If users leave they’re just doing what the design told them to do

What are our designs telling users to do when we bury a 12px font-sized river of text in a sea of animated banner ads, sensationalist flat belly links, and fixed positioned social sharing widgets? In my mind, if users leave they’re just doing what the design told them to do because all the crufty noise linking elsewhere is the most engaging thing on the page.

—Trent Walton, Human Interest

A small list of the things that I want to do

I want to write a cookbook. A beautiful cookbook, with nice paper and a nice cover on it, and with lots of black & white pictures and colour pictures with lots of nice muted texture like the ones from VSCO like this amazing one here. I want to make this cookbook because I want to go through the process of buying the food so that I can make the meals so that I can have the people around to eat them with and finally open one of those special-event-wines that I keep sitting in the cupboard. I also just want to just have the photos. I want to look at them and feel them printed on that nice paper. I want the cookbook to be like Tartine’s or Donna Hay’s. I want it to make people want to rush home from work and cook supper and drink wine and not eat until 9pm on a work night. I want it to make me do that.

Besides food, I want to take more pictures in general. I want to take more pictures of just being outside. Early in the morning and late in the night and in the late evening when the sun is just about to go down and everything looks perfect and new and fresh. I want to take pictures of and on the beach, which is great because that’s something else I want to do. I want to go to the beach more, and throw rocks and sit down and watch the waves and see the tide coming in. When I’m not doing that, I want to be eating an ice cream, or stopping at a roadside stand to buy vegetables, or waiting for the barbeque to warm up to put a thick steak on. I might even take a picture of the steak too.

When I’m not eating ice cream, cooking steaks or buying vegetables, I want to run the Tely10. I just want to do it once. I just want to do it and feel happy about my time and feel good as I cross the finish line and feel like I’ve done something. I want all of those 6:30am runs to mean something—to accumulate to something. I want all those mornings I ran in the rain and the snow and the wind and the cold and the pain and the frustration and the joy and the sun and the warm summer breeze to all just add up already. I just want to do that once. I also want to do another century ride — 100km — on my bike like I did about 10 years ago with a best friend. I want to sit on my bike and feel strong for hours and push up the hills and through the wind and ride with a group and take a turn at the front. It’ll be harder and harder to do all that with some of my other competing wants—like the huge one to finally get my house in shape. To finally finish some of the dozens of half-finished projects I’ve got going on like the basement or the attic or the entire outside or get the hardwood laid or get the bathroom finally painted and put in that fan.

Then there’s all this work stuff. Will I ever actually, truly learn to program? Will I ever be satisfied if I don’t? Do I even want to actually learn, or do I just want to continue to skim the surface of it all. The way I skim the surface of everything else. Am I actually, deep-down ‘just’ a designer? Am I actually ‘just’ a teacher? A something else?  Is this where I should be putting all my energy? Should I be out there writing cookbooks and taking pictures and going to the beach and eating ice cream and feeling connected to something all day? Does anyone out there feel connected to anything? Anyone? Do you people have this level of noise go on in your heads all day? This unending doubt and self-doubt and distraction and constant stream of questions? Will I actually publish this? Will I leave it published or will I delete it?


I’ve been using Apple’s native Mail app for as long as I’ve been using Macs. I got wind of a new email client last week and I wanted to share. I’ve really been liking Airmail. It’s just $1.99 in the App Store, which I think is the perfect price for large-scale adoption.


The one thing about Mail that always bugged me was the poor Gmail integration. I couldn’t label things with my Gmail labels and I never knew if things were deleted or not.

If these issues bug you too, it’s worth the $1.99.

Room for less

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 4.25

The latest Crome Canary comes with a few minor tweaks to search interface. The missing search bar being the most notable.

The most interesting thing for me is the search menu (Web, Images, Maps, and eventually, More). It’s interesting because there’s room on that bar to fit more (between “Search tools” and the gear icon way over to the right) , but Google has opted for sparseness and hidden all the rest in a menu item.

There’s so much room for less in everything we design. Let’s avail of it.

Learn to make, don’t learn to code

The agony of learning:

You sign up for Codecademy. You spend 3 months deciding between Python and Ruby, because you heard Django was more powerful or something but Rails had better community support or something. You in fact have no idea what that means. You maybe do a tutorial or two. Oh wait, I should be learning Node.js. It’s the future. Then… hey what’s that shiny thing over there?

Jake Levine

Boy-o-boy does this ever ring true. My experience was precisely like that—learning to code is simply that—learning to code. Until you actually learn to build something, you’ll never get anywhere. I went from Ruby to Python to Javascript back to Ruby back to Javascript—it never ended.

But I remember the moment when some of it finally clicked: I was learning PHP a few years back, I kept falling asleep during the Lynda.com videos, so I bought a book. The book put me to sleep too. I followed tutorials that mostly didn’t work or were outdated, and tried everything else out there to help beat it into my head.

One day, I was trying to dynamically create a menu in WordPress using a query—I had to create a function to get the page id, hand that off to another function to get that page’s children, and then to another to get the last item in an array to determine the page’s ancestors. It was all there—strings, numbers, arrays, functions, passing values around. No doubt it was a Frankenstein of code, but it worked, and did it ever feel good!

Until you actually start making something, you’re just going through the motions—you’re not learning.