♫ New Mix: This & That #18

Managed to find some time to flick through my music and produce a new mix.

Tinged with autumn leaves, this mix brings together some of my favourite melodic house tracks featuring the likes of Guy J, Vincenzo, Radiohead and the very talented Dosem.

I’ve made it available for download so you can stick it on your phone for listening on that train journey // cold walk home =)


This is how you package consumer goods

Yesterday I was in the market for some plughole unblocker. We’ve moved places recently and I forgot to put this useful little thing in our shower.

So I head into Tesco and — eventually — I find the section for bleaches and plughole unblockers.

I know that Mr. Muscle is a popular brand for this product, so I look for the logo.

Bingo. I find the Mr Muscle.

photo of Mr Muscle among other products

Just as I’m about to pick up a bottle, I notice the bottle next to it. It’s called Buster — a brand I've never heard of.

photo of Buster — a challenger brand

Here’s what happened:

  • The packaging for Buster does a great job of capturing my attention. It makes a bold assertion that’s relevant to what I’m looking for -- that this product is much better for bathrooms.
  • The packaging entices me to find out why by picking-up the bottle and turning it around. In two, very succinct bullet points, it pitches why Buster is better.
  • By this point I’m already holding the bottle of Buster and since I had just been sold on why it’s better for what I needed, I went ahead and bought it.

Without realising it, this nifty bit of packaging had moved me right through the marketing funnel (Awareness > Consideration > Purchase) in around 10 seconds.

Of course, the irony here is that both of those brands probably come from the same company — be it, Procter & Gamble or Unilever et al. This is how the consumer packaged goods industry works.

That though shouldn’t take anything away from this being a nice example of how to package an alternative product, in a market that is largely dominated by recognised household brands.


Questions to ask your design work

Last month I spent some time updating my portfolio. As a product / user experience / web designer, it can be quite tricky to present your work to others.

The rock star visual designers of this world can get away with presenting screenshots of their stunning visual work — job done, money due.

But if your day-to-day consists of making user flows, interaction designs, napkin wireframes, trade-offs, A/B tests, and minimum viable products, then you — like me — need to do a bit more groundwork to do the show and tell properly.

It’s not so much the what, but the why and the how.

With this in mind, I decided to structure my portfolio around the questions I ask myself when looking at other products and services:
A user experience, product design portfolio layout

1/ What was the context?

Was this a piece of work for a fast moving startup or a 100 year old family business? Setting the context lays some good foundations for answering the questions around what you did and why.

2/ What problem were you trying to solve?

The cornerstone of successful design projects, is making sure you’re solving the right problems.

In this section of my portfolio pieces, I found it useful to pull apart the problem I was hired to solve.

Sometimes the problem definition is a bit blurry i.e: Do we really need to make the sign up process faster? Or - to convert more prospects - should we enable users to access features without committing to signing-up first?

3/ How did you design the solution?

Here we deep dive right into how you designed the product / interface / solution.

Unpack how you approached things. Show rather than tell. Let us see what you made.

Did new insights emerge as you moved through the project? If so, lay them out here — tell us how you responded.

4/ Review the above

The final section of the portfolio answers:

  • How did it go?
  • What impact did the solution make?
  • What happened when your work reached customers’ hands?
  • Can you surface some feedback or data that points to show your solution is working out?

Arguably, the biggest thing you bring to the table as a designer is your ability to render an optimal solution — and answers to these questions go a long way in revealing how you do that.


Afrolive

I’ve been planning a rebuild of my blog for a while now.

If I’ve learned one thing from product development, it’s know what problem you’re trying to solve.

So I sat down and actually thought about my goal: To write more frequently.

I wanted to worry less about maintaining a server, designing pixel-perfect user interfaces, performing backups and fiddly upgrade paths.

My previous blog was held together by an outdated version of Perch and a whole bunch of duct tape that was wearing thin.

I’ve Been Around the Block

  • I tried SquareSpace but didn’t like that I couldn’t setup a local dev environment to tinker with the templates.
  • I didn’t fancy Medium or Svbtle as I’m still a bit unsure of their business models. And, as much as I wanted a blog to do the heavy lifting for me, I still wanted to be able to play around with the templates’ markup and style -- for this parallel universe where I lots have spare time.
  • I never really got into the Wordpress theme engine and I hate writing php in views. I prefer a model–view–controller architecture that separates concerns.
  • I thought I might use Craft. We use this at Fruitful and it’s a brilliantly comprehensive CMS. I thought I could tinker around at the weekends with my personal site, and that might help me day-to-day with Fruitful’s marketing website. I thought all of this and completely lost sight of my goal.
  • I tried Ghost and I liked it.

Why Ghost?

  • The experience of writing and publishing posts is very good. Clearly the team has put a lot of thought into this.
  • I like the templating engine. It’s Handlebars which keeps the markup in dynamic views readable and declarative.
  • It’s Markdown based.
  • They offer a hosted solutions for just $10 per month. Part of this contribution goes to supporting the continued development and support of Ghost. They dub it sustainable open source and although there’s been a bunch of criticisms of this movement, I feel that it’s a practical way to incentivise ongoing development -- but that’s a topic for another post. Bearing in mind my original goal, I went for this option.
  • It’s open source, so if I ever wanted to spin the site up on VM of my own, I’d be able to.
  • It has an active community behind it and it’s a culture seems to care about design and user experience.
  • The documentation is solid.
  • It’s written in Node.js and it’s super fast.

So now that this blog is back on its feet again (not to mention its new identity), I’m hoping I’ll get into the rhythm of writing more frequently.