Skip to content Todd Libby

Paul Boag


[00:00:00] Todd Libby: Welcome to the Front End Nerdery Podcast, a podcast about front end development and design. I'm your host Todd Libby. My guest today is UX consultant, author, and alleged Knight of the Realm. And I hope there are jousts and swords that go along with that title. The former co-host of the podcast Boag World and co co-host, co-host of some others currently.
[00:00:27] Paul Boag: Yeah. There's I don't even bother there's One Footer in the One Footer in the Grave is, is something I do with Andy Clark and John Hicks and Marcus as well.
[00:00:38] Todd: Yeah.
[00:00:39] Paul: Yeah. Lot of that. And the Knight of the realm thing that was supposed to be me messing around, filling in your form. I didn't think you'd mention it on the podcast.
Yes. So, I am a Knight of the Realm.
[00:00:50] Todd: Yes.
[00:00:51] Paul: Let's go with that.
[00:00:51] Todd: Yes, you are. Yeah. So, and speaking of Boag World, I was sad to see the final episode where it was recorded a while back with
[00:01:00] Paul: Yeah.
[00:01:00] Todd: Marcus. So yeah.
[00:01:01] Paul: Yeah.
[00:01:01] Todd: Yep. My guest Paul Boag. Paul, how are you today?
[00:01:05] Paul: I am very well, very well indeed. I've just come back from a, a holiday. So, I'm very relaxed and chilled.
[00:01:12] Todd: Nice.
[00:01:12] Paul: And then I'm also going off to the states actually in, in a month where we're gonna buy an RV and I'm gonna turn into a digital nomad, whatever one of those is. So, it's very exciting time in my life for the moment, but anyway, nobody needed to know any of that. So, there you go.
[00:01:32] Todd: well, if you're in the Phoenix area, Phoenix, Arizona area, let me know.
[00:01:36] Paul: Oh, I will do. Don't worry. I've got, I've got quite a list of people that I'd like to, you know, meet up with, but yeah, that'd be awesome.
[00:01:43] Todd: Yeah.
[00:01:43] Paul: We ought to do it.
[00:01:45] Todd: Definitely, definitely. So, would you tell the listeners a little bit more about yourself?
[00:01:50] Paul: Yeah, that's a, that's a good, very difficult question to answer at this stage. I've been working in the industry for 27 years. So, 1994, I think I got into things. So, it's that more now? I can't, my maths is terrible. So yeah, been going for a long time. Did the whole boom and bust, set up a, a web design agency.
And then in 2005, I started blogging and podcasting. And our podcast, I was the first ever web design podcast. It was nothing about web design before, before we started. And I did that for 16 years. So, it did stop on March last year, but I, I think that that's probably fair enough. I've done my dues.
[00:02:33] Todd: Yeah.
[00:02:34] Paul: And got out of the way for new people like you to kind of get in there and, and, and do, do take it to the next level or some such bullshit. I dunno. But what I do, do is I spend a lot of my time consulting over user experience. I do a little bit of digital transformation work and a lot of conversion rate optimization work.
So those are my main focuses these days. But I'm, I'm one of those people that is kind of interested in everything well I say everything when it gets to real backend technology, I, my eyes glaze over and I start dribbling but you know, anything vaguely front end related is, is fun as far as I'm concerned.
[00:03:11] Todd: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. So, let's jump right into the questions. How did you get started in your web development design journey?
[00:03:21] Paul: Yeah, well, I mean, that was pure luck, if I'm honest. So, I was at art college in 1993-ish. And you know, obviously it was. I was doing a course called art media and design, cause you certainly didn't have anything internet related at that point.
And it, you know, I was destined to spend my career working in McDonald's like all art students. But as it so happened, I, I was in the, in the studio one day and then pinned up, there was a little notice pinned up on the notice board that nobody ever looked at saying that, that IBM was looking for to recruit a student intern.
And so, I went for that, got down to the last two, got turned down. But then they changed their minds and decided to take two students instead of one. And so, I worked with IBM's multimedia division, which consisted of, of about six people sitting in a cupboard at that stage. And I was working on the first ever PC that they produced with a sound card and a CD ROM, right?
[00:04:30] Todd: Yeah.
[00:04:30] Paul: So, I was working on the, on the software that went with that bit of a multimedia multimedia CDs. I don't suppose a lot of people even remember what those are, but they were a thing. And then towards the end of that year as an intern the, the these people started approaching the team going, you know, can you, do you know anything about this internet?
You know, and, and, and can you make us a webpage? We should have a webpage, you know? And, and the, the, my team leader took one look at it and went well that's boring. It was gray background. They'd only just introduced the image tag. There was no layout. So, what do you do? You give it to the intern, don’t you?
[00:05:11] Todd: Yeah.
[00:05:11] Paul: So that, and, and there began my career in the web.
[00:05:15] Todd: Oh, wow yeah.
[00:05:16] Paul: And so, I've, I kind of went from, from writing HTML in Notepad to, you know, I went through the whole kind of Dream Weaver Front Page era, and, and all the rest of it all the way through I've been going ever since.
[00:05:31] Todd: Yeah. I remember those days.
[00:05:33] Paul: They were good days.
[00:05:34] Todd: They were good days.
[00:05:36] Paul: Yeah.
[00:05:36] Todd: The Mosaic browser.
[00:05:38] Paul: The wild west of the web.
[00:05:38] Todd: Exactly.
[00:05:39] Paul: When you could, the best thing about those days, which we've lost and it is not for any, any particular reason other than the fact that websites have just got hugely more complicated. But the, the way you learnt back in those days is just right click on any website and view their source.
[00:05:57] Todd: Yep.
[00:05:57] Paul: And you can't do that these days cause it's just this mess of JavaScript and CSS and, and endless divs. So, it's very hard to do, but it that's how I learned just by looking.
[00:06:10] Todd: Yeah.
[00:06:10] Paul: Do you know when I started, I looked this up once. Google wasn't around. Right?
[00:06:15] Todd: Right.
[00:06:15] Paul: So, so there was just Yahoo and I looked up how many pages Yahoo had indexed back on the year I started, and it reckoned, there were only 2000 sites on the internet back then. 2000.
[00:06:31] Todd: Oh, wow. Yeah, yeah. So, when you, when you talk about Yahoo back then, but we had, we had Yahoo, we had. Lycos, Alta Vista
[00:06:45] Paul: Yeah
[00:06:45] Todd: Infoseek, all those search engines that are now hanging out, hanging out in the internet archive.
[00:06:52] Paul: Exactly. Yeah. And then of course there was only, when I started, there was only Netscape navigator and I think Mo Mozilla was around there maybe.
No Internet Explorer, no Safari, you know, and that was even before the browser war. And that that's a thing that most people have no idea what I'm talking about, browser wars.
[00:07:13] Todd: Yeah.
[00:7:13] Paul: But, you know, there was a time where, you know, most websites were, IE only. Talk about bad accessibility, Todd, you know, but it puts it into context these days in there.
[00:07:24] Todd: It certainly does.
So I, I wanted to talk a user experience with you because I have, and I would also recommend to anybody listening or watching to subscribe to your newsletter, cause it's got some terrific information and tips and, you know, I can take a little nugget out of your newsletter and, you know, apply that to what I'm doing.
[00:07:51] Paul: Yeah.
[00:07:51] Todd: Can you tell us about the, the newsletter a bit?
[00:07:55] Paul: Yeah, the newsletters are a relatively recent occurrence. And it is actually my favorite thing now. An interesting thing happened. Do you remember, sorry. I'm, I'm gonna do a bit of a nostalgia thing yet again, as if we didn't already do that. But there was a time when, you know, you would subscribe to a whole load of blogs weren't you?
And you would, you would use your RSS feed to, to go through, you know, and read these regularly. But then truth is there's just too much content these days. So, nobody ever does that anymore.
[00:08:26] Todd: Yeah.
[00:08:26] Paul: So, what that's done is it kind of changed the role of blogs these days. Now I do still blog and I, you know, blog every other week, but those posts are almost always only viewed if someone searches on something via Google goes straight to the blog posts.
Now that's fine. Cause what we do is we Google question we've got, and, and you find a blog post that answers it. But my problem with that. Is there are quite a lot of subjects that you would never search on, right. Things about your career or, or you know, or you know, particular ways of approaching projects or different angles.
They're not ones that have got a clear, clear keyword to search on. And anyway, you might not think to search about them in the first place. You're not actually being, you're only getting fed things that you specifically think you need.
So, my response to that is I now do a newsletter, which that's, I dunno why you call it newsletter, cause it's no news in it. It's just me sharing insights and experiences of working in UX for those number of years. Sometimes we might be talking about content one week, another week, we might be talking about burnout, you know, at all kinds of weird and wacky things that are not the kind of content that you would search on.
And actually, I found it's by far the most enjoyable thing I do in my job now.
[00:09:53] Todd: Yeah.
[00:09:53] Paul: So yeah, I love it.
[00:09:55] Todd: Yeah. Yeah, it, cause like I said, there's always something I can take from it and again, to people watching or listening, subscribe and I will have the link to that in the show notes for anybody, if they wanna subscribe.
So, I'm looking at some tweets here.
[00:10:15] Paul: No, now this isn't my tweets, is it? Are you looking at my tweets because
[00:10:19] Todd: I am.
[00:10:19] Paul: It could be anything.
[00:10:21] Todd: I'm looking at the ones that I have questions about. How's that?
[00:10:24] Paul: Oh, okay.
[00:10:26] Todd: That, that have, that have everything to do with your user experience.
[00:10:30] Paul: Okay. I I'm feeling more comfortable now, Todd carry on. You said this in 2013 and now you’re canceled because of that. Yeah.
[00:10:40] Todd: Yeah. I, I'm not, I'm not going into a deep dive or any cancel, cancel culture.
[00:10:45] Paul: Good. I’ll relax.
[00:10:47] Todd: So, in this one, it says testing design is about informing the design process, not replacing this, the designer. So
[00:10:55] Paul: Yes.
[00:10:56] Todd: So, when I, when I read that first off, I was thinking, okay, this ties in with what I've been talking about lately with people, and that is accessibility and how it starts from the design process in, in my opinion, and in some other peoples that I've talked to. [clears throat] Excuse me. So, one kind of a two part question here. One could you go into that tweet a little bit? And two is, is, how, how important is, cause I always ask this of people. How important to you is accessibility in design?
[00:11:38] Paul: I'd take the first one. No second one first. Because I would say for me personally, you know, I've been, always been an advocate of accessibility.
[00:11:49] Todd: Yes.
[00:11:49] Paul: In fact, I think one of my earliest podcasts was on accessibility. In fact, the first one was, I think the inaccessibility of PDFs was my, how I decided to kick off my very rock and roll podcast. I mean, that's a real good one to grab people, bring 'em in. Isn't it?
[00:12:05] Todd: Yeah.
[00:12:06] Paul: So, so yeah, it it’s absolutely fundamental. In fact, if you go back to my university dissertation, I wrote it on how it shows, how naive I was back then, you know, how I figured that the internet had an amazing potential to become, to empower people with disabilities and people from poorer backgrounds of different things.
And I still believe that now, even though it's maybe not been realized in quite the way that I’d hoped. So yeah, it, it's absolutely fundamental to me. To, to dig into the tweet. I think the thing that I was, was driving at in that is that I think there are some designers who fear a little bit testing. I mean, there's the classic story about, you know, Google testing, 15 different shades of blue, you know, to, to decide on, on, on their approach.
And so, there is a, a, a certain percentage of designers that feel that design undermines their creative freedom. And, and the same would be true with accessibility as well, that, you know, that that having to tested, you know, or worry about accessibility undermines the creative freedom. And I think there are two points to make about that.
First of all, design by its nature, is working within constraints. That's one of the fundamental differences between design and art, right?
[00:13:30] Todd: Yeah.
[00:13:30] Paul: Art is about self-expression it's about working without constraints, without limits, or at least any constraints you impose on yourself. Design is about delivering to a brief within constraints that you are given. Right?
So, so I think you fundamentally misunderstand design, if you think that you shouldn't have any constraints placed upon you. But secondly, and I think this is the key element is that people see testing as something that's going to curtail them and hinder them rather than help them. And in my mind, actually, testing is incredibly helpful.
Not only does it lead to better design, but let's, let's imagine for the moment that whoever's listening to, this is the perfect designer when they design something, they get it right every time, first time. And I don't think there's anybody out there that does that or believes that, but let's imagine you are.
I would still test. And the reason that I would still test is because testing gives you a justification for your approach, right? It allows you to have evidence to support the approach that you are using, and you are implementing, right. And, and that is usually beneficial to dealing with stakeholders and clients and things like that.
And it also cuts down that iteration hell, where you get stuck in, you know, the client goes, oh, I don't like it very much. Can we change the blue to pink? And you change the blue to pink. They look at it, go. I don't like that, but I can't admit that. So, then they just change something else. And the hopes of that will fix it and you go on and on and on like that.
[00:15:10] Todd: Yeah.
[00:15:11] Paul: If, if you're making design decisions based on evidence, rather than the stakeholder or client's opinions, it gets so much easier. Now, bringing it back to the subject of accessibility. You know, again, a lot of people see it as a hindrance, but actually again, it can be empowering for exactly the same reasons that, you know, you can, you can take the accessi, the accessibility argument is a really, really powerful argument to make to clients in terms of why a design is the way that it is.
You know why it has to be readable, why it has to be high contrast, why it has to be easy to scan all of those kinds of things. Now, of course your problem there is that there are a lot of clients that go, well, we don't care about accessibility, blind to people don’t use our website.
So that's where you need to get into the subject. And why I generally don't talk about accessibility. I talk about inclusive design is the phrase that I prefer.
[00:16:08] Todd: Yeah.
[00:16:08] Paul: And I talk about situational disability. Oh, I see. So, you don't want anybody that, that you know, an elderly audience you're not interested in anybody over 45 then?
Oh no, no, we are. Yeah, but your vision starts going at that point. Right? You know, and then you say things like oh, you're not interested in people that don't speak English as their first language. Oh no, no, no, I am. Oh, well then you want to watch your reading late age and make sure your text is clear, right?
[00:16:36] Todd: Yeah.
[00:16:36] Paul: So, accessibility can actually be a tool in delivering good design in terms of your arguments with clients.
[00:16:43] Todd: Yeah.
[00:16:43] Paul: Not that I'm just a manipulative bastard that basically manipulates clients into doing what I want 'em to do, but, but it helps.
[00:16:52] Todd: Yeah, yeah. So. I've, I've talked about this a lot with people that have come on and I'll share this with you.
I don't know if I've shared this with you before in, in one of the zoom calls we've been on. But I had a stakeholder who said we don't have disabled users that use our product. Cause that was when I was working for a company that had a SASS product.
[00:17:16] Paul: Right.
[00:17:17] Todd: And the public facing website. And I'm like, but you're wearing eyeglasses. Those are an assistive technology.
[00:17:25] Paul: Yeah.
[00:17:25] Todd: It took about two or three more meetings with him to, to shed some light on it. And they were like, okay, well go ahead and take the ball and go with it.
[00:17:34] Paul: My best ever example of that was when, when we worked at Headscape.
[00:17:40] Todd: Okay
[00:17:40] Paul: We had this really, really talented designer. He still is at Headscape, and he is still very talented. That's the agency I used to, to run.
[00:17:47] Todd: Yep.
[00:17:47] Paul: He's a, he's a bit older now and a bit wiser, but when we started working with him, he's quite a young guy he's early 20 something like that. He was incredibly talented designer, but he, he was a very subtle designer. Right?
[00:18:02] Todd: Okay.
[00:18:02] Paul: Everything was, you know, shades of gray and very elegant. Beautiful, but totally inaccessible right. And I would let him get away with a certain amount of it, but there was one project in particular where we were designing websites for elderly, for an elderly audience.
Right. And it was like, hang on a minute, this, this is you've gotta make it accessible. You've gotta make it really bold. You've gotta make it obvious, easy to read. And I got, and it was this constant battle with him. And then one day I said, right, that's it. I went over to my coat, it’s the middle of winter.
I got out my big pair of thick gloves. I said, put those gloves on. Right? So, he put the gloves on. I then took off my glasses cause I'm shortsighted and gave them to 'em and say, wear those right. Now use your website. And, and of course he couldn't cause he couldn't see it. He couldn't use the mouse properly.
And I say, well, that is what it's like for your elderly audience. They have arthritis, they have poor vision and you're expecting them to use that design. And, and it was this light bulb moment in him, obviously grumbled and moaned about it. And so, cause nobody ever likes submitting they're wrong, but it did, it did then lead to a change in his behavior.
So, I think it, it is very hard for quite a lot of people to put themselves in the position of others. And to imagine what that experience is like, and, and that combined with the fact that when you say disabled or accessibility, it has suddenly everybody has a very narrow view of what that is. And it can be a recipe for disaster in a lot of situations.
So, you need to broad and people's definitions now.
[00:19:45] Todd: Yeah, definitely. And I've been using inclusive design a lot more in my vocabulary too. And cause I've really taken the, the whole accessibility thing to another level, as far as personally, in, in with projects for the past, like maybe five years plus because of family members I know, and friends I know and pretty much, you know, move that to everybody, you know.
[00:20:24] Paul: Yeah.
[00:20:24] Todd: Make everything inclusive. Don't leave anybody out, even if it's like, if you're in a rural area and you have a 3g network, you know.
[00:20:33] Paul: Yeah.
[00:20:33] Todd: That's still accessibility. So, I got now the tweet here and I like this one, cause it reminds me of an old project I used to work on
[00:20:41] Paul: Okay.
[00:20:41] Todd: Which I'm pretty sure you've heard me grumble about in, in one of our zoom calls
[00:20:46] Paul: Probably. Yeah.
[00:20:47] Todd: It says internet design is almost universally terrible. This is costing companies and productivity training and even it in customer experience. Fortunately, we can fix this.
[00:20:59] Paul: Yep.
[00:21:00] Todd: One. Okay, let me start off with this. So, the, the, the thing I talk about was it was a 15 year old product and the, the design was something out of, of maybe windows one or three or two, maybe
[00:21:24] Paul: Yeah.
[00:21:24] Todd: So, and it was what I think it was like 20, 2018 or 2019 when I started in, on that project. So can you go into, you know, the intranet design is almost universally terrible, cause it is.
[00:21:42] Paul: It, It It’s not internet, is it? It’s intranet.
[00:21:44] Todd: Intra, intranet, yes.
[00:21:46] Paul: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it is it is what happens, you see where you part you've gotta think about where, where intranets are held within most organizations and mostly, they're held within IT departments.
It's the IT department that's responsible for the intranet and, and immediately that's a problem because what essentially IT departments do is they, they create platforms. They provide platforms and often they buy in those platforms. So, they what they end up doing when it comes, we need an intranet.
They end up going out and looking at well, what intranet software there is that, oh, SharePoint comes with Microsoft, and we're already signed up for Microsoft. We just install that. And then it turns into this wild west where people just dump anything. Right. And so, you end up with these, these systems that A were not fit for purpose to begin with because they're generic products rather than tailored to the specific needs of the organization.
B they're not usually configured very. Well, because oftentimes they're just launched in their default configuration because nobody knows to do it any other differently. And C then people are dumping content into them completely randomly. And so, it, you know, there's, there's no hierarchy. There's no find the findability on these things is terrible.
So, you have poor usability, you have poor findability, often poor readability on them, let alone poor accessibility. So, so you end up with all of these problems now, and then what happens is everybody comes to hate that platform.
[00:23:24] Todd: Yeah.
[00:23:24] Paul: Right. So, what they do instead is they ignore the platform, largely abandoning it, and then they use things like Google docs or notion or other tools to work around that, that has limitations.
So, from an organizational point of view, that that is just bad business and its bad business because A they've invested a lot of money in buying the platform to begin with. B there's, another capital investment in, in the team rolling it out. Okay. Then there is the, the countless lost hours of people trying to use the intranet and failing.
And in addition, then there, there you've got people starting to put content elsewhere, no joined up system, nobody working, you know, in a kind of any coordinated fashion. And on top of that, probably you've got GD power issues. You've got you know, data protection issues as content just gets spread all over these various other platforms.
So, it's a nightmare from beginning to end, just a really bad process that undermines productivity, undermines efficiency. And then of course often leads to a bad customer experience because what you often happens is, you know, I mean, how many times have you called some call center somewhere? And they go, oh, our system's been really slow today, you know, or, or the, the one that, that drives me particularly nuts.
And my wife is so sick of me doing this, you know, when you go into a restaurant and they've got some iPad or, you know, inter to, to enter the food and they're standing there tapping away for ages, right?
[00:24:59] Todd: Yeah.
[00:25:00] Paul: You know, I'm going only ask for a burger and chip. She could have written it down on a bit of paper and taken it to the kitchen by now, you know.
[00:25:06] Todd: Yeah.
[00:25:06] Paul: So, and those things add up. I worked it out in Pizza express that we have over here. Right. Which is one restaurant. I timed I'm so childish. I timed how, how, how long she was spending. Cause we go to Pizza Express quite a lot. How long she spent at table, right. Taking an order and I then worked out, I made guesstimate about how many tables they had in the restaurant, the, the number of orders they take a day, and I extrapolated out across the number.
I then came back and looked up the number of restaurants they have around the country and around the world. And it was costing them millions a year in lost productivity, simply because no designer had ever looked at that app. It, it obviously either was off the shelf or it was designed by techies.
And you see this all the time
[00:25:58] Todd: Yeah.
[00:25:58] Paul: and it just drives me nuts.
[00:26:01] Todd: Yeah, yeah. I, because so when I look at something and it's, I, I can't think of a recent example, but I know that it just, it turns me off and I'm gone.
[00:26:15] Paul: Yeah.
[00:26:15] Todd: It's kinda like, you know, it's kinda the old, you know, wait three seconds or whatever, six seconds for the website to load. If it doesn't, I'm gone kind of that kind of deal,
[00:26:26] Paul: But it's a little bit, the, the internal logic in these companies is, well, they have to use it, they’re employees.
[00:26:33] Todd: Right.
[00:26:33] Paul: Right?
[00:26:34] Todd: Yeah.
[00:26:35] Paul: That's the big difference people will spend money on, on, on customer facing stuff because they know that people will just give up and leave. Right?
But they, they will put their staff through shit. Right?
[00:26:46] Todd: Right. Yeah.
[00:26:48] Paul: But, but the result of that is they have to employ more staff because they're not optimizing the systems right. And also, if you take that, that Pizza Express example, I had to sit there, right?
[00:27:01] Todd: Yeah.
[00:27:01] Paul: While this woman is tapping away.
And so that creates a bad experience for me as a customer.
[00:27:07] Todd: Yeah.
[00:27:07] Paul: Because she's just standing there hovering. And there's this kind of awkward silence
[00:27:11] Todd: Yeah.
[00:27:11] Paul: While she's doing the, the, the order and call centers are another great example.
[00:27:16] Todd: Yeah.
[00:27:16] Paul: You know, you get pissed off. Think the other thing is, is joined the lack of joined up systems, you know, where you enter a load of data into a form online, you submit it and it says, call us up.
Because there's some problem with your already call them up and they ask you all the same questions you've just answered in the blooming form. You know, there's no linked up there. So, so even backend systems have a big impact on the customer experience, even if they're not customer facing directly.
[00:27:45] Todd: Yeah. So, I guess my example is not a good example. Okay. So, here's an example that I go back to this one product that I was working on and it, you, you used to go in and have to look at numbers. There was a lot of numbers. And I don't want to, I don't wanna say too much. It was a financial SASS application.
[00:28:11] Paul: Yeah.
[00:28:15] Todd: So, you had to go in and, you know, look at the numbers, numbers matched up, you could submit the, the thing and the, the, the product would take care of the rest.
[00:28:28] Paul: Yeah.
[00:28:28] Todd: Some, and I figured out that in the number of clicks and there was five clicks or five or six clicks to make, to do the process like it was supposed to be done.
If the, the UI and the UX were worked out a lot better than it was, it could take two to three.
[00:28:53] Paul: Yeah.
[00:28:54] Todd: So, I guess I, I, you know, you say that, you know, what, what you just spoke of and I, and it takes me back to, I, I wonder how many hours I lost.
[00:29:05] Paul: Yeah.
[00:29:06] Todd: In that, in that product.
[00:29:08] Paul: Yeah.
[00:29:09] Todd: Just, you know, extra clicks and clicking around and, and, and doing that.
[00:29:14] Paul: Yeah. And nobody considers that, you know? And, and of course it's not just the lost productivity hours of the users that are using whatever the system is. It's also to be oftentimes that lost capital investment in a substandard product that everybody eventually abandons. I mean, intranets are famously where content goes to die.
You know, it it's like the elephant graveyard of organizational structures. Everybody dumps on the intranet and then says, and then ignores it, you know,
[00:29:46] Todd: Yeah.
[00:29:46] Paul: because they're badly designed.
[00:29:48] Todd: Yeah. So, here's one that I'm looking, how I'm looking at.
[00:29:56] Paul: This, you make me really nervous, Todd. You're looking at my tweets and laughing. I'm afraid what's gonna come out next.
[00:30:03] Todd: No, it's, it's because these ones that I'm looking at that I have been looking at and this one that I'm looking at, it's just, it, it makes me think of this one place where I worked
[00:30:15] Paul: Right
[00:30:15] Todd: that it was just, if this had been something that were implemented or known or whatever, then it would've been so much easier cause I worked there for five years and it seemed to be you know, the honeymoon was over after a year
[00:30:33] Paul: Yeah.
[00:30:34] Todd: And, and, and then, you know, but if you are repeating the same arguments, write a policy.
[00:30:40] Paul: Yes.
[00:30:40] Todd: People accept policies because they aren't personal.
[00:30:44] Paul: Yes.
[00:30:45] Todd: Can you go into that one?
[00:30:48] Paul: Yeah, a little bit of psychology going on there. So, this is one that comes that I use quite a lot. Right? Let's say. You wanna remove a load of content from your, from a website because it, you know, it's become too overwhelming. There's too much going on. People can't find things that really matter because of all the rest.
If you say to someone, I wanna remove your content, they'll flip the hell out, right?
[00:31:20] Todd: Yeah.
[00:31:21] Paul: Because even if they even, they've not looked at that content or paid attention to it, in ages. You're essentially saying what you produced is no good, right?
[00:31:31] Todd: Yeah.
[00:31:31] Paul: So, it's a criticism of them personally. Okay.
However, if you say we've, we've got a policy that says if content doesn't gets less than this amount of traffic hasn't been updated in this length of time and whatever else you want to make up rule wise, then the page is retired and you say to the same person are you happy with this policy?
Then they'll say, yes. Right? Because it's abstract. It's not about their, they probably won't even realize that it means their bit of content's gonna go away to be honest. But even if they do, it's a fair rule, that's being applied to everyone rather than them being in them being kind of picked out of the crowd and said, your content in particular is shit, you know?
[00:32:25] Todd: Right.
[00:32:25] Paul: It's saying, you know, content doesn't meet this requirement, whoever produced it. It we're gonna, we're gonna get rid of. And I do that all the time. Because it, it provides a much more impartial way of, of for setting stuff. And it's being assessed on a clear set of criteria rather than just my opinion that something should be removed.
So yeah, it's a really, really powerful tool.
[00:32:54] Todd: Yeah.
[00:32:54] Paul: And it also, the other thing is it focuses people on the right stuff. So, it gets them thinking about. The, the criteria that makes a, a, a good piece of content in that particular case, right?
[00:33:08] Todd: Yeah.
[00:33:09] Paul: So, it makes them, for example, start thinking about how can I make this more useful to users.
So, more people view this page, you know, so it, it kind of nudges them in the right direction at the same time.
[00:33:22] Todd: Definitely. So, I'm gonna stop going through your tweets now.
[00:33:26] Paul: Thank goodness for that.
[00:33:29] Todd: But, but I, I, I do want to ask is so at one point in, I think, you know, it, I think it was, I, I had mentioned something about this in the, in the slack chan and the slack group that, that you, that you run.
I was thinking of pivoting from where I was at the time to UX.
[00:33:54] Paul: Yeah.
[00:33:55] Todd: And then to make short and sweet things fell into place for me. And I was I'm at where I'm at now. How, let me, let me try to word this question correctly. How would you, or what would you say to somebody who is looking to be in the field of UX or, you know, looking to be a UX designer or, you know, in that, in that space, moving from somewhere else or just starting out?
[00:34:33] Paul: Oh, that's a really good question. It see to, to some extent it depends on what you define as user experience. Sorry to, to pick at the question.
[00:34:44] Todd: No
[00:34:44] Paul: But a lot of people use UI and UX interchangeably. Well, I don't. So, I am not a UI designer. I could never produce a, an interface that is as good as a full-time UI designer.
A UX, in my opinion is any point of interaction that impacts the customer experience through digital channels. Right?
[00:35:10] Todd: Yes, yep
[00:35:10] Paul: So, so, you know, I'm as interested in email marketing as I am in the website. Right. I'm as interested in paper click as I am the website. So, so there are all these different facets to it.
So, if you are gonna define user experience in those terms, then I think the secret to it is well, it's kind of two secrets. Really. One is, is obviously nurturing your empathy. Is incredibly important. Your understanding of user needs, in fact, thought of a third now your understanding of users and the challenges you face and, and the mental place that they are, you know, the lack of attention that they're giving to what they you are doing.
The second thing is to be, have a broad set of interests, be interested in a lot of different topics. So, you know, I pay, you know, interest in everything from, from latest front end dev techniques through to digital marketing, through to psychology, or, you know, through to conversion rate optimization, et cetera, et cetera.
So, so I think you've gotta be very broad as a UX designer and not very deep, if that makes sense. And then the third element is you've really got to nurture your soft skills. So, because I can't deliver anything by myself. Right?
[00:36:31] Todd: Right.
[00:36:32] Paul: Well, I co could, but I'm very, I never get the opportunity to, so, you know, I've always got to work with a marketing person or a developer or a designer or whoever else.
And that empathy that I talked about earlier, doesn't just extend your users. It also extends your colleagues, the people, you know, what developers need out the process for what designer needs outta the process, what a marketer needs out there, you know, understanding all these different people, being able to work effectively with them to kind of nudge them in the right direction.
And a lot of the stuff that I talk about isn't about. How to use Figma, right? Because there's hundreds of places that you can learn that learning Figma takes a couple of hours, right. To get up and running. That's easy, right? It's not even about what CSS, you know, framework to use again.
[00:37:21] Todd: Right.
[00:37:22] Paul: CSS, HTML, that's easy. The difficult parts are the human interactions, the soft skills. And that is always what you need to focus on, I'm afraid.
[00:37:31] Todd: Yeah. So, getting we're getting, I think we're getting to the point where we're up on time, aren’t we? I
[00:37:42] Paul: I've been paying no attention to the time whatsoever. That story of my life. No, we're we've, we've done about, I reckon about 45 or
[00:37:52] Todd: 45
[00:37:53] Paul: 35, 40 minutes.
[00:37:54] Todd: 35, 40 minutes? Okay. We, we still got a little bit of time then. So,
[00:38:00] Paul: Oh no, cause we started early.
[00:38:03] Todd: We did.
[00:38:03] Paul: We started early. So yeah, it's probably more like 45, 50 minutes he said pulling it outta his ass.
[00:38:11] Todd: You know, I, I did an episode yesterday and it was probably right on right around the hour mark. And it seemed like it was just five minutes long. So
[00:38:22] Paul: Yeah.
[00:38:22] Todd: Time, time is nothing now it really is.
[00:38:26] Paul: Hold on I like, I like your presumption that, oh, we must be nearly done with the hour by now. So, with me, right. The other one flew by with me seems like it's been going on forever. I'm hurt Todd.
[00:38:41] Todd: No, that's not why. It's always a pleasure to talk with you, Paul. Always a pleasure. So, let's, I guess we can go into the last three questions that I usually ask everybody.
[00:38:52] Paul: Sure
[00:38:52] Todd: So,
[00:38:53] Paul: Yeah.
[00:38:53] Todd: You know, we can go into a little bit of detail here. What about the web these days excites you and keeps you excited in what you do, and you know, that can pertain to, you know, doesn't have to be the web, I guess.
[00:39:10] Paul: What keeps me excited? Can I be honest about that?
[00:39:15] Todd: Yeah, yeah.
[00:39:16] Paul: Rather than giving some pat answer.
[00:39:18] Todd: Yeah
[00:39:20] Paul: The web excites me less now than it ever has. And I think that's for two reasons. Well, I notice, I think that the industry has matured a lot, right. There are, it's not the wild west that once it was where we were making shit up as we went along.
[00:39:37] Todd: Yeah
[00:39:37] Paul: And I'm somebody that, that thrives off of yeah, new and, and exciting stuff. And it, it is moving at a slower pace.
I'm not saying it's not innovating. Of course, it is, but not quite the pace it was. And I think the second element is because I've been doing this career for so long That I, I come across new situations less and less these days. Right.
[00:40:02] Todd: Yeah
[00:40:03] Paul: So, you feel like you're rehashing a lot of the old same ground and that's fine, you know?
And I think that's a natural evolution of both an industry and a career. So, what excites me most now is, is, is not talking so much about the technologies or design patterns or, or systems and stuff like that. But, but about those kind of human interactions, those relationships in both running a project and, and, and how to get the most out the design project and how to do that kind of stuff.
And then also how technology in the web can, can speak to and connect with people, you know, with, with users that are using platforms. So, so I think now it's less about the technology and more about people and, and how we respond to technology and how we respond to integrating it into our businesses and also as consumers as well.
So yeah, it's kind of shifted a little bit. But it is always gonna be an interesting area because ultimately, it's all about people and people are always interesting well, they are to me anyway.
[00:41:20] Todd: Yeah, yeah. And I should have prefaced these three questions with I've had a wide range of answers and I've you know, thought that all the answers were great and it, they, these the kind of answers I take from the conversation with me afterwards and, and I think about them.
So, here's the second one. If there are one thing that you could change about the web that we know today, what would that be? Now I've had Mike Montero on.
[00:41:55] Paul: Yeah
[00:41:55] Todd: So, if that's any indication.
[00:41:58] Paul: I'm sure he wanted to change quite a lot. So, I'm to the reason I paused is I'm torn between two things.
[00:42:06] Todd: Okay
[00:42:07] Paul: I, you remember I mentioned my dissertation at the beginning.
[00:42:10] Todd: Yep
[00:42:11] Paul: And I, I, it makes me seriously sad sometimes to think back to that dissertation and the hope and enthusiasm I had for the web back then.
[00:42:20] Todd: Yeah
[00:42:21] Paul: And the, the two visions that I had for the web was one that it would be accessible to all. Which it’s not.
[00:42:32] Todd: Right
[00:42:33] Paul: And so that, that would be one area that, that, that I would like to change which obviously resonates with you and, and your own views on this subject.
[00:42:43] Todd: Yeah
[00:42:43] Paul: But, and, and then I think the other one, I had a real hope that it would bring people together when it actually seems to have done the complete opposite.
In my head I was thinking, what, if you can build relationships with people in Iraq and China and all of these other cause the world was divided by geography back then, you know, the, those Arab people. They were evil. You know, those Russians, they were evil, you know, the communists, they were evil and, and the web gave us an opportunity to meet these people and know they're just people like us.
And that really excited me, and I thought, wow, the web's gonna be amazing because the web is gonna destroy all national barriers and all boundaries, and we're all gonna come together and we're gonna realize that we're all part of the same human race. That didn't work out, did it?
[00:43:38] Todd: No
[00:43:38] Paul: All we've done is shift the dividing lines. So, so maybe, yeah, we are friends with people in, in Australia or New Zealand or, or America, or, or China or wherever else, but we're now divided along ideological lines or, you know, the, the algorithm and, you know, and how, how that has shifted things.
So that is the other thing that, that I would change how you change it. Right? The accessibility one is relatively easy, you know? Yes. We can make the web accessible. There's, there's no barrier stopping that other than I don't even know what really, other than ignorance perhaps.
[00:44:17] Todd: Yeah
[00:44:17] Paul: Is the only barrier there, you know, it's not even a monetary thing.
[00:44:21] Todd: Yeah
[00:44:21] Paul: So, so that one's relatively easy to solve. The other one is massively complicated, and I wouldn't have a clue, you know, because perhaps at the end of the day, you are fighting fundamental human nature and our tribalism that effectively, we're still very tribal.
[00:44:36] Todd: Yeah
[00:44:36] Paul: And whether we make those tribes around geography or viewpoints or whatever else, you know, it's there. So perhaps that isn't the Internet's problem. That's humanity's problem, which is a whole other podcast.
[00:44:51] Todd: Yes. And one I won't be hosting.
[00:44:54] Paul: Yeah, exactly. Keep it well outta that one.
[00:44:57] Todd: Cause that's what thinking back to when I first, you know, went online and, you know, put that America online CD. I always got in the mail in the, in the CD player, my IBM computer.
[00:45:13] Paul: Yeah.
[00:45:13] Todd: And, you know, was talking to people. I found that fascinating. And now it's just like, you look at Twitter some days and go, nope. And you turn it right off.
[00:45:23] Paul: Yeah.
[00:45:23] Todd: Or I do anyway, you know?
[00:45:25] Paul: Yeah.
[00:45:26] Todd: There is, yeah, it's just it's, it's it
[00:45:30] Paul: It was so, there was a real hope and connection in those early days.
[00:45:35] Todd: Yeah
[00:45:35] Paul: One of the, one of the first ever virtual communities, right.
The first ever plate, one of the first places beyond just document repository was a community called The Well.
[00:45:47] Todd: Yeah
[00:45:47] Paul: That I was lucky enough to be, be a part of, at least on the edges of and, and there was, I, I cannot remember one argument on there. right? It was everyone. Now of course, at that time, it was only a very small sliver of society that was actually on the internet.
[00:46:08] Todd: Yeah
[00:46:08] Paul: And I think that's a part of it as well. We were our own little bubble back then because only a certain group of people were ever online.
[00:46:17] Todd: Yeah
[00:46:17] Paul: So, I think as, as the web come more inclusive as draw more of society in that's where the conflicts come from. So, you can't really solve that.
[00:46:28] Todd: Yeah
[00:46:28] Paul: Because what you're effectively doing is taking a massively diverse group of people with lots of different viewpoints and backgrounds and putting 'em all in a room together and then being surprised when they argue.
[00:46:40] Todd: Yeah
[00:46:40] Paul: Well, it's, you know, and it's very easy just to go, oh, and it's all social media's fault and it's all Facebook's fault and Twitter don't get me wrong. I absolutely think it is their fault to a large degree, but I do think there are some underlying problems there that can't be magically solved by changing the algorithm and banning inaccurate information, you know?
[00:47:02] Todd: Yeah, definitely. So, my last question is your favorite part of front end of development or design that you like to nerd out over, and that could go, you know, into, you can even say your newsletter, you know
[00:47:18] Paul: Yeah
[00:47:18] Todd: Anything really
[00:47:18] Paul: The, the, the thing that I nerd out most about is, is probably psychology and behavioral science.
[00:47:27] Todd: Yeah
[00:47:27] Paul: Just the, because people weird, we are weird.
Right. You, you really, when you dig into it, you see what a mismatch of, of, of like, you know, on one hand, we're very logical and very, you know, cognitive and intelligent all the rest of it. And then in the other hand, we're, we're basically animals.
[00:47:46] Todd: Yeah
[00:47:46] Paul: We, you know, or even worse than that, just biological machines.
So that just do random shit.
[00:47:53] Todd: Yeah
[00:47:53] Paul: It's just fascinating.
[00:47:54] Todd: Yeah
[00:47:54] Paul: And, and particularly around areas like cognitive load, I love the subject of cognitive load. And if, if, if anybody listening to this has not come across the invisible gorilla experiment, just or visible monkey. Type into YouTube, invisible monkey, invisible griller and, and watch it and you'll immediately realize how blooming useless we are as a hu humans, how we have such low capability to process information.
But on the other hand, we're, we're remarkable in what we can do and process.
[00:48:28] Todd: Yeah
[00:48:28] Paul: But it can fall down very quickly when you start asking people to do too much on a website, doesn't take a lot for us to become gibbering heaps and, and, you know, unable to do the most basic of things.
[00:48:41] Todd: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Yeah. So, when I go on to a site for instance, and it's just too much,
[00:48:48] Paul: Yeah
[00:48:48] Todd: I turn into one of those heaps.
[00:48:51] Paul: Yeah, but it what's really interesting to me is that what is too much will vary from day to day, right?
[00:48:58] Todd: Yes
[00:48:58] Paul: Because our cognitive think of it as a bucket of, of crap we can deal with. Right.
[00:49:04] Todd: Yeah
[00:49:04] Paul: Some days we sit down in front of our computer and the bucket's empty. There's nothing in it. And so, we could deal with quite bad or quite a complex website.
Other times we've had a bad night's sleep, you know, had a rubbish commute to work, had an argument with someone. And so, our bucket is almost full before we even sit down and that's not taking into account one of the best, one of the best usability test sessions I ever did.
Was I went and instead of normally when we do usability testing, we, we bring people to us. Don't we and sit them down in office. It's all we do it remotely. But this one particular time I went to the participants, and I went into their houses. And so, I went to this one woman's house, and she was a total cat person.
She had like nine cats or something ridiculous. And every surface was covered with cat memorabilia. And so, we sat down to the usability testing and there were numerous things that insured, she would not succeed at any usability test that I ran. First of all, she had so many knickknacks and clutter and, and little porcelain cats and stuff on her desk that she had probably, I don't know, a, a, a, a tiny space to move her mouse in.
So, she was like, kind of having to move her mouse slightly, pick it up, move it, pick it up, move it. So, she couldn't even navigate the website properly. Then she had post-it notes stuck on, on the, on, around the screen of the monitor that actually covered up some of the usability element.
Some of the user interface elements. So, it's like, well, you're not gonna see those, are you? But the real killer, the thing that really stopped her from succeeding in the task is the minute she sat down, a cat jumped on her lap, and she spent the whole of the usability test juggling the cat. So, half of her cognitive load, half of her bucket was full with dealing with this cat.
Now replace that cat with a toddler or, you know, or you're on a train or you're, you know, doing you're out in a public place or anything else.
[00:51:05] Todd: Yeah
[00:51:05] Paul: We, you know, we think that everybody uses our website is giving it our full attention and we're just not, you know, it doesn't work like that.
[00:51:13] Todd: Yeah. Yeah. I, I always think it's that we, we have, what is it?
The less of a span of attention than a goldfish was.
[00:51:26] Paul: Yeah.
[00:51:26] Todd: I can't even remember where I read that.
[00:51:27] Paul: There was, yeah, there was a study done. I think it was Microsoft that did the study. I can't remember.
[00:51:34] Todd: Yeah
[00:51:34] Paul: That basically. We, we will, we, we will spend about eight seconds assessing a website and deciding whether to stay on it or not.
Right. It was a time magazine article written on it. I, I can't remember exactly where it is now, but and so if the website doesn't grab our attention in eight seconds, then we wander off. We lose interest. Right. And actually, and there was other research done. I think it was by a group in Canada. Again, don't quote me on this.
It was on the BBC website that actually we will make an assessment about a website. So, we will decide our initial reaction in 50 milliseconds. It takes longer to blink
[00:52:15] Todd: Yeah
[00:52:15] Paul: than, than it does for us to go. Oh no, this is shit site.
[00:52:19] Todd: Yeah, wow.
[00:52:21] Paul: Which is terrifying. Really.
[00:52:25] Todd: Yeah, it is. Well, I think we're down on time, so I don't know that time thing again, but anyways.
[00:52:34] Paul: Yeah
[00:52:34] Todd: I don't have any more questions for you.
[00:52:35] Paul: Oh, that's good.
[00:52:37] Todd: And I'm, you know, I've, I've
[00:52:39] Paul: No more tweets.
[00:52:41] Todd: No more tweets.
[00:52:41] Paul: Oh, thank goodness.
[00:52:44] Todd: So, I'd like to close out the podcast with my guests letting the listeners know what they currently have going on and where pe, pe yeah. That English thing where people can find you online. So, the floor is yours.
[00:52:57] Paul: Yeah. I mean, so, so I, I, you know, do podcasts. I do courses. I do books. I do blogging. I do newsletters. All of that. You can find B O A G world dot com.
However, I've taken a bit of a liberty and if you go to You will actually you can sign up for my newsletter there, which is what as you've already gathered the thing, I'm most passionate about.
And you'll get free copy of my book, User Experience Revolution.
[00:53:34] Todd: Nice
[00:53:34] Paul: Which I think, you know, when I was talking about, you know, persuading people, working with stakeholders, getting people to care about user experience, that's, what's covered in that, in that particular book. So, it might be worth checking that out.
So, it's, what did I say? No, I messed up completely, didn't I?
[00:53:59] Todd: Yes
[00:53:59] Paul: You could always unsubscribe if you don't like the newsletter and just keep the book.
[00:54:05] Todd: No, the newsletter is great. I, I recommend it to people all the time, so yeah. Whether they listen to me, that's another story, so,
[00:54:14] Paul: Well, we all, we all feel that pain.
[00:54:19] Todd: I, Paul, thank you very much for spending your afternoon. It's afternoon there. Thank you for spending your afternoon with me taking the time out of your day to you know, sit down and chat. I really appreciate it. And it was great, great to talk to you.
[00:54:34] Paul: Anytime you're more than welcome. Thank you very much for inviting me, Todd, and best of luck with the show.
[00:54:38] Todd: Yeah. Thank you. And thank you listeners for tuning into the Front End Nerdery Podcast. I'll be back next time with a new guest, new conversation about front end design, development and other topics. So, if you would please rate this podcast on your podcast device of choice, like, subscribe and watch on the Front End Nerdery YouTube channel. Links to transcripts and show notes there because I try to make this podcast as accessible as I can to everybody.
And I'm Todd Libby, and this has been the Front End Nerdery Podcast. Thanks. And we'll see you next time.