Picture this: you’ve been sitting in a meeting room with eight other people for an hour, talking in circles about an issue that was supposed to be solved 45 minutes ago. Two of the people in the meeting are looking at Twitter because this conversation has nothing to do with them, but they have other topics that need to be discussed. No one can move forward because this decision needs to be made, but the person who can really make a decision had a conflict and left 20 minutes ago.
Sounds kinda awful, right? This isn’t a great way to get things done yet it seems a lot of meetings end up this way. Where do things go wrong? How can they be better? I’ve been told that I run pretty okay meetings (a point of pride, to be honest!) so I decided to share what works for me.
A short while ago a student asked me “What if I love being in tech but don’t love to write code? Is there a place for me?” It reminded me that there’s this perception that developers are the most valuable people on a tech team, but building a successful product definitely takes a village. There are a ton of different things that people do in tech to help make the digital products and services that we use everyday possible. Some of the non-programming jobs focus around design and content, others are more directly linked to development like quality assurance and technical management. Having at least a high-level understanding of each is super helpful no matter where on the team you sit, so I thought it might be helpful to look at a few of the more common non-development roles.
Monday, Monday, Monday, here you are again! Last week was unexpectedly busy at work (hello 12 hour days! It’s been a while!) hence the quiet couple of days. Luckily my weekend was slow and peaceful, the perfect breather after a super busy week! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to tackle whatever is in store for this week. How about some good links to get the day going?
Apple finally announced a smart watch! It’s definitely interesting, from an industry point of view, but I’ll personally be passing on this version. This piece does a great job of voicing my own issues with the new device. It all boils down to this: the Apple Watch feels like a computer you happen wear on your wrist, not a watch that happens to check my email.
Use Your Interface is hands-down the best gif-based interface collection around. Definitely check it out if you haven’t come across it before!
Need some designy retail therapy to really get Monday going? I love this charming (and appropriately named!) script font Monday. Check out those pretty loops, swashes, and ligatures!
I picked up Nicely Said a few weeks ago and am seriously loving it. It focuses on writing for the web and covers everything from writing for communities to making interface elements easy to understand. Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee make everything super approachable with common sense advice and reusable patterns. Basically, it’s great! The chapter on defining a writing style has been extra helpful since I’m starting to write here more often. This quote about voice vs. tone stood out especially; I’ve never really considered the difference and have probably used them wrong in the past. Now I know!
I’ll be sharing more quotes and things I’ve learned in a few weeks, once I finish reading. In the meantime, you should pick up your own copy and let me know what you think!
I’m officially a member of the R/GA team this week, yay! I’ve spent my days this week reading lots of documentation and trying to get up to speed on complicated projects. I love seeing how other designers solve problems!
Starting a new job made me sit back and thinking about what essentials I’ll need in my new desk. The basics are all here: a notebook, pencils, sticky notes, mug for tea, a cute calendar, and a solid ruler. I’m so sad that this Rifle Paper Co. calendar doesn’t start until 2015 though! It would be perfect to add a little art to my space since I don’t have a wall to hang things on.
One week to go in August! September is looking especially exciting for me…next week I’m starting a new job! I’m joining R/GA here in Portland as an experience designer and I am so. excited!
More exciting news: near the end of next month I’m teaching a two-day Intro to HTML & CSS class for the brand new Portland chapter of Girl Develop It. I can’t wait to help some awesome women make their first websites!
Also I wanted to direct you to Learn to Code with Me, a fantastic blog by Laurence Bradford who happens to be one of the nicest people on the ‘net. She interviewed me recently for her Women in Tech feature. Check out the rest of the blog if you’re a new programmer (or are code-curious) and want help and motivation to keep pushing through the bugs.
Okay okay I think that’s all my news. (Whatta month!) Here are a few articles I’ve enjoyed over the past week—use ’em to kick your brain on this morning.
What a weekend! I’m sitting in our new apartment, dog at my feet, boxes on all sides, thankful for our excellent wifi connection. These past few days was a whirlwind of moving but I think the worst is behind us. The rest of August is all about putting our new home together. Fun!
I’ve just discovered Moodboard, a quick way to curate and publish a collection of images. Looks like it might fill part of the Icebergs hole now that they’re shutting down.
Have you discovered Gibbon yet? It’s a still-young startup based in the Netherlands that is my new favorite learning app. Gibbon harnesses the amazing wealth of content already published online to power its peer-to-peer learning network.
There are a bunch of other options out there to help you learn. Some, like Treehouse, focus on tech and offer lessons in web design and development. Udemy offers classes in all sorts of things (including how to teach online courses!), but many of them cost money. Most of the services use videos and other rich media to attempt to replicate a classroom setting that caters to visual learners. The courses tend to be more formal and sometimes even scheduled as with the Stanford online courses.
Gibbon, on the other hand, is a more casual, “set it and forget it,” kind of learning experience. Once you choose topics that interest you and set how often you want to learn you don’t have to do anything else. Well, nothing besides actually learning! Gibbon will send you a daily, weekly, or monthly selection of readings from your chosen topics as a reminder to check in and read or watch something.
All the learnable content in Gibbon comes from its users, which is another reason I love it. Anyone can sign up and create a “playlist”, which is a topic full of educational content. For example, this User Experience Design from A-Z playlist is full of 99 articles about user experience, all curated specifically to take a learner from “what is UX?” to solving complex experience problems.
Gibbon figures out an approximate reading time for each “chapter” in a playlist which the system uses to build the reminder emails. Every morning I get an email with around 10 minutes of content in it. And because I subscribe to more than one playlist I sometimes get articles on different topics. I’ve been loving the wake up call! Each day I get a cup of coffee and settle in to spend 10 minutes focussed on learning. The articles are shown in a beautiful distraction-free view that let’s you read without wandering away. And the end of each playlist “chapter” has a big “Mark as Learned” button for a satisfying this-is-done feeling.
Gibbon is free to join as a learner or teacher, but paid plans are available for private playlists. I see a few interesting applications of the paid plans. Teachers could ask students to create playlists throughout a semester, for example, to help teach continuous learning. Or accelerator mentors could build playlists for specific teams to help them grow and succeed. So many options!
It’s a big week y’all: we’re moving house! This time next week I’ll be up on the fourth floor in a cozy apartment. Can’t wait until we’re settled in! To kick this week off right I collected a few thought-provoking pieces from Medium to get your gears moving:
Product design is a fluid field, not unlike user experience, that seems to have a different definition for every team and practitioner. “A Working Definition of Product Design” is an interesting take that leans heavily on user centered design principles.