I like observing people, and listening to them talk about themselves. So, naturally, I love observing user testing sessions. These are some unrelated (to the user test) notes from some recent sessions.

Like listening to audio books because can listen while doing other stuff… washing, walking, cooking, driving.

I’m emotionally blocked on the idea of listening to books. R loves them. But these are exactly the times when I listen to podcasts or, more recently, radio — walking, gardening, cooking, driving.

Have Bluetooth headphones but forget to keep charging them, so mostly use wired headphones.

Wonder if other heavy headphone users face this too. I’ve heard people saying they prefer wired headphones for audio quality, or Bluetooth unreliability reasons. This feels like a much stronger behavioural reason to me.

Love their Pixel phone – fits in the pocket, fantastic camera, clean, no crap apps. But miss lock screen player notification for Spotify app where they could pause, play and rewind (their previous Samsung phone had this).

This is likely a case of the default privacy settings on Pixel not allowing notification content to be visible on lock screen. A point for the privacy vs convenience debate, and the power of defaults.

Prefer browser to apps for news reading. Love the option to open lots of links from home screen in background tabs and then read them. With apps, can only read one at a time, and then FOMO kicks in – whether something more interesting/relevant down the page will disappear by the time they go back to the home screen.

I’m the same. My wife uses the Amazon app. I use the browser. I can search for something on Amazon, then open all interesting results in individual tabs, read them all, switching between them to compare, before deciding which one to buy.

The Pixel doesn’t have a back button, only a back gesture where you swipe from the right to go back. This interferes with swiping between photos. I accidentally close and go back when I need to go to the next photo.

I love gesture navigation. All my devices have it. I also agree with them. I do often, accidentally, close instead of swiping next. Interference with swipe actions on lists and cards is the same. The edge swipe for navigation drawer is just… dead.

It’s also interesting that they don’t know that we can swipe from either edge, left or right, to go back. Gestures are powerful once we learn them, but really hard to discover.

When looking at photos, videos start playing automatically. This happens everywhere these days. On photos, on Instagram, Twitter… can’t quietly check photos.

Attention/advertisement metric driven features spoiling UX. And yes, I hate this too.

Continue reading Asides

Not chat apps

Chat apps were once for digital p2p1 communication—chatting.

Now chat apps have become the media for news, faux news, entertainment, memes, commerce, and more. They are a combination of, for old school web-ers, a portal, a usenet or yahoo group or bulletin board, and mass email (with everyone in cc).

With chat apps no longer primarily the medium for p2p digital communication, what is the new chat app?

In corporate environment, this p2p role is partly fulfilled by Slack DMs and email. Which app will fulfil this role in personal use case?

Continue reading Not chat apps

Scarry’s law

Scarry’s Law, formulated over a decade ago by this newspaper and named after Richard Scarry, a children’s illustrator, states that politicians mess at their peril with groups that feature in children’s books—farmers, fishermen, train drivers and suchlike.

—The Economist in ‘Britain’s regulatory-divergence dilemma

Helps explain why some reforms are so hard.

Penny’s insight—women in science

From an episode of The Big Bang Theory…

Bernadette is being featured as one of the sexiest scientists in California by a fashion magazine. Amy criticises it because it highlights Bernadette’s looks not her scientific achievements. Penny defends it with something on the lines of…

if fashion magazines highlighted female scientists, I might have become a theoretical physicist.

Amy and Bernadette’s smirks suggest that this may just be a joke in the series. But this statement is practical marketing1.

Marketers know to advertise where their audience hangs out, not where other marketers hang out. Featuring women in science magazines is an example of the latter—useful for career advancement of women already in science, but not useful for outreach to new audiences.

To encourage more women into science, we should be featuring more women scientists, more often in magazines that non-science women read. If women prefer reading fashion mags then that’s where more women in science (or business or tech or sports or politics) need to be featured.

Continue reading Penny’s insight—women in science

Availability bias and the remote work advantage

Removal of the easiest to observe input metric – face time – reduces the availability bias in remote work organisations, and helps them focus on the more productive outcome-based metrics.

This switch to emphasis on outcomes can be helpful for individual productivity, but is truly transformative when the whole organisation goes remote-first.

Behavioural biases confuse performance appraisal in office-based organisation culture

The time spent in office looking productive is a key factor in performance appraisals across teams and organisations. Even when time in office is not a formal factor, it unconsciously creeps in and affects rating scores on other factors.

This focus on input factors and ‘visible productivity’ (time spent, sales calls made, lines of code written1, bugs closed) is a result of the availability heuristic and substitution bias in action.

The outcomes of an individual/team’s work are delayed and often diffused – hard to credit exactly. However, the inputs are visible and trivially measurable. In pursuit of productivity metrics, the manager/organisation substitute the hard to measure outcomes with the easily available input factors (time spent in office, calls made, lines of code) etc.
Continue reading Availability bias and the remote work advantage

About those exorbitant hospital parking fees

I had an appointment at the hospital today, and was thinking about the rates at the hospital car park. The parking area at big NHS hospital in my town has the highest parking rates around. They are probably more than double the rate at any other paid parking zone in the town.

At a first look, they seem extortionist. At most places, high parking rates are a nudge for users to either take an alternate means of transport, or to curtail their visits. At a hospital, however, few people visit by choice. Also, the visitors are more likely to use a car – comfort for the ill and all that. By charging these, probably ill, visitors these extraordinarily high rates, the hospital/NHS/council are just heartlessly milking the already suffering.


On a second thought, however, there is a valid reason behind these high rates – consumption tax. They are not just parking rates, they are an indirect tax on the heaviest NHS users.

Continue reading About those exorbitant hospital parking fees

Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 presentation deck rule

A PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

The “or else” implication, in Mark Twain’s words:

I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

Source: The Marketoonist

Biometrics – to identify, not authorise

Biometrics are your username, not your password.

This tweet by Koushik made a lot of sense on first reading. But I couldn’t place my finger on why I agreed with it. Until I read the paragraph below:

All ‘passwords’ should be replaceable. If your credit card gets stolen, you can block it and get a new card. If your Aadhaar number and fingerprint are leaked, you can’t change it, you can’t block it.

Pranesh Prakash in HT

That clinches it for me.

If my password gets stolen, I can reset it to something new, something stronger.

What do I do if my fingerprint is my password? Can’t get a new fingerprint.

Can’t get a new retina, or DNA either. And they’re all a fair bit easier to steal than a strong password.

Sure, use biometrics to identify if you want. But follow the identification with authentication (with a password, or more), before giving that identity any authority.