The Future Interaction Designer Email

A few weeks ago I started a little experiment: a simple fortnightly email list to share interesting articles with the Interaction Design community.

Every two weeks I email out 10 interesting posts to inspire designers.

Inspired by similar email lists like Reilly Brennan’s Future Of Transportation and Data Machina, my goal was to look beyond the immediate challenges of UX and the design patterns of UI (after all there are plenty of people offering links to great articles in these areas). Instead I want to consider the other forces at work on our industry.


My hope is that by looking a little further we might we inspired by technology, psychology, business and the role we play in the organizations we work for.

It’s a simple start, and it’s pushing me to evaluate what I call inspiration, but I’m going to keep digging for new things and sharing them.

As a little taster here are a few of the interesting links from the last few emails:


Prospect theory – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“The theory states that people make decisions based on the potential value of losses and gains rather than the final outcome”


When UX meets AI…
“Artificial intelligence is attracting more and more interest in the business world. It looks increasingly likely that AI software is going to find applications in the front-line between companies and their customers.”
(via @Foolproof_UX)


Ian Bogost: Play Anything
“The lesson games have for design is not really a lesson about games at all. It’s a lesson about *play*.”


I’m pleased to say the response has been very positive, so I’d like to invite you to subscribe to the fortnightly email newsletter, and to submit your own inspiration for the benefit of the community.

You can also see the previous emails here.

For those already subscribed, and those planning to subscribe, thanks for being part of my ongoing experiment.

Every feature is a hurdle

At IDEO we’re putting high resolution prototypes out in the real world to test ideas and design with real people in real situations.

In other words, we’re shipping product. Invoking the methodologies of a startup we can put our designs out in the wild and see how they respond under every day use.

This is great because it means we can move far more quickly than our clients could. We launch is days not months.

But when you ship product – even if it’s secretly a high resolution prototype – you start encountering other issues.

Features = barriers to use

Every single feature you put into an app becomes a barrier to use.

This should feel humbling/frustrating/counterintuitive to every interaction designer that reads this post. But every time you add functionality to a service you complicate it and force your users to make decisions. These decisions are, in part, evaluations of the service as a whole.

Do I really want to store my photos on this website? Do I really trust these guys to deliver on time? Do I really want to play this free game?

Questions your users are asking right now

The only reason Google is where it is today is because they stripped everything away from the experience and basically launched an MVP. There was zero friction from their interface, they got out of the way and before you realised you’d arrived on their site you’d already interacted and got value from them. And they still do the same today.

include only the features that people need to accomplish their goals

Google’s advice to developers

This problem is best highlighted by an innocuous feature we added to the app we’re building at the moment. We thought it would be useful to have the app capture a photo of each user. We could add it to their profile and it would help us track people and the data we’re building with.

But adding a photo is a hurdle. And a big one at that. People didn’t want to add one. And bear in mind that we’re paying our participants to be in our trial – so we have some licence to ask them to do certain things. But it forced people to stop and evaluate.

Worse for us, an incomplete sign up profile meant no data being captured and no design iteration happening.

Remove friction

When building new experiences, especially the crucial interactions around sign up and on boarding, make sure you have as little standing between you user and the core experience you want them to get to.

Every feature you add will cost you users and reduce your growth rate. Even if you think the feature is cool/nice/important think twice about it’s relevance and if it blocks your users from getting to the heart of your product.

Every feature you add is a hurdle for your next new user.

Cab Insights

When you spend you life doing design research two things become common: firstly you get used to chatting to people and finding interesting stuff out from them; secondly you spend a lot of time in taxis.

These two things obviously collide quite often, and in London the legendary taxi drivers are often a chatty bunch. So if you ever get into a black cab in London you’ll almost certainly hear their views on the world as they see it.

(Of course their particular set of views and opinions tend to be some what questionable, but if you can get them away from politics and foreign policy you might just find some thing interesting).

Here’s what I found out on a recent trip:

1. Chip and Pin card readers

Chip n Pin
Chip and Pin reader

Paying by anything other than cash in taxis in London is usually very difficult. The few that do have card readers are often out of order or broken. Or are they? Well, probably not.

It seems that the financial charges and administration that comes with these systems is more than most cabbies care to get involved with. It’s not uncommon for one driver to borrow another’s cab, and in this situation paying by cash is much easier for them to deal with.

The simple world of ‘cash-in-hand’ suits the transactional realities of cab life. There’s an opportunity here.

2. Green Badges and Yellow Badges

London Taxi Licence
London Taxi Licence

There are two types of black cab driver: those who’ve done ‘The Knowledge’ and those who are learning it. If you’ve passed you have a green badge, if not you’ll have a yellow one. Yellow badge drivers have a local area that they can pick up passengers in, green badge drivers are allowed to pick up people anywhere in London.

If you’re in an outlying areas of London and spot a yellow badge, beware that if you ask for a destination across London they might not know the route. It’s probably worth checking. Or in my case, he was relying on a Sat Nav.

Also, yellow badge drivers will get dirty looks from green badge drivers in central London. “What are you doing on my patch?”

3. Advertising

How much money do you think a cab driver gets to have his taxi wrapped in an advert for 1 year?

Wrong (maybe).

Apparently, £1000. Which seems pretty low. In San Francisco drivers more like that amount each month. I’m not sure if this an amazing insight, but at the very least if we all group together we could ‘buy’ a taxi for the year and have our faces on it.

4. The Knowledge in tough. Really tough.

Learning the Knoweldge
Learning the Knoweldge

Anyone who’s spent time in London will probably be aware of the The Knowledge. I’ll leave it to others to explain the details, but essentially its a test of geographic knowledge of the whole of London. You should be able to get into any black cab in London and ask for any destination of the thousands and thousands of streets and the cab driver should be able to get you their by the quickest route.

When you think about the reality of knowing the name of every single street in London it’s quite a mind bending feat. When you think about the mental capacity needed to link them all together it becomes astonishing. Then think about not just the route between two places, but the most efficient route. It sounds basically impossible. But it gets tougher.

Testers are know to ask for the route to very obscure places, a recently opened restaurant for example. By name only (no street address). And the example my chatty cabbie gave doesn’t even have a sign on the street front. It’s a well hidden little place. Now think about how many of them must be across the metropolis of London.

Now plan a route between two of them.

That’s what The Knowledge is.

Remember that next time you get into a black cab.