimented on and no industry that isn’t currently researching how 3D printing can provide the next leap in their manufacturing and consumer offerings.

Put simply, 3D printing represents the single biggest shift in manufacturing and human interaction since we discovered the wheel!

I know this sounds like I am being a bit dramatic and have watched too many episodes of Star Trek but 3D printing is a reality and its coming. By Christmas 2015, most households will own a 3D printer, by 2025 McKinsey conservatively estimate the market will be worth $550 Billion annually. The next 10 years will see incredible innovation and 3D printing will be at the heart of the change. Explore what is happening in your industry and look at how you can be one of those that flourishes in this next period of disruptive technologies.

Do I need a wearable strategy?

Do I need a wearable strategy?

It feels like every conference I go to there is an expert panel on wearable tech, but what is it
and do I need one? I have an iPad, smartphone, MacBook, app and mobile site but where does the wearable device sit with my current digital strategy?

Wearables have been around for a number of years now, but have been limited in functionality and in what they could offer. The ecosystem around them was isolated to one or two applications and their commercial viability was limited. So what has changed and why is this something I need to integrate into my digital strategy?

If you have seen the latest iPhone commercial, the synergies between wearable technology and phones is clear. The focus is on personal health, improvement and measurement. Apple has provided a snapshot of the way we have already started accepting wearable applications into our daily life.

To borrow the lean start-up language, the minimum viable product, MVP, of wearables to date has best been symbolised in a watch. We all know what a watch is, so from a UX perspective it makes sense because we understand and are comfortable with a device that sits on our wrist. Functionality has concentrated on collection of data, such as personal fitness statistics and navigation.

More recently however, the wearable category has broadened to include other items such as shoes, shirts that display images and clothing that uses haptic feedback to interact with its wearer. Melbourne startup Wearable Experiements have developed a jacket that helps its wearer navigate around a city without looking at a map:

These examples may seem far fetched and unlikely, but applications like these will become part of everyday life in the very near future. Further, the conservative estimates for the wearable market will grow at a CAGR of 43.4% and move from $5 billion in 2013 to $30.2 billion by 2018 (source: Marketwatch).

One particular market that will continue to be revolutionised by this growth is Healthcare. Currently, patient care is a very reactive process. When a patient has an illness or conditions arise, treatment is then sought. Imagine the implications however if wearable technologies enabled health professionals to proactively monitor their patients.

To recognise early changes in patient conditions and treat them before their condition deteriorates would be an incredible step forward in Healthcare. It would lead to longer life expectancy, new treatment processes and improved patient care.

Wearables are much more than a watch, they represent boundless opportunities to improve our environment, society and ourselves.

We are at the beginning of the next mobile computing revolution and wearables sit at the centre of this strategy. If your business uses data collection in its interaction with clients and customers, then wearables need to be at the heart of your digital strategy. Be agile, listen to your customers and be part of this next evolution in mobile computing.


Twitter, #worldcup and you!!!

Twitter, #worldcup and you!!!

On the 13th of June 2014 the worlds largest sporting event will start in Brazil. The power of reach the World Cup offers for brands has long been known. The popularity of football (soccer) is a global phenomenon and gives sponsors an opportunity to talk to billions of captivated fans across the globe.To talk to this audience is incredibly valuable and brands then pay billions to officially sponsor the FIFA World Cup.

These campaigns are years in the planning, cost millions and have significant metrics around engagement, sales and eyeballs to help measure their success. What they are often not however is responsive. They are generally elaborate Television Commercials that depict their association. They usually run a competition and are tailored to the countries that they play in.

But how does Twitter enable you to utilise this global event?

For 32 days their will be a collection of hastags like “#worldcup,” that will provide an amazing real time source of trends for a global audience. These tags are not going to be confined to Twitter and will span the social spectrum including Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube. But how do I access this data and can I use this for insight in my own business?

By utilising tools that track hastags and provide you with real time insight into conversations happening in your market.

Analytic’s and insight around global events is no longer the sole property of expensive campaigns, brands and FIFA. It is data that can be collected using online tools such as Tagboard or talkwalker that create an opportunity for the fast to be responsive and react.

Track the conversations your competitors are having, listen to the insight gained by real time conversation and explore how you can utilise the #worldcup to showcase your brand. It is a truly global event and one that if you tap into, could catapult you and your brand forward.

IA is really Important!

IA is really Important!

When you take the step of reviewing your assets such as your mobile site, desktop and apps it is important to employ a little insight.

You have already got a significant amount of analytics around who visits your site, what pages they visit and general traffic movements. Your assets have not been reviewed in a while and you are not converting site visits into contact, sales or opportunities.

IA is the process of reviewing your existing site, looking at user behaviour and overlaying this onto your data to develop a more effective and engaging user experience.

Common tools used to achieve this objective include heat maps, focus groups, online validation, surveys, card sorting and A/B testing. There are a number of really good online tools you can use to get started which include but not limited to:

  1. Online Validation –
  2. A/B Testing –
  3. Heat Mapping –
  4. Mouse Tracking –
  5. Surveys and Testing –

Insight is something that needs to be derived in a 3 dimensional way. Analysis of existing data, observation of what your users are doing and testing assumptions. Looking at all dimensions means you are incorporating behaviour and analytics.

Failing to include IA as part of your review is like building a house without doors, it doesn’t work.

IA was once a long and often expensive process. With the growth of online tools, the maturity of UX researchers and growing skills in the market, IA is now a viable part of any UX review. I encourage you to speak with your UX agency to ensure you are including the right level of insight to create an engaging and compelling experience.