To all the white boys in the room

All the white boys in the room, even with the best of intentions, will only ever know what it’s like to make make decisions as a white boy. They will only ever have the experiences of white boys. This is true of anyone. You will design things that fit within your own experiences. Even those that attempt to look outside their own experiences will only ever know what questions to ask based on that experience. Even those doing good research can only ask questions they think to ask. In short, even the most well-meaning white boys don’t know what they don’t know. That’s before we even deal with the ones that aren’t well-meaning.”

Opinion: We Built A Broken Internet. (BuzzFeed News)

A thought-provoking opinion piece from BuzzFeed News. The premise of this snippet is uncomfortable — white boy checking in! — but that’s the point of it.

We made the web in our image and we’re unaware of the blind spots. And when others call us out on the blind spots it makes us uncomfortable.

People can’t scale up

Deepfakes. Targeting children on Instagram. Cancel culture. Bad YouTube recommendations for kids. Constant surveillance culture. Those same video cameras getting hacked. The fall of journalism and the rise of Buzzfeed. Mass Whatsapp hysteria. The fall of creativity online. The spread of anti-vaccination information on social media platforms. An increase in anxiety and depresion due to the use of social media. Facebook moderators dying on the job. Apps circumventing your privacy settings. No file ownership. Scammy Amazon reviews. Yelp extortion. Gaming Google results. Data rot. Bad self esteem on Instagram. Weird Brand Twitter. Social Credit Monitoring. And, of course, TayBot.

Why is it like this? We took this beautiful thing with so much promise and trashed it. Why are WE like this?

Because we as people are terrible at grasping web scale in our minds. People cannot scale up like machines. We can’t possibly think through all of the consequences of creating behemoth sites and systems that impact billions of people. No one has so far, and no one will in the future.

Humans are not web scale (Normcore Tech)

United States Web Design System

USWDS is a library of code, tools, and guidance to help government teams design and build fast, accessible, mobile-friendly government websites backed by user research and modern best practices. USWDS 2.0 is an important update to the design system — it introduces a powerful toolkit of new features to help make creating useful, consistent digital services faster, simpler, and more fun.”

U.S. government… issues… aside, I appreciate that the Digital Service puts out their work like this for other organizations — including other governments — to learn from.

Related: Canada’s Web Experience Toolkit (WET)

24 ways: The advent calendar for web geeks

24 ways is the advent calendar for web geeks. For twenty-four days each December we publish a daily dose of web design and development goodness to bring you all a little Christmas cheer.”

24 Ways

The annual tradition of 24 Ways has chugged along since the nascent days of Web 2.0. Every December, a group of web designers & developers come together to share useful tips and tidbits for their peers. It’s a fun trip down memory lane and you may learn a thing or two along the way.

P.S. Merry Christmas…!

Micro optimizations for WordPress

“Most of us have heard of the generic advice – use smaller images and don’t forget to compress them, avoid too many plugins, pick a faster host, leverage browser caching. But if we’ve done all that and want to improve further, what next? How do we further optimise our WordPress websites to boost our speed, improve our responsivity and encourage Google to rank us higher?”

10 Micro Optimisations for a Faster WordPress Website (Jem Jabella)

Found this useful compilation of WordPress speed optimization tips while cleaning up my Todoist backlog.

Improve your UX design with copy docs

“Copy docs stem from the advertising world, where they’re typically called copy decks. A copy doc is a single document created in a word-processing tool like Microsoft Word, Dropbox Paper, or Google Docs. It holds all the copy for a single project: a landing page, a series of mobile screens, a set of onboarding emails, or anything else.”

How to improve your design process with copy docs (Dropbox Design)

Something that’s irks me to no end is when I see product mockups or screenshots with filler text that makes no sense.

Text is just as important to the product experience as everything else (arguably even more important for things like dashboards).

If I’m drafting a product announcement or a guest post about a product, I don’t want the embedded screenshots or demo videos to have lorem ipsum filler fluff.

Enter copy docs.

Riffing from the source article:

“Many user experience writers (UX) and content strategists are familiar with design tools like Sketch, InVision, and Balsamiq. These are great resources for a team to share feedback on wireframes, mockups, and prototypes.

But what about the copy? How do you and your team decide on in-product copy to place in those wireframes, mockups, and prototypes? For many teams, the answer is something like, We copy and paste from an email or a Slack post. It’s scattershot, without a straightforward process. There’s no single place for copy iterations to live or get feedback, the way there is for design.

If this sounds familiar, your UX team could benefit from using copy docs. These are also known as copy decks, content templates, or copy platforms. A copy doc is a one-stop “source of truth” for all the copy in a project.”

I think copy docs are something that product marketers and product developers should jam on together. Why? Because if these designs are going to make an appearance in marketing assets, the text should fit the context.

E.g. if you’re going to use a scenario, telling a story about a fictional user trying to complete some task, the text in the example screenshots should feel like they’re part of that story.

Visual storytelling in meetings

“Story telling matters as a foundational part of communication between people. You can tell stories by writing, speaking, filming, drawing, coding, and much more. […]

By adding visuals to your communication, you invite others in to participate and understand. You’re able to focus on the idea rather than each other, which is disarming and makes communication smoother.”

The value of quick visual storytelling (Automattic Design)

Shoutout to Joshua Wold for this blog post on visual storytelling.

I’m also a visual thinker. On the rare occasions that I’m meeting with folks in person I’m usually hitting the whiteboard.

Unlike Joshua, though, I rarely lean into this skill during virtual meetings.

It’s not that I don’t have the tools — I have a small Wacom tablet on my desk at home — it’s just that it feels so… weird?… to initiate this sort of thing over a Zoom call.

Maybe I need to change that?

Sustainable Web Manifesto + Contract For The Web

“We all share and use the web, just as we all share and live on this planet. This manifesto is a public declaration of a shared commitment to create a sustainable internet. […]

If we embrace sustainability in our work, we can create a web that is good for people and planet. By signing this manifesto you declare your commitment to create a greener web.”

Sustainable Web Manifesto

The sustainable web manifesto covers five areas:

  1. Clean – Services we buy/create use renewable energy
  2. Efficient – Use the least amount of resources possible
  3. Open – Accessible services, users control their own data
  4. Honest – No misleading or exploitation
  5. Regenerative – Support an economy nourishing people & planet

Related, Tim Berners-Lee and his “contract for the web“:

The Contract for the Web was created by representatives from over 80 organizations, representing governments, companies and civil society, and sets out commitments to guide digital policy agendas. To achieve the Contract’s goals, governments, companies, civil society and individuals must commit to sustained policy development, advocacy, and implementation of the Contract text.

Contract For The Web

It covers nine principles:

  1. Ensure everyone can connect to the internet
  2. Keep all of the internet available, all of the time
  3. Protect fundamental online privacy & data rights
  4. Make the internet affordable & accessible to all
  5. Respect & protect peoples privacy and personal data
  6. Develop tech to support the best in humanity, challenge the worst
  7. Be creators and collaborators with the web
  8. Build communities that respect human discourse & dignity
  9. Fight for the web

I don’t agree with all of the above, but I do appreciate that these movements are taking shape. Internet governance is an incredibly important topic, and I feel like we’ve managed to dodge it for the last 20+ years.

Presenting? Make your slides obvious

Make it legible. – Make it simple. – Make it obvious.

If you just do these three things, you’ll have a presentation that anyone can probably understand. And since understanding is the foundation for getting someone excited enough to want to talk to you afterwards, it’s a good place to start.”

How to Design a Better Pitch Deck (Y Combinator)

Kevin Hale at Y Combinator wrote this blog post with tech startups in mind, but the takeaways are applicable to any sort of presentation, whether it be to a local meetup group or big ol’ conference audience.

See also: The YC Seed Deck Template