Tag Archives: Design

Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products by Leander Kahney

Summary

  1. Kahney does a deep dive on perhaps the world’s most famous industrial designer, Jony Ive, and what makes him tick

Key Takeaways

  1. Jony is all about the work, the team. Starting with the basics, going back to first principles, remove anything non essential
  2. His talent came through from an early age. His father encouraged him and was a great builder himself. His Xmas present to Jony was free reign of his workshop and they’d build anything together, butt Jony had to hand draw the design
  3. Jony’s talent was not only in the design, but in the ability to communicate the design to non-designers. He learned and worked with a wide variety of people and disciplines from an early age. It is really rare to have the combination of design aesthetic and the ability to actually build it
  4. He was ego-free, humble and that combo with an immense talent is quite rare. No strong ideological ties was one of his mantras
  5. One of his early designs was a pen. While it was beautiful, what set it apart was that he added a clicking mechanism that didn’t actually do anything. He noticed people fiddled with their pens and wanted to fill that need
  6. Jony loved the work, the process. He was relentless, meticulous – making hundreds of iterations to get the design right. Not only that, he had to physically make it to truly understand if each subtle change was right or not. From early on, he came to love both the hardware and the software. He was able to zoom in and zoom out
  7. What something should be was always his starting point. He wanted to humanize technology and was able to ignore what came before him. He always adapted himself to the product, rather than the other way around. He avoided having a style or personal stamp, preferring to be a chameleon. His avoidance of style made his designs timeless and authentic
  8. Jony bought biology books to learn from nature. He loved the flow of water and natural movement
  9. Often began by asking “what is the story of this product?”
  10. Jony was a quiet leader and let his work speak for him. He hated awards and lead from the back
  11. Before Apple, Jony helped institute parallel design programs that had no timelines. This was their creative outlet where they could experiment and fail without repercussions
  12. It’s very easy to be different. It’s very difficult to be better
  13. Jobs and Ivy helped move Apple from an engineering-led to design-led company. They only worried about whether it was as good as it could be and if customers would love it. They didn’t worry about how much it would cost to make or if they would make money

What I got out of it

  1. Love Jony’s focus on simplicity, minimalism, elegance, and better understanding his role as a quiet leader, someone who let his work and his passion speak for him

The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture by Scott Belsky

Summary

  1. The volatility of this tug-of-war is hard to stomach. You must pay less attention to the day-to-day incremental advances and more on achieving an overall positive slope. And that’s entirely determined by how you navigate the messy middle. The middle of the journey is all about enduring the valleys and optimizing the peaks.

Key Takeaways

  1. One of the greatest motivators is a sign of progress. Hardship is easier to tolerate when your work is being recognized (either through external validation or financial rewards), but long journeys don’t show progress in the traditional sense. When you have no customers, no audience, and nobody knows or cares to know about what you’re making, the greatest motivators have to be manufactured. Rather than fight the need for short-term rewards, you must hack your reward system to provide them. As you craft your team’s culture, lower the bar for how you define a “win.” Celebrate anything you can, from gaining a new customer to solving a particularly vexing problem. What should you celebrate? Progress and impact. As your team takes action and works their way down the list of things to do, it is often hard for them to feel the granularity of their progress and you need to compensate. Celebrate the moments when aggressive deadlines are met or beaten. Pop champagne when the work you’ve done makes a real impact.
    1. Give your team the gratification of seeing their progress rather than just moving on. At Behance, we had “Done Walls” that were decorated with a collage of completed project plans, checklists, and sketches that literally surrounded us with the sensation of progress. And whenever I’m presenting a forward vision presentation to my team, I try to start with a few slides recapping what the team has already accomplished. Progress is the best motivator of future progress, but it must be merchandised sufficiently so that people feel it. While
  2. It’s dangerous to celebrate accolades or circumstances that are not linked with productivity, like getting “press” that you paid for or winning awards that are not representative of your impact.
  3. For strong companies, financing is a tactic. For weak companies, financing is a goal.
  4. Society has a grand immune system designed to suppress new ideas. To keep the water running and sustain life’s other necessities, society’s natural resistance to ingenuity surfaces in the form of doubt, cynicism, and pressure to conform. It takes tremendous endurance to survive such resistance.
  5. As a leader, you can’t always provide answers. And you shouldn’t, as the correct solution may still be premature. But what you can do is always add energy. This ability to turn negative conversations into positive ones is a trait I’ve always admired.
  6. A friend who worked for Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page told me that when teams presented product and business goals to Larry, he would often reply, “What would it take to achieve 100x of what you’re proposing?”
  7. When you feel lost in ambiguity, ask a different question. The perfect question is a key to clarity. It unlocks truth and opens minds.
  8. Playing the long game requires moves that don’t map to traditional measures of productivity.
  9. To foster patience for yourself and those you lead, pick a speed that will get you there, and then pace yourself. Celebrate persistence over time as much as the occasional short-term wins you have along the way.
  10. The easy path will only take you to a crowded place. Be wary of the path of least resistance. It may look compelling in the short term but often proves less differentiating and defensible in the long term. Shortcuts tend to be less gratifying over time. The long game is the most difficult one to play and the most bountiful one to win.
    1. The best way for a start-up to “disrupt” an industry is to be a thesis-driven outsider—someone who hasn’t been jaded by the industry but has a strong opinion for what should change. You then just have to stay alive long enough to become an expert so you can compete with the different skills and practices you bring.
  11. Across so many teams I’ve worked with, I’ve marveled at just how quickly an idea takes hold when someone proactively does the underlying work no one else clearly owned. There is rarely a scarcity of process or ideas but there is often a scarcity of people willing to work outside the lines. Those who take initiative to contribute when it wasn’t their job become the leadership team of the newest stuff.
    1. The future is drafted by people doing work they don’t have to do. You need to be one of those people—and hire them, too. There is too much wondering and talking, and too little doing. So don’t talk: do. Care indiscriminately. If you’re willing to actually do the work, you’ll have more influence than those who simply do their jobs.
  12. James Murphy, the founder and front man of LCD Soundsystem, said it well: “The best way to complain is to make things.”
  13. Pinterest’s Ben Silberman describes this process as “always reflecting backward and incorporating forward.” As he explains it, “I actually think you learn a lot more from your successes [than your mistakes]. There are a million reasons why something can fail, but usually very few reasons why something can work. When you want to learn to be a great runner—do you study slow people or fast people? I think taking time to understand why things succeed—whether they are your successes or others—is time well spent . . . you learn the most from things that go really well by asking why. Those are the things you want to understand and do more of.”
  14. Great teams are more than the assembly of great people. On the contrary, great teams are ultimately grown, not gathered.
  15. You can always get more resources, but resourcefulness is a competitive advantage. Resources become depleted. Resourcefulness does not.
  16. Hiring
    1. Past initiative is the best indicator of future initiative. Look beyond the formal résumé and ask candidates about their interests and what they have done to pursue them. It doesn’t matter what the interests are—bonsai cultivation, writing poetry, whatever! Instead, gauge whether the candidate has a history of being proactive in advancing their interests.
  17. Hire people who have endured adversity.
  18. Your second conversation with a potential hire should feel a lot more interesting than your first. First impressions count for a lot, but if you can’t continually build on that energy, the relationship isn’t likely to have legs beyond the initial spark. I call this kind of fire-starting ability aligned dynamism, which is when ideas vary but energy levels and a value for the mission align; this is the source of the embers that will keep burning long after the initial flint.
  19. Be frugal with everything except your bed, your chair, your space, and your team.
  20. Not only does a strong culture tolerate some necessary ruckus, it gains its edge from it. People disagree and fight for their beliefs only when they are engaged enough to care.
  21. Perhaps one of the most important unspoken roles of a leader through the messy middle of a project is that of internal marketer. For all the emphasis around obsessing over your customers and your public brand and message, there is surprisingly little focus on the internal brand and message.
  22. Present your ideas, don’t promote them.
  23. When it comes to speed and efficiency, the greatest risk is taking a shortcut in the one area that distinguishes you the most.
  24. Simplicity / Design
    1. Simple is sticky. It is very hard to make a product—or any customer experience—simple. It is even harder to keep it simple. The more obvious and intuitive a product is, the harder it is to optimize it without adding complication.
    2. Great products don’t stay simple by not evolving; they stay simple by continually improving their core value while removing features and paring back aspects that aren’t central to the core.
    3. Forcing yourself to have a “one feature in, one feature out” guideline will help you develop your product with a bias toward simplicity. While simplicity benefits your newest customers and the majority of your current customers, it also benefits your own process to grow your product and solve problems as they arise.
    4. Beware of creativity that compromises familiarity.
    5. The only time you should force new behaviors or terminology is when they enable something better
    6. Effective design is invisible.
    7. Never stop crafting the “first mile” of your product’s experience.
      1. I’d argue that more than 30 percent of your energy should be allocated to the first mile of your product—even when you’re well into your journey. It’s the very top of your funnel for new users, and it therefore needs to be one of the most thought-out parts of your product, not an afterthought.
      2. Optimize the first 30 seconds for laziness, vanity, and selfishness.
      3. Your challenge is to create product experiences for two different mind-sets, one for your potential customers and one for your engaged customers. Initially, if you want your prospective customers to engage, think of them as lazy, vain, and selfish. Then for the customers who survive the first 30 seconds and actually come through the door, build a meaningful experience and relationship that lasts a lifetime.
      4. If you feel the need to explain how to use your product rather than empowering new customers to jump in and feel successful on their own, you’ve either failed to design a sufficient first-mile experience or your product is too complicated.
      5. The absolute best hook in the first mile of a user experience is doing things proactively for your customers. Once you help them feel successful and proud, your customers will engage more deeply and take the time to learn and unlock the greater potential of what you’ve created.
    8. As you’re building new products and experiences for customers, consider how they will be novel—even gamelike—before they prove useful.
    9. You need to prime your audience to the point where they know three things:
      1. Why they’re there
      2. What they can accomplish
      3. What to do next
    10. Empathy for those suffering the problem must come before your passion for the solution.
    11. But be sure to define the purpose of every feature in your product before determining its fate. Is it to strengthen engagement, appease a very small set of important customers, or get new customers in the door? Features with a different purpose require a different measure.
    12. Build your narrative before your product. – The narrative is not a description of what your product is or does, it is the story of how and why it must exist.
      1. Our narrative was that technology needed to empower creative people to make ideas happen. By uploading their portfolios, creatives could get more exposure and attribution for their work, resulting in more job opportunities. We called it “creative meritocracy,” the idea of creative people getting opportunity based on the quality of their work rather than what agency they worked with, where they went to school, or whom they happened to know.
  25. Ollie Johnstone and Frank Thomas, two of Walt Disney’s chief animators, once said of Walt Disney himself that “there were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming into your meeting.”
  26. Contrary to logic, you don’t want to attract all of your customers right away. You want your first cohort of willing customers to be quite small so that you can communicate directly and provide an incredibly high level of touch. At the start of your business, you want to iron out the kinks. As you expand, you want to do so slowly.
  27. Networks are served, not led
  28. The best advice doesn’t instruct—it provokes. The benefits of soliciting wisdom from others is indisputable, but the real value of advice comes from reconciling its contradictions.
  29. As someone who believes wholeheartedly that self-awareness is the greatest competitive advantage for a leader, I love the idea of developing tools and norms that promote it.
  30. The science of business is scaling; the art of business is the things that don’t.
  31. Relationships
    1. In the early days of Behance, I used to write personal emails to a handful of customers every day introducing myself, giving some suggestions for the portfolio they posted on Behance, and offering to answer any questions directly. Many of these exchanges became relationships that lasted years and yielded customer insights that we would have never garnered from a dashboard.
    2. Genuine relationships with and between our members was our competitive advantage against other technology companies like Squarespace and Wix that sought to commoditize websites and online portfolios.
    3. Our in-person events for five thousand people around the world would generate tens of thousands of social media posts, and the images would ultimately reach hundreds of thousands of people. But more important, these events prompted conversations and relationships that went far beyond our brand as a service and instead made it a lifestyle.
  32. In your work, try to find the things you love that nobody else cares about.
  33. There are two ways to build a network and source signal: growing surface area or going deep. In the beginning of your career, optimize for surface area. As you become more focused and a source of signal in your own right, you’ll want to shift from seeking surface area to going deep with a smaller group of people whom you respect. Rather than meeting as many people as possible, you’ll want to focus on the people you deem the most competent. You also need a margin to mine circumstantial opportunities and explore the unexpected.
  34. The busier and more ambitious we get, the more protective and intentional we become of our time—but sometimes it’s too much. Ambition shouldn’t override opportunity.
  35. Ego is rust. So much value and potential are destroyed in its slow decay. Achievement rarely ages well, unless you keep sanding it down.
  36. I was struck by the man’s sense of peace and happiness. His smile and mannerisms carried no weight to them—the man seemed so incredibly content with his world. So, that’s what it looks like to end on your own terms, I thought to myself. It’s not just about moving on when you’re performing at the level you always wanted to be remembered for—the desire to “end on a high.” It’s about moving on when you feel fully satiated and can therefore allow yourself to pursue something different.
  37. One of my favorite sayings from ancient times is “Wealth is ultimately feeling like you got your full portion.” When I finish a project, I aspire to feel full. And when I lay dying, I hope to look back on what I would consider a full life.

What I got out of it

  1. Some valuable and deep insights on the building process and how to navigate through the “messy middle.” Topics around leadership, design, simplicity, and doing things that don’t scale will stick with me

Game Thinking: Innovate smarter & drive deep engagement with design techniques from hit games by Amy Jo Kim

Summary

  1. Game Thinking is a process of learning, guided by feedback, of hobby- and habit-building. A process of getting players to care. Why does a human like something? Why does a human return to something? We design to elicit that caring, that emotional attachment. That’s really what game thinking is about. It begins by pushing you to look at what your users actually care about. “Game thinking: an approach to designing engaging products that synthesizes game design, lean/agile methods, design thinking, and systems thinking into a design system.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Successful games all have something in common: the intrinsic joy of skill-building. The level of challenge increases to match your evolving skill, you’ve got a setup for flow—the ultimate goal of every game and product designer. Just as character transformation is the backbone of great drama, personal transformation is the backbone of great gameplay.
  2. Progress metrics like points, badges, levels, leaderboards, and reputation systems are icing on this learning/mastery cake. These markers help you gauge where you stand, and how far you’ve come—but they’re meaningless as a stand-alone system without something to master. If you want to build a compelling product experience, forget points—think character transformation. The lack of anything to master is often why simple gamification fails. Points, badges, and leaderboards aren’t compelling unless you’re improving along some personally meaningful dimension.
  3. Trying to drive long-term engagement with extrinsic rewards is a fool’s errand.
  4. Extrinsic rewards are effective at getting people to complete simple, short-term tasks, but decrease effectiveness for creative tasks that require out-of-the-box thinking.
  5. The best products don’t just fill a need. They help people get better at something they care about. Game thinking is a framework for building products that make your customers more powerful, knowledgeable, and connected. Like lean startup, game thinking is grounded in testing assumptions. And like design thinking, we start out in a problem space (an unmet need) and end in a solution space (how your product fills that need).
  6. Successful innovations may end up reaching a mainstream audience—but they never start off that way. That’s the paradox of innovation: the “typical” people in your market are not the same ones you need to delight when bringing your idea to life.
  7. What group of people will need and want our offering first? What characteristics and behaviors will they have in common? The best way to develop loyal customers is to fulfill their needs in a pleasurable way. Think about the customers you’re targeting and ask yourself: What relevant needs do they have right now that we could potentially address? How are they currently getting those needs met? Why is that unsatisfying?
  8. We are developing… …for… …so they can…
  9. Many entrepreneurs are eager to release a product quickly, so they can get feedback on their idea, but if you’re building something meaningful and substantial, a private alpha test with a handful of early hot-core customers can get you much further, much faster—and set you up for long-term success.
  10. Superfans have the problem you want to solve, know they have the problem, are trying to solve the problem by seeking out solutions, and are dissatisfied with the options and want something better. Once you delight your superfans, you’re onto something that can grow. But if you’re missing this early, energetic human feedback loop, it’s almost impossible to “cross the chasm” into mainstream use. Superfans are pre-chasm early adopters. They don’t need social proof before trying something new, because their need or desire is so great. This is who you’re looking for: people who actively feel the pain of not having what you offer. A good rule of thumb is to go where potential superfans hang out to recruit them. Here are some channels to consider, along with guidelines for when to use them. Try to pursue several channels in parallel, in case one doesn’t work out or moves slowly.
    1. Direct email.
    2. Friend-of-friend social media sharing.
    3. Recruiting ads on Craigslist, Facebook, or Google.
    4. Interest groups. Do you belong to interest groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, or other online communities? Those groups can be a great place to find superfans. Be
  11. Early adopters don’t need social proof or convincing to try something.
  12. Useful questions
    1. Walk us through your typical day. How does [relevant activity] fit into your day?
    2. What solutions have you tried to solve this problem? How’d that work for you? We know that actions speak louder than words, and this question will separate true early adopters from the pack.
    3. Are your solutions working? How would life be different if this worked better?
    4. How could [relevant activity] be better or easier? What’s missing?
    5. What transition, chore, event, or ritual could drive customers to return to your product?
    6. What can my customers get better at that they care about? What skills do they develop when they engage with my product over time? What metric are they improving, and what makes that metric meaningful to them? What new powers, access, and privileges will open up as they progress?
    7. How do you turn a newcomer into a regular? By building a compelling habit. This might involve reading updates, meeting new challenges, or deepening personal connections. Now it’s time to imagine what your core product habit could be.
    8. would motivate my best customers to stick around?
  13. To transform your customer data into actionable insights, start by scanning the data for patterns that are relevant to your product. In particular, look for:
    1. Existing habits
    2. Unmet needs
    3. Pain points
    4. Ideas or suggestions
  14. “When I want to <motivation>, I want to <action>, so I can <expected outcome>.” Don’t fall into the common trap of thinking that your innovative offering will create brand-new habits. If you want to drive adoption and retention, it’s easier to piggyback on an existing habit than get someone to build an entirely new one, just for your product. During your research, pay special attention when your subjects talk about existing habits that are relevant to your offering. Daily habits are important, but so are weekly, monthly, and even seasonal or yearly ones. All can be potential hooks for driving long-term engagement.
  15. Now think about situational triggers—the transitions, rituals, and events that structure your customer’s daily life and appear in your job stories. Note internal and situational triggers that are already in your early customers’ lives. What emotions or urges could drive customers to seek out your product?
  16. We know from self-determination theory that people are motivated by meaningful progress. As you play a game, you gain skills and knowledge that prepare you to take on greater challenges. In storytelling terms, this is a classic hero’s journey. In product design terms, you’re taking your customers on a learning journey that will transform them in some way. Your customer is the hero of their own story—the story unfolding inside their head about who they’ll become by using your product. What’s the story about? How does it unfold? That’s the question your mastery path answers.
  17. Mastery Is Better than Progress – Many non-game designers understand this and eagerly adopt points, badges, leaderboards, and ratings systems to track and reward progress. They soon learn what every game designer knows: Numbers alone don’t confer meaning. To create a compelling mastery system, your need context, challenge, and character transformation.
  18. Empower Experts to Have Real Impact – Not everyone needs to experience this path, but those who want to go deep can have more impact with the more they learn. To choose the right elder game role for your community, ask yourself: What skills, knowledge and relationships are experts accumulating? What kind of roles are experts asking for? What are they eager to do? What does the community staff currently do that could be handled by experts? The most compelling reward for your investment is impact—not trinkets.
    1. Write a mastery story about what the experts experience a few weeks in. What experience/powers/rewards/role can you offer them that leverages the skills, relationships, and knowledge they’ve built up using your system? When I [make the effort to master this system], I want [earned unlocks, powers, access, status, roles] so I can [stay engaged/have an impact/leverage my newfound skills, knowledge, and relationships].
  19. The most successful product creators I know always kickoff a new project by building, iterating and tuning the core activity chain, or what I call the core learning loop. Once that’s working well, they’ll start to add more features and polish. If you want to emulate successful innovators, this is how you build engagement from the ground up. While an operant conditioning loop is focused on shaping behavior, a learning loop is focused on empowerment, helping your customer get better at something they care about. A learning loop has: A repeatable, pleasurable activity with internal triggers. Feedback that drives learning and skill-building. Progression and investment with reengagement triggers. 
  20. As you’re building your MVP, make sure to include feedback that tells your customers they’re on the right track. Slack, for example, offers light, charming visuals that confirm you’ve read all your messages—the core activity in the system. Activities and feedback work together to engage your customers and let them know they’re on the right track. Investment is what happens when you collect, earn, customize, win, or build something you don’t want to lose. Triggers are reminders to return to the system you’re invested in. Together, all these techniques pull your customers back and complete your core learning loop. 
    1. Anytime you create an avatar, refine your profile, check your stats, earn points, integrate your address book, post an update, or curate your friend list, you’re deepening your investment in that system, and making it harder to leave.
    2. Stats worth checking: Self-improvement is a powerful force. It’s inherently motivating to see yourself getting better, stronger, faster, smarter, or more popular. That’s why so many systems tune their tracking algorithms to show visible progress, it gets people hooked and keeps them coming back. A simple example is Twitter’s follower count, which engages you in growing your audience, which makes it harder to walk away. Tell me a story:
    3. Stories can take many forms, such as updating Instagram, posting to a forum, or leaving a comment on a blog.
    4. Enhance my self-image: Anytime you customize your identity or environment, you’re investing a bit of yourself into the system.
    5. When your customer chooses colors, selects a background image, or creates an avatar, they are increasing their investment in your system through personal expression. Help me connect with people:
    6. Currency is for spending: Once customers are engaged with your system, giving them spendable currency is a powerful way to drive investment. This tactic is most effective if it’s layered onto other skill-building systems, instead of being used in isolation. Duolingo, for example, awards “lingots” for completing activities, which you can spend on customizing your profile.
    7. Customer-centric triggers already exist in your customer’s experience. You learn about them through discovery research. Internal triggers are emotions, urges, or cravings your customer has, such as hunger, loneliness, excitement, anticipation, curiosity, boredom, etc. Situational triggers are transitions, rituals, and events that occur regularly, such as waking up, commuting to work, or sitting down for family dinner.
    8. Product-centric triggers are designed into your product experience. The most effective ones tap into the customer’s existing emotions and habits. External triggers are environmental cues that remind you to do something, such as notifications, email, shoes by the door, or sticky notes on your laptop. Engaged triggers kick in once someone is engaged in your experience. If you have an internal urge supported with external feedback, that’s an engaged trigger. Checking your stats in a game or your unread messages in Slack are two good examples of triggers that kick in once you’re engaged in the system.
    9. To identify existing triggers for your product, ask yourself: In which situations is my customer most likely to seek out my product? What’s happening right before—and after—those moments? What’s the context? How does my customer feel right before—and after—using my product? What pain or itch does my product alleviate? Which emotions are driving use?
    10. As you’re bringing your product to life, ask yourself: What feedback would help my customers perform their core activity better? When we think of games, we often focus on visible progression systems like points, badges, levels and leaderboards. Yet feedback is more fundamental than progress. Feedback lets you know you’re on the right track and motivates you to stay engaged in what you’re doing.
      1. What’s missing is a mechanism that ties these stats into meaningful unlocks and progressive skill-building. How would you answer these questions? When a customer uses your product for months, what are they getting better at? How will you show personal or social progress in a compelling, meaningful way? How is your customer’s Day 30 experience different or better than Day 1, or Day 7? Once someone learns the basics, which features, content or access can they unlock?
  21. When you’re bringing your idea to life and building your MVP, you need to put aside your grand visions and focus in on just a few core activities.
  22. Inspired by Bartle, I took my experience with designing social games and identified four actions, or verbs, that emerge in online environments: compete, collaborate, explore, and express.
  23. Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it. Madeleine L’Engle, Author, A Wrinkle in Time
  24. Take your cues from the habits and desires of your experts—the people who master your systems and long to go deeper. Your goal is to create systems that tap into the deep needs and motivations of your most passionate players.

What I got out of it

  1. Some really detailed and helpful steps on how to bring game thinking to your product/service/design – character transformation, skill-building, help people get better at something they care about

Design for How People Learn by Dirksen Julie

Summary

  1. How to use key principles behind learning, memory, and attention to create materials that enable your audience to both gain and retain the knowledge and skills you’re sharing.

Key Takeaways

  1. Even “amazing” classes are useless if the learner doesn’t do something different afterward. For me, the goal of good learning design is for learners to emerge from the learning experience with new or improved capabilities that they can take back to the real world and that help them do the things they need or want to do.
  2. Learning Path
    1. If learning is a journey, what’s the gap between where they are and where they need to be? Sometimes that gap is knowledge, but just as often the gap can be skills, motivation, habit, or environment.
      1. Having a skill is different from having knowledge. To determine if something is a skill gap rather than a knowledge gap, you need to ask just one question: Is it reasonable to think that someone can be proficient without practice? If the answer is no, then you know you are dealing with a skill, and your learners will need practice to develop proficiency.
      2. To teach skills, that practice must be part of the learning journey you design.
    2. The best learning experiences are designed with a clear destination in mind. Learn how to determine your destination with accuracy. Basically, you want your learners to have the right supplies for their journey: You also want your learners to know what to do with that information.
    3. Identifying and Bridging Gaps
      1. So when you are mapping out the route, you need to ask yourself what the journey looks like.
        1. Knowledge • What information does the learner need to be successful? • When along the route will they need it? • What formats would best support that?
        2. Skills • What will the learners need to practice to develop the needed proficiencies? • Where are their opportunities to practice?
        3. Motivation • What is the learner’s attitude toward the change? • Are they going to be resistant to changing course?
        4. Habits • Are any of the required behaviors habits? • Are there existing habits that will need to be unlearned?
        5. Environment • What in the environment is preventing the learner from being successful? • What is needed to support them in being successful?
        6. Communication • Are the goals being clearly communicated?
    1. One of my all-time favorite clients was a group that did drug and alcohol prevention curriculums for middle-school kids. When they were initially explaining the curriculum to me, they talked about how a lot of earlier drug-prevention curriculums focused on information (“THIS is a crack pipe. Crack is BAD.”). Now does anyone think the main reason kids get involved with drugs is a lack of knowledge about drug paraphernalia, or because no one had ever bothered to mention that drugs are a bad idea? Instead, this group focused on practicing the heck out of handling awkward social situations involving drugs and alcohol. Kids did role-plays and skits, and brainstormed what to say in difficult situations. By ensuring that the curriculum addressed the real gaps (e.g., skills in handling challenging social situations), they were able to be much more effective. If you have a really clear sense of where the gaps are, what they are like, and how big they are, you will design much better learning solutions.
    2. You want to consider the question of what your learners want from a few different angles. Think about why they are there, what they want to get out of the experience, what they don’t want, and what they like (which may be different from what they want).
    3. Leveraging your learners as teachers. Intrinsically motivated learners are going to learn a lot on their own, and will learn even more if they share that knowledge.
    4. “My job as a game designer is to make the player feel smart.” I think the same is true for learning designers. Your job is to make your learners feel smart, and, even more importantly, they should feel capable.
    5. Don’t make every part of the learning experience required for everybody. Just don’t. Really.
    6. Regardless of the learning venue (classroom, elearning, informational website), it’s best to have as interactive an experience as possible. Ideally, you would construct opportunities to see how your learners are interpreting and applying what they learn, so you can correct misconceptions, extend their understanding, and identify ways to reinforce the learning.
    7. In determining the path for your learner, you want to do these things:
      1. Identify what problem you are trying to solve.
      2. Set a destination.
      3. Determine the gaps between the starting point and the destination.
      4. Decide how far you are going to be able to go.
    8. So when you are creating learning objectives, ask yourself: • Is this something the learner would actually do in the real world? • Can I tell when they’ve done it?
    9. The first way is to think about how sophisticated or complex you want your learner’s understanding to be. One scale for this is Bloom’s Taxonomy (this is the later version, revised by Anderson & Krathwohl in 2001): • Remember • Understand • Apply • Analyze • Evaluate • Create
    10. The fast parts learn, propose, and absorb shocks; the slow parts remember, integrate, and constrain. The fast parts get all the attention. The slow parts have all the power. This raises the question, What is the pace layering of learners? What can change quickly, and what changes more slowly?
    11. More (and better) associations will make it easier to retrieve the information. If you don’t have a good shelving system for this word, you can create a mnemonic for it. The more ways you have to find a piece of information, the easier it is to retrieve, so an item that goes on only one or two shelves is going to be harder to retrieve than an item that goes on many shelves.
    12. One of the most difficult types of context to create for learning situations is emotional context. So how can you create learning activities that are a better match for the real-world application? • Ensure that the practice involves recall or application.
    13. Ensure that the practice and assessment are high-context.
    14. Use job aids to change something from a recall to a recognition task. Job aids change the task from “recall the steps” to “follow these steps,” reducing the need to rely on memory. If you do use job aids, give your learners a chance to practice with the job aid as part of the learning. If you want to eventually retrieve information from your memory, you need to practice retrieving it when you study (Karpicke 2011). Retrieval practice has been well studied and is one of the most effective study methods, found in one study to be more effective than traditional studying or mind-mapping. When you are teaching, you need to make sure that your learning activities allow your learners to practice in the same way that they will need to perform.
  3. Memory & Feedback
    1. Memory relies on encoding and retrieval, so learning designers need to think about how the material gets into long-term memory, and also about what the learner can do to retrieve it later.
    2. People hold items in working memory only as long as they need them for some purpose. Once that purpose is satisfied, they frequently forget the items. Asking your learners to do something with the information causes them to retain it longer and increases the likelihood that that information will be encoded into long-term memory.
    3. So how do you attract and engage the elephant? • Tell it stories. • Surprise it. • Show it shiny things. • Tell it all the other elephants are doing it. • Leverage the elephant’s habits.
    4. Another way to leverage storytelling in learning design is to make people the heroes of their own story. A friend of mine who is a game designer says the purpose of game design is to make the player feel smart. Sebastian Deterding, a game researcher and academic, describes it this way: Games satisfy one of our three innate psychological needs—namely, the need to experience competence, our ability to control and affect our environment, and to get better at it.
    5. Somewhat counterintuitively, a longer period in between practice sessions can lead to longer overall retention. A good rule of thumb is to time the practices to how often you’ll need to use the behavior.
    6. The good news is that if you use the Context, Challenge, Activity, and Feedback model, or if you design a curriculum around structured goals, you have lots of built-in feedback points. You should look for opportunities to increase the frequency of feedback whenever possible.
    7. Increasing the frequency of feedback is great, but if you do that, you also want to have various ways to provide feedback.
    8. Figuring out when the check-ins need to occur can be enormously helpful. Part of designing your learning experience should be setting a schedule. • When are you going to follow up? • What will be evaluated? • What criteria will be used?
    9. If the structure and setup of your learning situation don’t allow for coaching follow-up, there are other ways to reach out and follow up with learners: • Create a forum online and encourage learners to report back on their experiences. • Send periodic emails with examples, tips, and opportunities for learners to self-evaluate. • Have virtual critique sessions that allow learners to post work and get feedback from the community.
    10. Change is a Process, Not an Event Any time you want learners to change their behavior, it’s a process and it needs to be reinforced.
  4. Progress & Recognition
    1. I think we have a similar responsibility when we design learning experiences, but I think our responsibility is to make the learner feel capable. So how can your learners feel more capable? • Show them the before and after. Your learner should be able to see how they will be different if they master the skills. What will they be able to do that they can’t do now? Will they be more capable? Will they be able to handle problems that they can’t right now? Will they have new tools to put in their professional toolbox? Show the learners what they can do and how they can get there.
    2. Give them real achievements. Let them do meaningful things with the material while they are learning about it.
    3. When researchers test people using expected and unexpected rewards, there is greater activation of anticipation and reward structures in the brain when the reward is unexpected (Berns 2001). Basically, people have a much stronger response to unexpected rewards than they do to ones they know are coming.
    4. Video games also do this well—we will be going along, collecting gold coins, when suddenly, after the 35th gold coin, we get the SUPER PLATINUM HAMMER OF DEATH. When something like that happens, we immediately start looking for the pattern. What was I doing that caused that to happen? What can I do to make it happen again?
    5. There are some specific ways to leverage social interaction to engage the elephant, including collaboration, competition, and social proof.
    6. Another way to have your learner be more aware of their own learning is to give learners an inventory of the content, and have them rate their level of comfort with each topic. As they go, they can adjust their ratings, either as they get more comfortable or as they realize they don’t know as much as they thought they did. While these ratings don’t mean the learners have actual proficiency, it does involve them in tracking their own understanding and focuses them on eliminating gaps.
    7. Passive experiences like lectures or page-turner elearning courses, where the information is just channeled to the learner, can also flow smoothly right by the learner. If the learner is actively engaging with or interested in the material, then a passive information-delivery system can still be an effective tool. But if your learner is even mildly disengaged, this same method probably won’t accomplish much. Creating opportunities to interact with the material can make a lesson even more engaging for your motivated learners.
    8. Cathy Moore, an outstanding elearning designer (www.cathy-moore.com), has a checklist of items that she uses to evaluate whether a learning experience is action-oriented or more of an info dump.
    9. Discussion topics can facilitate this (“discuss the consequences of sexual harassment complaints in the broader organization”), but you generally get better results if you give groups a more concrete purpose. They could: • Create something • Work together to teach something to the rest of the class • Argue different sides of a debate • Investigate and report back (e.g., find three good examples, or a bad example, and bring them back to the class)
    10. I keep TAM in mind when I design anything that requires adopting a new technology, system, or practice (which is almost everything I do). Some of the questions I ask are: • Is the new behavior genuinely useful? • If it is useful, how will the learner know that? • Is the new behavior easy to use? • If it’s not easy to use, is there anything that can be done to help that?
    11. So think about it—given your subject matter, who are the really influential people in your organization or in the eyes of your target audience? How can you make those opinions visible?
  5. Habits
    1. A habit is defined as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” (behavior = motivation + ability + trigger). So if you are trying to quit smoking, you need more than the goal (“I’m going to stop smoking”)—you need the implementation intention of how to actually do it. So you could say: If I get a craving, I will distract myself.
    2. If a habit seems overwhelming, make it smaller. Both Chip and Dan Heath (in their excellent book Switch) and BJ Fogg, in his Tiny Habits program, discuss the importance of identifying the smallest productive behavior and focusing on that.
    3. How can we make behaviors more visible and reinforce practice?
    4. Have learners create implementation intentions. Give learners an opportunity, or even a template, that allows them to create their own implementation intentions (“If x happens, I will do y”).
    5. Carve out time for specific habits. If you are trying to develop habits, it can be useful to spread them out over time and then reinforce that.
    6. Help tie the habit to an existing behavior. Help learners identify an existing behavior they can chain the new habit to.
  6. Environment & Community
    1. Novices need onboarding. They need to be welcomed, given some goals to achieve, and introduced to the way the community functions. • Regular participants need fresh content, activities, and people to interact with. • Masters need exclusive activities and access to content and abilities that regular participants don’t have.
    2. Improving the environment is about clearing out as much of the stuff that learners don’t really need to carry around in their heads, and instead letting them focus on the things that only they are able to do.
    3. One of the things you need to consider when putting knowledge into the world is the proximity of the knowledge to the task. By this I mean, how far from the task does the learner have to go to get the knowledge?
    4. Here are a few other types of job aids: • Decision trees If a process has very specific and predetermined decision points, then giving people a logical, step-by-step way to navigate those decisions can significantly improve learner performance.
    5. This program has also started crowdsourcing by capturing and displaying other users’ questions and answers. Leveraging your learners’ knowledge through wikis or forums can be an invaluable source of information.
    6. What’s everything else we could do (besides training) that will allow learners to succeed?
    7. To do evaluation well, you should start by defining what you are trying to evaluate. Some of the things you might want to know include: • Does my learning design function well? • Are the learners actually learning the right things? • Can the learners actually do the right things? • Are the learners actually doing the right things when they go back to the real world? The best way you answer these questions = Watch actual learners use your design.
    8. We can’t make anybody learn, but we can make much better learning environments for them and help each learner be the hero of their own learning journey.

What I got out of it

  1. Some great principle and ideas in terms of how to structure learning to really engage the people who are trying to teach – getting human nature and the environment to work for you rather than against you

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

Summary

  1. This is the starter kit for good design. It will turn people into observers of the absurd, of the good, of the poor design which we encounter every day

If you’d prefer to listen to this article, use the player below.

You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle

Key Takeaways

  1. Design is concerned with how things work, how they are controlled, and the nature of the interaction between people and technology
  2. Key Design Terms
    1. Discoverability – is it possible to even figure out what actions are possible and where and how to perform them? Discoverability results from appropriate application of five fundamental psychological concepts
      1. Affordances – relationship between a physical object and a person, the relationship between the properties of an object and the capabilities of the agent that determines just how the object could possibly be used. An affordance is a relationship
      2. Signifiers – signifiers communicate where the action should take place. Good communication of the purpose, structure, and operation of the device to the people who use it
      3. Constraints – providing physical, logical, semantic, and cultural constraints guides actions and eases interpretation
      4. Mapping – the relationship between the elements of two sets of things
        1. Best mapping – controls are mounted directly on the item to be controlled
        2. Second best – controls are as close as possible to the object to be controlled
        3. Third best – controls are arranged in the same spatial configuration of as the objects to be controlled
      5. Feedback – communicating the results of an action. Must be immediate and poor feedback can be worse than no feedback at all. Feedback is essential but not when it gets in the way of others things, including a calm and relaxing environment
    2. Understanding – what does it all mean? How is the product supposed to be used? What do all the different controls and settings mean
    3. Conceptual Models – an explanation, usually highly simplified, of how something works. It doesn’t have to be complete or even accurate as long as its useful
    4. Forcing Function – failure at one stage prevents the next stage from happening. Many errors stem from interruption
      1. Interlocks – forces operations to take place in proper sequence
      2. Lock-In – Keeps an operation active, preventing someone from prematurely stopping it. (happens with ERP for example, confusion comes in when trying to switch which leads to lock-in for the current system)
      3. Lockouts – prevents someone from entering a space that is dangerous, or prevents an event from occurring.
  3. Human Centered Design
    1. An approach that puts human needs, capabilities, and behaviors first, then designs to accommodate those needs, capabilities, and ways of behaving. The process of ensuring that people’s needs are met, that the resulting product is understandable and usable, that it accomplishes the desired tasks, and that the experience of use is positive and enjoyable. Solving the right problem, and doing so in a way that meets human needs and capabilities
    2. Good design starts with an understanding of psychology and technology. Good design requires good communication, especially from machine to person, indicating what actions are possible,w hat is happening, and what is about to happen. Communication is especially important when things go wrong. Designers need to focus their attention on the cases where things go wrong, not just on when things work as planned
    3. The understanding comes about primarily through observation, for people themselves are often unaware of their true needs, even unaware of the difficulties they are encountering. Getting the specification of the thing to be defined is one of the most difficult parts of the design, so much so that the HCD principle is to avoid specifying the problem as long as possible but instead to iterate upon repeated approximations. This is best done through rapid test of ideas, and after each test modifying the approach and the problem definition. This has become known as the Double-Diamond Model of Design. It describes two phases of design: finding the right problem (discover) and fulfilling human needs (design): observation, idea generation, prototyping, testing
      1. Testing: five people studied individually is a great starting point. Then, study the results, refine them, and do another iteration, testing five different people. Five is usually enough to give major findings. And if you really want to test many more people, it is far more effective to do one test of five, use the results to improve the system, and then keep iterating the test-design cycle until you have tested the desired number of people. This gives multiple iterations of improvement, rather than just one.
  4. 7 Stages of Action
    1. Goal (form the goal) – what do I want to accomplish?
    2. Plan (the action) – What are the alternative action sequences?
    3. Specify (an action sequence) – What action can I do now?
    4. Perform (the action sequence) – How do I do it?
    5. Perceive (the state of the world) – What happened?
    6. Interpret (the perception) – What does it mean?
    7. Compare (the outcome with the goal) – Is this okay? Have I accomplished my goal?
    8. The insights from the 7 stages of action lead us to 7 fundamental principles of design
      1. Discoverability
      2. Feedback
      3. Conceptual Model
      4. Affordances
      5. Signifiers
      6. Mappings
      7. Constraints
  5. 3 Levels of Processing
    1. Visceral (lizard brain)
    2. Behavioral (learned but subconscious skills)
    3. Reflecetive (conscious cognition)
    4. Design must take place at all 3 levels – do not blame people when they fail to use your products correctly, take people’s difficulties as signifiers as to how to improve, eliminate all error messages and replace with help and guidance messages, make it possible to correct problems directly from help and guidance messages, assume that what people have done is partially correct, think positively
  6. Bad Design
    1. Physical limitations are well understood but mental limitations are greatly misunderstood
    2. When an error happens, we should determine why, then redesign the product or the procedures being followed so that it will never occur again or, if it does, so that it will have minimal impact
    3. Root cause Analysis – investigate the accident until the single, underlying cause is found.
    4. 5 Why’s – when searching for the reason, even after you have found one, do not stop: ask why that was the case. And then ask why again. Keep asking until you have uncovered the true underlying cause
    5. When people err, change the system so that type of error will be reduced or eliminated. When complete elimination is not possible, redesign to reduce the impact
    6. Two types of errors
      1. Slips – person intends to do one action and ends up doing something else. Slips frequently occur when the conscious mind is distracted so, one way to reduce slips is to ensure that people always pay close attention to the acts being done. Provide perceptible feedback about the nature of the action being performed, then very perceptible feedback describing the new resulting state, coupled with a mechanism that allows the error to be undone
        1. Action-based – wrong action is performed
        2. Memory-lapse – intended action is not done or its results not evaluated
        3. Mode-Error – when a device has different states in which the same controls have different meanings
      2. Mistakes – when the wrong goal is established or the wrong plan is formed
    7. To understand human error, it is essential to understand social pressure (time, psychological, and economic forces)
    8. The trickiest and most important part is to design for when things go wrong
      1. Understand the causes of error and design to minimize those causes
      2. Do sensibility checks. Does the action pass the “common sense’ test?
      3. Make it possible to reverse the actions – to “undo” them – or make it harder to do what cannot be reversed
      4. Make it easier for people to discover the errors that do occur, and make them easier to correct
      5. Don’t treat the action as an error; rather, try to help the person complete the action properly. Think of the action as an approximation to what is desired
    9. Add constraints to block errors
    10. Perhaps the most powerful tool to minimize the impact of errors is the Undo command in modern electronic systems
    11. Confirmation and error messages
    12. Sensibility checks
  7. Other
    1. Focus on interplay of technology and people to ensure that the products fulfill human needs while being understandable and usable. Ideally delightful and enjoyable too
    2. Why flaws? Much of design is done by engineers who are experts in technology but not of people. Have to accept the way humans behave and not how we wish it to be
    3. The best solution to the problem of designing for everyone is flexibility: flexibility is the size of the images on computer screens, in the sizes, heights, and angles of tables and chairs. Allow people to adjust their own seats, tables, and working devices
    4. Cognition and emotion are highly intertwined – must keep both in mind at all times
    5. Good design requires consideration of the entire system to ensure that the requirements, intentions, and desires at each stage are faithfully understood and respected at all other stages.
    6. Precise behavior can emerge from imprecise knowledge for  reasons
      1. Knowledge is both in the head and in the world
      2. Great precision is not required
      3. Natural constraints exist in the world
      4. Knowledge of cultural constraints and conventions exist in the head
    7. Simplified models are the key to successful application
    8. Make something too secure and it becomes insecure (people use post its to remind them of passwords they have to change all the time)
    9. Solve problems by interpreting, find natural mappings. Make memory unnecessary by putting the required information in the world. Appropriate constraints and forcing functions, natural good mapping, and all the tools of feedback and feedforward. The most effective way of helping people remember is to make it unnecessary. The unaided mind is surprisingly limited. It is things that make us smart. Take advantage of them. Pilots:
      1. Write down critical information
      2. Enter it into their equipment as its told to them, so minimal memory is required
      3. They remember some of it as meaningful phrases
    10. Counter-intuitive bike model – to turn left, you first have to turn right. This is counter-steering and is necessary to get your balance and lean right before turning
    11. Reminders – must have a signal and the message
    12. A major obstacle is that often the purchaser is not the user
    13. The choice of metaphor dictates the proper design for interaction. The design difficulties occur when there is a switch in metaphor
    14. Consistency in design is virtuous. It means that lessons learned with one system transfer readily to others. On the whole, consistency is to be followed. If a new way of doing things is only slightly better than the old, it is better to be consistent. But if there is to be a change, everybody has to change. Mixed systems are confusing to everyone.
    15. Standardization is the fundamental principle of desperation: when no other solution appears possible, simply design everything the way way, so people only have to learn once. The standards should reflect the psychological conceptual models, not the physical mechanics.
      1. Skeumorphic – incorporating old, familiar ideas into new technologies, even though they no longer play a functional role. One way of overcoming the fear of the new is to make it look like the old
      2. One type of cultural constraint, provides a major breakthrough in usability
    16. Usage of sound as a signifier is important but tricky because you don’t want to disturb people too much
    17. Checklists are important and is way better to have two people do checklists together as a team: one to read the instruction, the other to execute it. If, instead, a single person executes the checklist and then, later a second person checks the items, the results are not as robust. The person following the checklist, feeling confident that any errors would be caught, might do the steps too quickly. But the same bias affects the checker. Confident in the ability of the first person, the checker often does a quick, less than thorough job. One paradox of groups is that, quite often, adding more people to check a task makes it less likely that it will be done right. A collaboratively followed checklist is an effective way to counteract these natural human tendencies.
    18. Swiss-Cheese Model
      1. Accidents usually have multiple causes, whereby had any single one of those causes not happened, the accident would not have occurred. Like slices of Swiss cheese, unless the holes all line up perfectly, there will be no accident.
      2. Two lessons: do not try to find “the” cause of an accident. Second, we can decrease accidents and make systems more resilient by designing them to have extra precautions against errors
      3. Well-designed systems are resilient against failure. Design redundancy and layers of defense
      4. Can prevent errors by adding more “slices of cheese”, reduce the number of holes (or make the holes smaller), alert the human operators when several holes have lined up.
    19. Resilience engineering – goal is to design systems, procedures, management, and the training of people so that they are able to respond to problems as they arise. It strives to ensure that the design of all these things – the equipment, procedure, and communication both among workers and also externally to management and the public – are continually being assessed, tested, and improved.
    20. Norman’s Law of Product Development – the day a product development process starts, it is behind schedule and above budget
      1. The way to handle the time crunch that eliminates the ability to do good up-front design research is to separate that process from the product team: have design researchers always out in the field, always studying potential products and customers. Then, when the product team is launched, the designers can say, “We already examined this case, so here are our recommendations.” The same argument applies to market researchers.
    21. Complexity is essential, confusion is undesirable
    22. Some things should be deliberately difficult to use – hide critical components, use unnatural mappings, make the actions physically difficult to do, require precise timing and physical manipulation, do not give any feedback
    23. Beware “featuritis” – creeping add of features. Don’t follow blindly, focus on your strengths and not weaknesses
    24. Invention and adoption cycle – fast to be invented, slow to be accepted, even slower to fade away
    25. 2 forms of innovation: radical, incremental
      1. Incremental – can also be thought of as hill-climbing. You take one step, assess if it is in the right direction, and keep doing this until you have reached a point where all steps would be downhill; then you are the the top of a hill, or at least at a local peak
      2. Radical – often driven by new technologies that make possible new capabilities. A second factor is the reconsideration of the meaning of technology
    26. Most successful teams are a combination of human experts and computers. Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, to a strong human + machine + inferior process
    27. Rise of the small – good design and technology empowers individuals. Today, anyone can create, design, and manufacture, opening doors that were closed in the past. Our technologies may change, but the fundamental principles of interaction are permanent.

What I got out of it

  1. Outstanding book to better understand some of the key terms and ideas behind good and bad design – affordances, signifiers, mapping, constraints, feedback, feedforward…