31 October 19 -

Super8: Eight intriguing articles from October.

Sure, it may be Halloween, but all the horror, doom and gloom gets a bit much after a while. For me, October’s about optimism: looking forward to the future with a sense of excitement and potential.

So, what does the future hold for design and technology? How might digital services transform the legal profession? Why is accessibility the future of tech? What’s the fastest way to become a guitar hero without being able to read sheet music? All the answers—and more—are in Super8 in October.

1. Why accessibility is the future of tech.

Accessibility isn’t just about designing for people with different abilities, it’s about designing for everyone. John Brownlee explains how much of the tech we use today originated from a desire to make products more accessible.

Your voice assistant wasn’t designed to tell you how much longer your garlic bread needs in the oven (side note, that’s literally the only reason my Dad uses Alexa); in fact, this technology originates back to the 80’s when accessibility researchers tried to make text and graphical UIs more accessible to people with low vision or blindness.

As John puts it:

Pay attention to these unusual problems and you’ve got a peephole into the innovations that will take the world by storm 20 years down the line.

2. The future of UX research is automated, and that’s a problem.

User experience research looked substantially different in 2003 compared to now. Advances in technology mean we can now semi-automate several aspects of our research to speed up the process. And we can collect data at scale, something that’s been far too costly in the past. But is that a good thing? For Dr. David Travis, perhaps not.

This thought-provoking article reminds us that we can’t take our eye off the user. Automated techniques like A/B tests give us data that we wouldn’t have been able to capture 15 years ago (at least not easily), but they only provide a one-dimensional view of users.

While automated techniques are useful, they shouldn’t be carried out in isolation. As Dr. Travis explains:

‘This isn’t about one research method being better than another. It’s about triangulation. Triangulation is the combination of research methods in the study of the same phenomenon. Automated methods generally tell us what people are doing. Moderated methods generally tell us why people are doing it. With user research, it’s best to have a combination of the two.’

Something to keep in mind for your next project.

3. Why asking for advice is more effective than asking for feedback.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Jaewon Yoon , Hayley Blunden , Ariella Kristal , Ashley Whillans.
  • Contributor: Daniel Banik.

Feedback, depending on where it comes from and how it’s delivered, can be like a fast-track to a future state. Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve presented something – a talk, a report, even yourself at a job interview – and you want a second opinion as to how things went? Your initial instinct would be to ask for feedback.

It turns out asking for feedback is not the most effective way of getting an honest, unfiltered opinion on your performance. Instead you should ask for advice.

This fascinating article from Harvard Business Review (backed by science!) explains why asking for advice is far more effective than asking for feedback. With that in mind, can I have your advice? What could we do to make Super8 better in future?

4. Net Promoter Score considered harmful (and what UX professionals can do about it).

I’ve long considered Net Promoter Score (NPS) the number one metric for assessing how customers feel about an organisation. I’d say that’s true for a lot of people. As it turns out, NPS is fundamentally flawed.

In this article (which is actually from 2017, but I’ve only just stumbled across it), Jared Spool explains superbly the mathematical flaws behind NPS, and poses some alternatives to measuring customer satisfaction.

If you’re using NPS, you might want to read this. It’s not providing the right portrayal of how your customers feel, and there’s almost certainly a better way.

5. Big money is betting on legal industry transformation.

For a long time, the focus of law services has been on input: hours billed. As time goes on, attitudes are changing to a more output-focused approach, with results and customer satisfaction being increasingly front-of-mind. These changing attitudes – putting customers at the heart of the process – along with advances in technology and digital transformation, mean law is now a fertile ground for disruption.

The result? Investors are betting big on legal industry transformation. Last year there was a 718% increase in legal industry investment compared to the previous year and there’s no sign of it slowing down.

6. 38 super useful and fun websites you never knew you needed in your life.

With all this future-facing change and transformation, it’s still worth making time for fun. And while many of these excellent sites may actually leave you tumbling down a rabbit hole of procrastination, there are also some really useful sites among the list.

Number four, ‘flight radar’, shows you every plane in the air right now, worldwide. searchable by flight number. Number two, ‘down for everyone or just me’, is a handy tool to work out if your website is down or if it’s a local issue. And number 34, ‘chordify’, might just be your one-way ticket to rock-stardom; learn how to play guitar and other instruments without learning sheet music. Take a look at the full list and find your favourites.

7. The fantasy of opting out.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Finn Brunton + Helen Nissenbaum.
  • Contributor: James Otter. 

Pausing on the optimism for just a moment, this is a somewhat chilling look at the current state of privacy (or lack of) in modern day lives. The piece poses the question: can we just ‘opt out’ of being tracked? Although most of the data we give away is theoretically voluntary, it’s getting harder and harder to opt out of all tracking. It may even be impossible.

With that said, if you fear your personal data is being used for nefarious means, there are ways to ‘obfuscate’ what you do; to make your data more ambiguous, confusing, harder to exploit, more difficult to act on, and therefore, less valuable for any third party overall.

8. Additional tools for enhanced reporting in Google Sheets.

I’m a pretty massive fan of Google Sheets but it’s never been that good when it comes to data visualisation. I’ll often turn to tools like Google Data Studio and Microsoft Power BI instead of Google Sheets, even for simple visualisations. But a recent update to G Suite goes a long way to solving this problem, with the introduction of themes, slicers and scorecards.

More advanced dashboards should still sit with more advanced tools, but if you want to knock up a simple, interactive dashboard that looks great and doesn’t take hours, it’s now possible to do so within Google Sheets. Happy days!