I probably should start a new microblog with the funniest feedback/support emails I get by people sending me „pocket-dial mails“ all the time. It’s hilarious 😆
I started a work journal today and my first entry is about 1500 words long. Feels important to think about and capture where I’m heading to! 🧐
I have no idea why it took me until to day to realize that I’m a big Joe Satriani fan. Feels like I missed everything 🤷🏻♂️ 🎶🎸
I’m no expert, but the divisional playoffs are among the best 🏈 games I’ve ever seen. Last year my favorite was Packers vs. Cowboys with a crazy finish, but what the Vikings did yesterday was nuts! I couldn’t sleep for a while 😉
I finally started to do some private journalling again. And it really frees up the mind and generates a hell of a lot ideas! 💡 It’s a really great tool!
Users are stupid! Or… are they? Who declares what a user should know and be able to do? Designers? Developers? Product Managers? The answer is simple: The user declares what he or she knows and is able to do. But we, the ones who build stuff they should use, tend to think that the user is the problem if there is a problem with a feature.
Nilay Patel wrote a piece on The Verge the other day:
Think of the tech industry as being built on an ever-increasing number of assumptions: that you know what a computer is, that saying “enter your Wi-Fi password” means something to you, that you understand what an app is, that you have the desire to manage your Bluetooth device list, that you’ll figure out what USB-C dongles you need, and on and on.
This resonates with my experience. I‘m an iOS and Mac developer and happen to know my way around in the system and learned a few tricks over the years and I of course have to check what’s new on those platforms all the time. I have to stay on top of it to not get lost. Do others have to do the same? Not really. The examples in the article above are real world problems. I hear them all the time. I get asked similar questions and quite often I think to myself: „That‘s not very hard to understand! How could you ask such a question? That feature is available since 5 years!“. Yet, they just don’t know!
And it’s not their problem. They know how to get along with their devices. There might be other ways, sometimes easier and faster ways to get to the same result. Sometimes they might not know something is possible and they give up trying, because they can live without it. And that’s fine!
I had the opportunity to attend a number of usability tests for one of our internal tools. The app itself is pretty simple. At least it seems so on the surface, but it turns out that average users tend to think completely different then the people who build the apps! Who would have thought that! I learned a lot (again) during these sessions. There were the obvious problems where I thought: „How is it even possible we did not think about that!?“. Those are relatively easy to solve. Then there are issues where the users don’t fully understand the main - and single - use case of the app. Also pretty easy to tackle by training them better, providing more information beforehand etc.
And then there are those issues where we need to make use of certain patterns and features of the platform. If you used an iPhone for more than a month we - the ones building and designing apps - tend to think that people take the time to learn the patterns, the look and feel, the language and features of the system. But really, they don’t! They are not interested in this nerdy stuff. They want to send messages - whatever this means to them - or call someone. If they are adventurous they installed an app, a free one probably. That’s an average user. Maybe they even have a phone full of apps and work on iPads quite often. This does not mean that they know about everything. Those are the ones we need to focus most of the time when building seemingly simple apps. At least for the ones that need to be used by everyone all the time.
But sometimes it’s necessary to go a step beyond that stage. We need to use these well established usage patterns and system features. But they are complicated. They seem to be an integral part of the system and to be known by everyone, but in reality those are power-user features. Let’s take swiping cells in a list to reveal actions, like in the Mail app… you swipe left and a button is revealed. Not a single user is ever going to discover this in an app on the first try. Never! It would take some time to get familiar with the app, maybe reading a manual or help article. It takes effort to learn that the feature exists, if it’s not found by accident. Compared to us power-users living in our information bubble, only relatively few people are willing or even thinking about making this effort.
And again: why should they!? Of course I can come up with dozens of good reasons why they should and why it would be important for them to do it. But those are reasons from my worldview, not theirs. If they are happy with their devices, let them be happy! It‘s not their problem that we fail to understand what’s easy and what’s complicated. We fail to empathize with people that are not using their devices the same way we do. We fail to design our apps in a way that makes it easy and accessible for everyone. Just because there are features on the platform, it doesn’t mean these are good features and every app really needs to make use of them.
And it’s not only a problem of us, designing and developing user interfaces in the wrong way. Stuff is too complicated and it only gets worse. Like Nilay writes:
... over the past few days I’ve started to realize it’s a pretty damning indictment of the tech industry
The tech industry does not care about normal people. They need to build the next iteration of something barely anyone really needs and they need to have built it last year already to make their stakeholders happy. Technology is evolving faster than most of the people are capable of and willing to keep up with. I know a whole bunch of people who ask me „why everything has to change all the time“, in regards to features that already exist since a couple of years and in regards to UI paradigms that were introduced many years ago. Of course, technology evolves and everything is changing more rapidly than ever before. But there a whole lot of people that are left far behind. Changes are either happening too fast, or there is a huge lack of thinking about how people should be guided to learn all the new things without telling them they’re stupid because the tool you show them is just too damn complicated to use. I think it’s a bit of both, with a lot of stress on the latter.
We can’t expect the users to know everything. They can’t. We need to watch them use the stuff we make and learn from them what it means to use something like a normal person would. We need to build the apps we want them to use actually for them, not for us. If there are issues we can’t solve for them, we need to make sure to guide them and not leave them stranded. Our products are our problem, not the users‘. That’s nothing new of course, yet we always forget. These problems are decades old and everybody involved knows about it, yet we always make the same mistakes. We need to try harder.
Swiping, along with long press or even worse 3D touch is one of the worst UI interaction paradigms available. Not a single normal user is able to discover it. Never.
I don‘t think I will ever get tired of School of Rock 🎸 I love this movie 😊
One week into 2018 and I still think about new years resolutions… I know there are things I’d like to do, but I don’t want to jinx it with resolutions that are doomed to fail 🙃
You need to be careful when you enter the cryptocurrency rabbit hole… it’s foolproof at the moment, but it’s somehow weirdly addictive.
Oh wow! Didn‘t quite get to catch up on Micro.blog the last couple of days… it‘s getting busy around here! Great to see so many people try this path and turning their backs on Twitter.
Finally got to see The Last Jedi tonight. I’m not sure why, but somehow it spoke to me more than any other Star Wars movie. It might be 30 minutes too long, but all in all I really loved it… ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Happy Holidays also from this little guy here!
Took a little money and will try to understand how all this crypto currency coin business thing is working & what it’s all about. Of course I took the worst possible day to start, but let’s see where it‘s going. It‘s a volatile hype, but very interesting projects involved…
I‘m a Tom Waits fan, but I stumbled across this interview by accident… funny/interesting what was acceptable on TV in the 70s 🙂
Well… sometimes putting something on hold for too long has consequences. My stalled pet projects have been sitting around for too long. Others had the same ideas in the meantime. Before starting new development on those apps, I checked the App Store whether there are any new competitors since I last checked. There always were a few that did similar things like I had in mind, but they were all terrible. The situation changed and for each of my ideas there is one app that does exactly what I wanted to build. Even more so, they do it in exactly the same way that I had in mind. So… if I would go on and build what I want, I would basically just create the same apps that already exist and make it look like I just copied them.
Now I need to think about what I should do. Will I create them and use them as my own private tools, or will I finally drop those ideas. I guess the nagging will stop, now that what I wanted is already there. I’m not quite sure yet but there are two sides to this. On one hand it’s frustrating, because those apps could have been my apps. On the other hand, I have free space in my brain for new projects now. I think that’s the way I want to see it. I already deleted all the old cruft of those projects. I can think of new things I would like to try to create and see how realistic they are.
I already have something in mind. It’s probably nothing the public will desperately need, but it will solve a real pain point for me. I think I’ll go for it and dig around for some information on how to do it…
Until someone else has the same idea and beats me again 😉
The BBEdit Release Notes even for „minor“ updates are incredible. So much dedication to this application. I love it!
I just wrote and published a new blog post completely on my phone. It was terrible. Meanwhile I got a mail from Backblaze: My iMac wasn’t seen for the last 60 days. The irony 🧐
They nag me. They lie around for several years, nagging me, telling me that I want and need them. These pet projects are seemingly important to me and I have two that I count as the good ones which could actually be used by others as well. They‘re not necessarily huge App Store successes, there’s a lot missing to become that. But maybe I could make a few dollars with them. And if not, the nagging would stop… at least for a while… maybe… hopefully.
But I know how much time it really takes to finish and polish an app. It always seems like it would only take a couple of hours, maybe one or two weeks. Tops! But then you start looking at the details. You see that this feature could be realized a little bit differently. And while you’re at it, why don’t you just quickly add this other thing! It sure won’t take that long! Or, does it?
Then there might be a break for a couple of weeks because life gets in the way or you just are not in the mood to code every single night because you code 10 hours a day at work… Fast forward a couple of years and there is the first thing I really wanted to build but still sits unfinished on my computer, nagging me from time to time. It’s old now. I learned so much in the meantime. Even if it wouldn’t be an outdated programming language I would want to completely rewrite it from scratch.
I found my first sketches of wireframes for the first app idea a few weeks ago. They were four years old. I threw them away. I threw the code away too, it was old anyway. But the nagging is still there.
Hey! Pssst! It‘s me! I know that you know that I‘m still here! And I know that you know that I will stay! So...? What do you say?!
I‘m going to get rid of it. I‘ll start over with one of my projects and see where it will lead to.
Winter is coming…
A phone without a headphone jack. Still don’t get it. Before this I could have enjoyed some music now. Instead I’m searching for a frickin dongle because the one pair of lightning earbuds is at the office and the other 100 normal ones at home don’t connect to my 1000$ phone.
I know it‘s a privilege here in Germany to be able to take some - or even a lot of - time off of work to take care of your children. It‘s even more privileged to receive money while not working during that time. It’s also not very common to be able to get a paid parental leave if you’re the father. So, we‘re lucky to live in a country with great social-, health- and family-care!
I also am lucky to work for a company that fully supports parental leaves and which is able to absorb a colleague who’s not available for an extended period of time. I know other fathers working for smaller companies are facing heavy resistance to this from their colleagues and bosses. So again, I‘m lucky!
My daughter is just over one year old now and I am back to work from parental leave for the second time. I took two months off earlier this year when we went on a long trip to Canada. Of course I don‘t think that she will remember any of it, but I think it’s important to show her the world as early as possible. She will learn from early on that the world is huge, that there are lots of different people and ways of living. That there is more than just our small town where we live with the forest next door where we often take her for a walk. She can only benefit from it and for us as a family it was a great way to spend as much time as possible together, to grow and to learn our way of parenting and handling the day-to-day business of it. We sure had a great time and I wouldn’t want to miss any of it.
For the last two months the situation was different… After more than ten months at home, my partner started working again and I was alone with our daughter most of the day until she came home from work. That’s a totally different experience! Suddenly I was the responsible person. I needed to prepare the food and make sure there’s some action happening. Everything that needed to be done and makes the baby happy. I did this before as well of course, but now it was my fulltime job to be a dad. It‘s a hard job. I would even say it‘s much harder than my normal day job and I have the greatest respect for everyone who stays at home for several years to take care of the kids.
But it‘s also much more gratifying than anything else I‘ve done during my worklife! It‘s great! Being there for this cute little thing day in and day out. You learn a lot during that time… about the baby, about you, about your family. You learn that there are things way more important than showing up in the office every morning. Of course it is nerve wracking at times and I do need a break from time to time, but things have changed now. It’s a totally different connection.
On my second day back at work I had a conference call with colleagues in California. Naturally it was pretty late for me already when I left the office and when I came back home, my daughter was already in bed, ready to sleep. It was rough! She was around me nearly 24 hours for the last two months, and now all of a sudden I barely saw her the whole day. It was heartbreaking.
I realize this is a mediocre summary of what I will remember as being one of the best times of my life, but it really was a great experience and I’m very grateful that I had this opportunity. I would recommend every parent to do the same. It will help you, your kid, your partner and all of you as a family. Spend as much time as possible with your child! Take that time and don’t care about the money. I had my four months of parental leave and I wouldn’t mind to take another four. But we live in a time where it is hard for a family to live on one salary. Although I can imagine to regret this in a few blinks of an eye when she will be 18 and living far away from me to go to university. Time flies… I have no idea how the last year went by so quickly… and it scares me.
I keep writing and editing blog posts without publishing them. It feels too personal in a way. Still struggling to find the right balance…
I think I may move away from interface builder and storyboards as well. It’s impossible to understand what’s going on if there is a problem. It just doesn’t make sense a lot of the time. And it makes me feel stupid 😉 No thanks!