Category Archives: Technology

5 Resources to Help You Learn UX

Here are five helpful resources about UX (user experience) design and copywriting. These are a great place for a beginner to start. If you’re already in marketing, you’re probably less of a beginner than you may think, if you’ve been paying attention. Pay attention all the time, especially when you’re the user. You know what feels good. Start to ask why that site is easy to use, and look for patterns. Screenshot landing pages and exit overlays that work or shopping carts that usher you along the purchase path. Research the design process of products that make everyday life easier.

Chemex coffeemaker
Chemex coffeemaker – flawless blending of design and function. Photo credit: Karl Fredrickson

The classic paperback rhetoric for writers, some copywriting tips, and these podcasts about design should prove informative for designers and marketers of various levels:

  1. Simple and Direct by Jacques Barzun. In high school, my dad gave me this book to help me write more concisely, and I’ve kept the same copy at my desk ever since. It’s very University of Chicago, and it’s worth reviewing every couple years, especially if you write copy that users or customers are forced to read. Simplify.
    “Principle 1. Have a point and make it by means of the best word.”
  2. Design for the Human Brain
    UX and UI design tips based on how our brains process information. Cognitive psychology is paramount to user centered design. Reduce cognitive load.
  3. 10 UX Copywriting Tips for Designers
    John Williams gets copywriting and design. “Be ruthless with your copy.” Cut cut cut.
  4. 3 Fundamental User Onboarding Lessons from Classic Nintendo Games
    How to create good onboarding flow and inspire users to progress. Place emphasis on the naive user and value of external testing. Tetris “presents a world of perpetual uncompleted tasks” which stick in your memory, bugging your brain to finish. It’s the best example of the Zeigarnik Effect, or the “need to complete.”
  5. 14 Design Podcasts to Put in Your Ears
    99% Invisible, Design Matters, and more. Tip: I like to listen to podcasts with the free Stitcher app. It gets smarter with use.

Technology Means Fair Play – Parking Apps

By the end of 2016, all parking meters in New York City will accept payment via mobile app. New York isn’t the first city to offer mobile parking meter payment (joining Boston, Fort Worth, Seattle, SLC, and others) and it won’t be the last. Interesting: unused parking meter money will be refunded to users. This is one of very few situations in which the government would volunteer to forfeit funds already in their possession. Historically, they may have kept monies in similar cases of overpayment to increase revenue or more likely to avoid the cost of processing more paperwork. Losses in annual revenue due to the refund feature are expected to be nominal, so it’s likely the latter.

New York City street with cars and taxis
Photo by Jon Ottosson

When technology makes transactions more seamless, it’s harder for either party not to play fair.

As the cloud replaces paper and user generated content competes with traditional journalism for greater media share of voice, policies that have served vendors and governments will give way to ones that serve users. Revenues from happy customers and their repeat purchases will characterize businesses that survive, rather than policies that hurt users but previously were not fought due to acceptance and a lower tech status quo.

Fine print, one-sided policies, and rigid contracts will go the way of the horse drawn carriage (and probably soon, the taxi). Keep an eye on companies like T-Mobile and Spirit Airlines. They put customers in control by foregoing required contracts, forced add-ons (e.g., paying for bags and peanuts), and in general offer more a la carte products. “We’ve never done it that way” and “our system wouldn’t support that” won’t be able to compete.

How to Manage LinkedIn Privacy Settings – Remove Imported Contacts

You may have unknowingly granted LinkedIn access to hundreds of your contacts and emails. The confusing privacy policy and slippery UI make it difficult to tell how much data you’re sharing (probably a lot more than you realize).

crowd of people walking down busy city street
LinkedIn’s methods for gathering data from its over 450 million* registered users are shrouded. Usually, they don’t ask permission, they just uncheck new Privacy Controls for you. It’s no wonder they’ve faced numerous lawsuits.

LinkedIn seems to know everyone you’ve ever emailed: The People You May Know feature seems to make predictions based on information you’ve never knowingly transmitted. Before I explain how this works, here’s a quick fix:

How to remove your imported contacts from LinkedIn:

Go to Connections -> Add Connections -> Manage imported contacts (top right of page) -> click “select all” and delete all

Linkedin how to manage imported contacts(This is easiest to do on desktop: forget performing half the functions you want to on the iPhone app.)

How LinkedIn is seemingly psychic about people you may know

  1. Other users’ actions: This algorithm is their secret sauce. LinkedIn analyzes other users’ searches and viewing histories to make assumptions about people you may know. I.e., if Sheryl and Dean searched for both you and Tony, then you and Tony may know each other. Multiply this across many users. The result is an algorithm that predicts your likely contacts without ever accessing your actual contacts. You may see recommendations to connect with someone who has the same name as someone you know, but is a totally different person.
  2. Your contacts: You may have granted LinkedIn access to your contacts, which often happens inadvertently by using the app. “Inadvertent” is the keyword for most privacy issues with LinkedIn, because its strategy hinges upon 1) the fact that most users don’t read fine print and 2) that its UI, especially on mobile, effectively shuffles users along a permission-granting bender.

    LinkedIn app import contacts screen UI
    Strategically designed buttons and CTAs usher users along a permission-granting path
  3. Your login: When logged in, even if you close the tab, LinkedIn has access to any activity you take on a site with a LinkedIn plugin or authentication that you’ve granted. To avoid this tracking, log out of LinkedIn whenever you’re done with your business.

I began researching this because I noticed that LinkedIn seemed to have access to hundreds of my old email contacts. Continue reading How to Manage LinkedIn Privacy Settings – Remove Imported Contacts

Multitasking Rots Your Brains

Playing online chess is like trying to get Wii Tennis to suffice for real tennis. You simply can’t digitally recreate the palpable exchange of energy with a live opponent in chess or tennis, as much as a shared physical space only seems a requisite for the sport and not the Eternal Game. (Give it time though… complete virtual reality sports with remote opponents will be quotidian soon enough.)

Beautiful female robot with computer mouseThe simulacra of social interactions that we enjoy online are stunting real relational and conversational skills.

I touched on this in Episode 25 of The Digital Dive Podcast (see 12-minute mark). We thrive off social interaction. Each transaction — from exchanging a greeting in an elevator to chatting at a coffee shop to flipping the bird in a fit of road rage, is a little rally, a serve, a distracted miss. The physiological feedback we get from connecting through technology (social media in particular) creates an addictive dopamine reward system in the brain.

We are bathing in these transactions, but they’re not happening in proximity to our bodies. So exactly what true energy are we processing? Tech addiction (i.e., checking habits) can cause a host of problems, including a loss of normal socialization skills. Something is lost when relational transactions occur primarily digitally. We’re breathing ether. I’ve tried to tweet a smell, it’s getting so bad.

Multitasking is Just Stuff

We should not assume that the quantity of available matches, so to speak, makes up for lost quality. You can’t multitask while playing chess or tennis. Finishing a live game satisfies a deep need for connection, competition, and stimulation. In play, we’re exchanging raw energy, we’re focused and mindful. You cannot be in positive psychology’s beloved zone (feeling flow) while watching TV, eating, texting, and Candy Crushing.

business man and woman multitasking acrobaticsSure, you can multitask continually throughout the day and imagine you are adequately returning simultaneous serves, nailing forehands, and setting up tidy gambits with your network, coworkers, clients, family, and friends as you tap and click, fire off emails, Facebook updates, texts, reblogs and Likes. But it’s fragmented. You aren’t focused. As Lester Burnham said, “This isn’t life, it’s just stuff!”  (- American Beauty)

Since I doubt many of us are willing to give up our technology, whenever possible, let’s return to the simple purity of focusing on just one task at a time. Read more books and fewer articles. The end game will be a disappointment otherwise.

Chess quiz – White to move and mate in 2 moves:

chess problem

Alain White, American Chess Bulletin, November-December 1941. Solution

Original chess move challenge posted 8/23/10, post updated 1/28/17

How To Turn On Google Chrome Voice Search

The problem: You are trying to enable Google Chrome Voice Search but you are not being prompted to grant Google permission to your microphone.

illustration retro woman speaking in speech bubble

The solution: You need to adjust your Chrome settings and/or Adobe Flash Global Privacy Settings. At one point you may have denied Google access to the mic and the settings saved, never to ask again. When you click the microphone icon on the Google Chrome search bar at google.com, you see a link to Learn More, instead of being prompted to Allow or Deny permission (because you already denied it). On Chrome for Mac you’ll see “Voice search has been turned off. Details”

Google Chrome Voice Search searchbar microphone icon

Clicking on “Details” on Mac or “Learn More” on Windows 7 takes you to a page entitled “Voice search and voice actions on Chrome” where you can read about how great Voice Search is and how to enable Ok Google but there is no information about turning the mic on/allowing permission. How do you adjust your permission settings for the microphone in Google Chrome? 

Enter chrome://settings/ in your omnibox. Click Advanced Settings. Under Privacy, click Content Settings.

You’ll see these options on Windows (similar on Mac):

Google-Chrome-Content-settings-Media-camera-AdobeSelect “Ask me when a site requires access to my camera and microphone (recommended).” Click on Manage Exceptions. You may see some entries for Hostname pattern and Behavior. If you see the Hostname https://www.google.com:443 you will want the Audio to be set to “Allow.” If it says block, simply highlight this row and click the X to delete it. Then Google will ask for permission to access the mic when you return to google.com and click the microphone icon to use Voice Search. The problem should be solved now.

However, if it says “Allow” here and you are still having issues, just click on the URL to highlight it, then click the X to delete it. We’ll try and reset the process. If you see no entries for Hostnames here and are unable to type any in manually, that is also okay. Let’s make sure you don’t have any settings in Adobe that are at play:

After you’ve clicked Manage Exceptions, at the bottom, click the “Change” link in: “Adobe Flash Player camera and microphone exceptions are different. Change” and you will end up at Adobe Flash Player Global Privacy Settings: http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager02.html. (Note: it does not matter if you’re logged into Adobe.)

Look for Google in the list of website settings. Delete it. Now you should have no settings regarding Google Chrome in your Chrome Settings or Adobe Flash Player: try to click the mic at google.com again. You should see Allow or Deny pop up.

You’ll find the basic instructions about setup and voice search examples on the Chrome voice search information page (but this page does not allow you to adjust the permission settings and the troubleshooting section doesn’t touch on Adobe). If you have problems after managing the Adobe settings though, the troubleshooting tips there could help.

I’m a fan of any technology that helps us get away from typing.