Galileo: “Young man, I never eat olives without thinking”

Yesterday my friend Sophie and I watched “A life of Galileo”a play by Bertolt Brecht staring Ian Mcdiarmid, at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.


The play was mind blowing. Outstanding acting, great text, minimalist set design (how we like it) and very witty. A pleasure to watch from start to finish. Totally recommend it.

Earlier in that day, we watched The winter’s tale, by Shakespeare, also at the RSC. This one was a bit of a disappointment. I didn’t really enjoyed it, to be honest. I felt it was very plain, nothing special about it. It’s rare for me to say that but I wouldn’t recommend this one.

By the way, if you haven’t done this before, I recommend going to Stratford-upon-avon for a day or two to watch a play at the RSC. The building is spectacular, their productions are usually really great and the town is lovely.

For a more detailed (and interesting) review of these plays, check the blog post by Sophie.

Designers, have you ever attended a hackday? Do it.

Last weekend, I attended a hack day for the first time. Although I had many opportunities to attend one before, I never did. Hack days are usually referred as an event for developers or “geeks” so I always thought designers wouldn’t be very useful there. Just when my colleague, a developer, (thanks, Kevin) told me that they really could do with some designers there, I considered going to one.

The hack day I attended was the NHS Hack Day Oxford. It was really well organised and I had much fun. In fact, the day was much more fun and relaxing than I thought a hack day would be.

So I’ll list here why I liked it and why I think other designers will like it too:

It’s a relaxing atmosphere
Basically, you do what you like. If you want to do design, you do it. If you want to explore some tools and techniques you never have time to, this is the time you can do it. If you want to improve some development skills, you’ll have lots of people who can help you out. Different from your day-to-day job, there is no pressure. It’s all up to you and how far you want to go.

Passionate (and happy) developers
Developers who love what they do means they will do their best to make an idea they believe in work. It’s always a pleasure to work with people like that.

You’ll work closely and collaboratively with developers
It’s been said more and more how important it is to get designers and developers working together since the beginning of a web project. At hack days, you’ll have this opportunity. You’ll understand technical restrictions, discuss alternative solutions and, together, come up with a viable creative solution.

At the end, your project works!
This is the most exciting part. You end up with a product that actually works and that you can share and people can use. The results of a hack day usually mean you’ll be helping the community.

Plus, a nice free lunch!
Hack days organisers and sponsors treat attendees very well. There is usually a nice lunch, cakes and coffee.

I’ll definitely attend a hack day again (White October, where I work, hosts a few) and I recommend designers having a go. You’ll enjoy it!

Sunday morning in Rouen

Men carrying flowers
Queues in front of boulangeries
Food markets
People walking with their dogs
Brasseries with red awning
“Patisserie en vacance”

Not to mention the cuisine, patisserie, croissant, films, the music, the sound of the language…

J’adore la culture française.

Good example of user interaction on a phone call

I recently had a good user experience when I called for a cab. The call was through an answering machine and because of that I was surprised it actually worked. And it worked well.

The call started like this:

Welcome from [Company name] taxis.
To be picked up from [my address], press 1
To be picked up from [another address I use often], press 2
Or please hold to talk to an operator.

I pressed 1.

To confirm your booking from [my address] for as soon as possible, press 1
To book a taxi for later today, press 2
To book a taxi for tomorrow, press 3
Or to speak to an operator, press 0

And so on.

Why I think this worked:

  • The service learned my behaviour
    The service learned where I like to be collected from. By not having to type or say anything, it made it easier, quicker and convenient for me.
  • It reassured me along the way
    During the call, I was constantly reassured that what I chose was understood correctly by the machine. At various points in the call, it repeated my choices. When it ended they repeated and asked me to confirm. After the call they sent me a detailed text message. Feedback and reassurance are important for users to feel they are on the right path.
  • Concise text
    The machine only says what is necessary. By doing that, it saves users’ time and make it simpler for them to make the right decisions. User’s time is precious, especially in services like this one when users might be in a hurry.
  • Tasks were broken down into small simple tasks
    It made it easier to make the right decisions when the tasks were broken down into a small number of tasks and decisions points.
  • Simple steps for basic users. Elaborate tasks for advanced ones.
    Users who want the basic features, in this case, to book a taxi for now from their address, will accomplish the task very quickly in just a few presses away. Users who wants more advanced features will need to go a bit further. Their tasks are a bit more complex, therefore requires more exploration.
  • At any point I could talk with the operator.
    I could choose the way I want to interact with the service, either by talking with an operator or by following the steps, whatever I feel more comfortable with.

I found this a good example of user experience. The part that most got my attention was the fact that the service learnt users behaviour and by doing that it improved an ordinary activity which made it stand out from the crowd.