Ian Howard – A Cocktail of Painkillers and Vitamins: Adding Positive Complexity to Your UX

Ian Howard – A Cocktail of Painkillers and Vitamins: Adding Positive Complexity to Your UX


(audience applauds) – I don’t think I’m actually
giving this presentation anymore. I’ve slightly tweaked it sin.ce I’ve basically kind of got
here through subterfuge, just lying about what
I’m going to talk about. Oh, I forgot a countdown clock
here, and I’m really worried at the fact that that is
the countdown to lunch, so I’m currently standing
between you and probably a buffet out there, so
I’ll try and get through it a little bit quicker than that. Just hurry me up if I take too long. Marvelous. So I’m going to talk today
about flowers on roundabouts. And I’ll explain why in a second. The first thing to tell you is that I am the Chief Strategy Office at
Littlejohn, up in Auckland. But for the purposes
today, I am Ian Howard, a 38-year old man who’s sleep deprived, thanks is two very young children. I’m British, which means
I inherently have a sense of cynicism that I find
really hard to get over, and I’m going through what I like to call, or in essence, my wife calls a
mid-life crisis at the moment which means that I’m
spending a lot of my time playing board games like this. Does anyone know this board game? Is anyone going to admit to it here? Ah! Awesome, excellent. I’ll catch up with you guys at lunchtime. This is a board gamed
called Arkham Horror. It’s based on the writing
of H.P. Lovecraft. It’s very odd. It comes with about a 40-page manual, takes about 3 1/2 hours to play. I’m going to openly concede,
I’ve never got through an entire game of this. I’ve got to about 2 1/2 hours. I once got to about three
hours and then realized I’d broken a couple of the
rules that were in the manual so it didn’t really matter
what happened from there. Very, very frustrating,
wonderfully joyous. I suspect that if this
went through a UX process, it would never exist. And that’s why I bring it up. As part of my midlife crisis, I’m also going back and reading some of the literature that
I kind of found formative in my teenage years, all those years ago. When I was sort of watching some films that I enjoyed back then. Has anybody read an Paul Theroux? Yeah, awesome writer, I can’t
recommend him highly enough. Travel writer, also. He wrote the Mosquito
Coast for anyone who’s seen that movie as well. It was just a great piece of fiction. Now, a lot of Paul
Theroux’s writing is about experiences, it’s not about travel. And I think there’s a difference there. He, my favorite book of his is A Journey on the Trans-Manchurian Railway. He’s a huge fan of trains. He likes getting from A to B and giving himself time to
have serendipitous experiences while he does that. So his writing isn’t about
the places that he goes, the A to B, the kind of, we kind of live in an airplane society. I came down from Auckland yesterday. I wish I’d come on the transrail. I would love to have seen
the scenery on the way down. But because we’re all in such a hurry, we just jump on a plane and forget that there’s wealth of
experience and opportunity in the middle and just
concentrate on get there as quickly as we possibly can. And I feel like as UX practitioners, as people working in the digital space, that’s kind of become our lens. How do we get people there quicker? How do we get them to the destination? And we’ve forgot how do we give them the opportunity for discovery,
for serendipitous experiences on the way through. Can’t recommend Paul
Theroux highly enough. So I’m a bit cynical, and I
think with two young kids, there were times when I’d despair about what the world might look
like when they grow up. And I was stopping and thinking about, how did we get to where we are now? And where I think we
are now is when you look at the amount of time we
spend in the digital realm and you think about the
experiences that we have there, I think it’s all become
extraordinarily homogenous. We kind of live in a
world where best practice driving to mediocrity. Driving to just kind
of generic experiences. And I was kind of wondering why. Now, I was in London back
in 2007 when the GFC hit. And I know that in New Zealand, you guys were relatively
(mumbles) from the GFC. I don’t think it hit here
the way it did London. I had friends who went into work one day and were told that they were getting a 20% pay drop overnight. And it was that or just
don’t come into work. It was kind of up to you. I had other people who were told to go and break out into
teams and decide amongst themselves which of them
was gonna lose their job. Which one of them was
gonna take redundancy? Hard, right? I mean, we talk about research. There’s a research group for
you, that’s pretty tough. So, it’s really pretty
terrible times back in 2007. And if we think about
when kind of marketing and sort of product started becoming very digitally focused,
it was around that time. It was when Facebook became mainstream. That’s when we started doing a lot more in the realm of digital. And I think in inherently, that meant that the lens
that we put over digital was, well, let’s try and do this cheaply. Let’s try and do this
in a way that kind of budgets were being
tightened across businesses. Marketers were under a lot of pressure. There was an enormous
movement particularly with the government at the time and now it’s all these austerity measures which meant they would stop spending on anything other than the stuff that was critical to the infrastructure
of Britain at that time. And I was listening to the radio. And that was back in
the days when there was the actual radio, do you remember that? Does anyone listen to the radio anymore? Where you had that little
crackle in the background. It was like magic. And there was a guy from
the opposition party in the U.K., which was
labor then, as it is here. Or it might not be for that
much longer, let’s see. Who had the temerity to
on national radio say, yes, look, there do need
to be austerity measures. I understand this, but I
don’t want to live in a world where there aren’t flowers on roundabouts. And he got absolutely slammed for it. This made people laugh
on radio like they do now on chat forums and comment threads. They love to express
opinions they probably don’t really hold. But it gives them an opportunity to troll. He got completely slammed
for the insensitivity of this comment. Now, forgive me here, I
really like that comment. And it stuck with me
because I think it taps into a genuine insight
about the human experience that I think we often forget. And, God, I hate bringing up Maslows hierarchy of needs in
this stuff, my apologies. I’m so sorry, but we’re
pretty needy, right? Actually to kind of be happy
and to be self-fulfilled. We ask for quite a lot. And I think with the emergence of digital and digital technology,
we tend to fall short of this top level a lot. And that’s what worries me about my kids kind of growing up in this
world that they may well live in a world that’s really functional, it’s very usable, that’s seamless. I mean, how many of you
like the word seamless, frictionless, intuitive, easy as if that’s what we crave from our existence. Now, I can tell you
Arkham Horror is not easy, it’s not frictionless, it’s not seamless. And yet it’s something that I get an enormous amount of joy from. And I think we can remember that actually some of that complexity, that challenge. That’s how we really get our
sense of self-fulfillment. Now, what’s driving that
move towards kind of super simplicity and utilitarianism? And I sometimes refer
to it as kind of brutism to be honest, like
stripping everything back in a digital landscape. I think in part is that we’ve become slavish devotees of data. Now, I’m gonna be really careful here because all of the
presentations this morning were about kind of the
reresearch side of UX. Research is really important. Having data, really important. Slavishly following data, dumb. And I think there is way too
much slavish following of data going on at the moment. I say data, by the way,
sorry about that, data. Whatever it is. And as an example, I was
wondering, has anyone been to Botswana Butchery? Apparently there’s one in Queenstown. There’s also one at the bottom of, is there one here? Quite a nice restaurant. I was walking around a few months back. And I passed the front door. I’ve never actually eaten there. And this is what their
front door looks like. These are the door
handles on the front door. I think quite cute,
right, quite a nice idea. Now, I have been through
processes like this. Not specifically with this,
but as an example of a process. Where if this was in the digital world, someone in a meeting, maybe a client, maybe someone on your own team would say, but that’s not what
door handles look like. That’s not best practice door handling. We can’t possibly do that. And people will get confused. How will they open the door? This doesn’t make any sense? And someone will say, well, you know, okay, that’s just one opinion,
that’s very subjective. Let’s not worry too much about that. Let’s think about it in
more scientific terms. And someone with a knowledge of physics would then pull out the
kind of law of moments. I’m gonna try and remember
the law of moments from my schooling here, bear with me. It has to do with kind
of perpendicular element of the force around the
pivot and the distance from the pivot, I can’t remember exactly what the thing it. But I don’t know how to go back here. But if we go back to that handle, you’ll have noticed that the handle was on a slight kind of incline from the door, which means actually when you pull it, you wouldn’t just generate
force around that pivot. You’d also generate force
around pivot at the top, which would mean some
of the force is wasted basically trying to pull the
door upwards not outwards. (sighs) That’s wasted effort. That’s just, that’s horrible. But maybe that won’t make a
difference, might be fine. So I’ll tell you what
we’re going to AB testing. Let’s test a normal door handle with the meat cleaver door handles and see which perform best. And what’s the most important thing? This is the entry way into the restaurant. The most important thing is
it’s got to be about speed. We want to be able to
get into the restaurant. Because at that point
we can start to monetize and then they’ll become our patrons. Right, so, meat cleaver
handle, normal handle, normal handle, oh, they see it just that little bit quicker because they
recognize it’s a door handle and they pull it and because all the force actually causes it to open rather than losing that bit of force. Doesn’t take long to open the door. Meat cleaver one, still doesn’t take long, but takes a little bit longer. Slavish devotion to data. Jump back on the normal door handle. Just to be safe, just to be safe. Which is completely
nonsensical and leads us into a world where every
door handle looks the same. They’re all just best
practice door handles. And we lose that opportunity. And I don’t think that
meat cleaver on the door is going to do, you know, there’s probably not an ROI on that. It’s probably hard to
prove that that’s doing anything in terms of brand equity or using experience from that. But it’s a nice little moment that makes the world just that little bit more interesting. If we took UX principles and put them into the physical world,
I’d imagine everyone here must shop online, I do it all the time. It drives my wife absolutely nuts. I’m a primate, by the way. It anyone a Primate here? Mighty Ape with the prime thing? Which I’ve realized is complete nonsense because then Amazon will be
here in about a months time and then I will never use
Mighty Ape again probably. But it’s useful for now, as
I get free delivery. (laughs) So, you know, this
checkout, absolutely perfect for the Countdown, or New
World, or whatever you choose to shop, pack and save
experience, get stuff through on the conveyor belt nicely and quickly. But if you walked into
a high end fashion store and that was your checkout experience, probably slightly underwhelming. I met the funder of Workshop recently and sort of had this
conversation with him. I can assure you that
the Workshop checkouts don’t look like this, and nor should they. And it’s kind of horses for courses. And yet, on ecommerce
stores, pretty much every checkout experience is
absolutely identical. And as we shop more and
more in those situations, how do we do something that delivers a distinct and differentiated experience, even through to checkout? So, we appear to have all become, has anyone read Daniel Kellerman’s Thinking Fast and Slow? Yeah, awesome, great, so you’ll recognize all of this stuff from there. (laughs) Great stuff, I’m gonna
do a little experiment in a second, so we’ll get
you all raising your hands. It appears that we’ve let
the kind of system two side of our brain kind of take over from the system one side,
to a certain extent. Kind of leaving behind the more empathetic and creative side of things. And concentrating much more
on the certain rational people make decisions
logically side of our brain, which just simply isn’t true. We all think we’re super smart. We’re actually just mammals making dumb decisions half the time. So we need to get back in touch with this empathetic side of our brain. Now, I did a little test there, who has seen this dancer
turning clockwise? Put your hands up. Who’s seeing it anticlockwise? And who can make it switch? Interesting, that’s kind
of about 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. So if you’re seeing it turn clockwise, chances are the rational
side of your brain is probably ever so sightly more dominant. Incidentally, I think
that science has proven that this actual sides thing,
left brain, right brain thing isn’t quite right, it’s
actually mapped across various different areas of the brain. If you’re seeing it turn anticlockwise, slightly more creative side of the brain. If you can make it switch,
you’ve probably got a reasonably sort of balanced brain. I think it is incumbent on all of us to get ourselves into a position where we can train our
brains to switch this. And it’s perfectly possible to do. Now, I’m just gonna get
you, so for those of you who can’t get it to switch, just hold your hand and
look only at basically from about the calf down. Can you get it to switch now? Look it up online and
train yourself. (laughs) (audience laughs) I love the looks of disappointment on people’s faces there,
by the way, they’re like, oh, I got clockwise, I
wanted to get anticlockwise, or vice versa, it’s great fun. So, this kind of rational
kind of unempathetic side of the brain, I think
that’s coming through even in the language that
we use in this industry. I mean, if you think about traffic, there’s something so deeply impersonal. I love the fact that other
people have called out, it’s about people, it’s not about users. When I was growing up,
if you called someone a user, that wasn’t a great thing. (audience laughs) So, what could we do to
change that language? I’ve tried at the agency that I’m at to remove users entirely
from our language set. It hasn’t work, and in part
that’s because we have clients that are used to the idea of users. We’ve perpetuated this
kind of thing of going, when they’re on a digital platform, they’re no longer people. And we just look at that slice of life instead of understanding all of their different motivations, understand
that they might have kids and be going through a midlife crisis. And how might that change the experience that we’ve delivered to them? Conversion is just such
a brutal, brutal word. What if we talk about
instead of user as visitor or something just a little
bit more empathetic? So for me, visitor as a term kind of has this idea of hospitality. It has this idea of going above and beyond because you have someone
who’s visiting your house. You wouldn’t want them to leave going, well, that was functional. You’d want them to leave going, what a delightful experience. I really enjoyed that time there. What can we do to even
change the language there to start thinking that way? Now, the other problem with data, actually I like math and numbers. So this might come across as a bit like I’m shooting it
down, but data can be used really, really poorly. And often, to come to entirely
the wrong conclusions. Now, I’ve worked with years back with, I have to be really careful
because they’re definitely not in the room, I’ve checked. And I changed the axis here. I went to an all agency briefing about two or three years
ago where an enormous piece of research had been done over the course of about nine
months, it was really solid. Very robust research. One of the conclusions that came up was that there was a correlation between the basically the usage of a product. And it wasn’t iPhones. And how much people
knew about that product. And so, the strategy that
they then presented back was, so we need to educate more
people about that product so that they’ll use it more. Well, no, that’s confusing
correlation with causation. That would be the equivalent of saying, there’s a correlation
between people with gray hair and old people, so if we
concentrate on dying people’s hair black, they won’t get old. Seriously, that’s the equivalent. So it doesn’t make any sense at all. You can tell that the gray hair thing is quite personal to me. We also see a lot of, and I’ll skip on through this fairly quickly. But a lot of analytics implementations that give us the wrong data as well. And they can lead to
making the wrong decisions. Things like last click attribution. Just very, very dangerous modeling. And I would say that not
doing analytics at all is better than doing analytics wrong. Because you can absolutely make the wrong decisions through that. Now, this was really just an excuse for me to relive a
boyhood dream back in June when I went to a Lion’s test. So let me just show a tiny bit of this. Oh, is it gonna work? So Liam Williams skips away from a couple of the all blacks. He’s 22, I was sitting over here somewhere at the time. Great run, draws the man. Gives it off to Davies. Elliot Daily on the wing, cuts inside, dumps it outside, back inside. All right, I’ll move on. (audience laughs) Fair enough. I’ve actually got the whole game embedded in the deg here. Now, look, let’s look attribution would ignore everything that you saw there and give every bit of credit to it was Sean O’Brien who
ended up dotting down. He’d get the ball about
two yards out, put it down. Did very well, to be a support runner in that situation probably doesn’t deserve all of the credit for the try. And so, if you’re in that
situation and you had the analytics implementation,
Warren Gatland might drop Liam Williams. Oh, well, he didn’t really
do anything in the game, having just made that break. Really dangerous to get that stuff wrong. So, I think we really
need to be really careful about making sure that we
understand that it’s not data versus creativity. That it’s actually a
nice fusion of the two. And we can use data to
help us unlock creativity. And that’s where we’ll
get these serendipitous and kind of delightful experiences. And sort of build our
brands and build affinity with our products. I’ve kind of pulled out a few examples of stuff that I really liked. And I think Cara actually went through the the Mail Chimp stuff. I’m not quite sure where he is now earlier but I think that
was a great example. Small little moments of delight. Has anyone seen this? I can’t remember what platform it’s off. Just a really nice little moment. That could just say
click me, or be a button, but the fact that there’s
a little bit of movement and a little bit of tactility, and bear in mind that as
we move toward the sort of digital world, we are
losing that sense of touch and that sense of tactility. So what can we do to reignite that? I love this one? That kind of fail thing.
(audience laughs) Now, I would purposely hunt out pages that aren’t gonna work so I
could have that experience. I just think that’s absolutely beautiful. It’s such a lovely moment. Again, there’s absolutely no need for the little animations
on the left-hand side here. This would work absolutely
find and be perfectly best practice if you could
just scroll through it. But there’s just a little bit delight of having that feedback and feeling like you touching something
actually makes a difference. And then the Mail Chimp thing. So, I worked at ITB in the U.K. And they used to send a weekly newsletter to 920,000 people. It was comfortably the
worst moment of my week. I hated it with a passion. I sweated more than that monkey. But that is just so empathetic. It’s a great piece of storytelling. Now, this is a guy that works now at Weta. We just hired the former
head of the internal studio down at Weta Workshop,
and I was lucky enough to go down there the other day. Actually, just a little segue, ’cause I’ve got nine minutes left. As you go around, we were able to go around the bits that you
can’t normally go into and saw some incredible craft down there. There is a King Kong head about the size of this sort of doorway here. So absolutely huge,
about 12, 15 feet high. Absolutely, immaculately made. Everything was perfect,
I went right up to it and I felt like it was
about to breathe on me. It was pretty extraordinary. It apparently cost about
quarter of a million dollars to put this thing together in total. And it was never seen on screen. It was purely there so that Naomi Watts had a eyeline and had something that she could properly connect
with to just pull out that tiny bit more from her performance. We also saw a suit of armor
that was in the Hobbit. Which I’ll have to go see it because I haven’t yet
seen, and they had engraved the entire inside of the suit of armor. The person that will
ever see that engraving was the actor, it will never be on screen. But again, it was just
so that he could get that tiny bit extra
out of his performance. And these are the small bits of kind of craft and creativity that I think we need to be bringing to the work that we do. What can we do that might not be heralded, might not be seen, might not win us awards but that can make that
small bit of difference? Outside of that as well, moving away from kind of best practice stuff. One of the things that
we do in the agency is we talk about if that’s best practice, what’s worse practice? How could we do this in
the worst conceivable way? And you’d be amazed of
the amount of creativity that comes out of that. And little pieces that
you can then pull into creating something different. So, this is a guy that
works down at Weta Workshop. He does these kinds of concept motorbikes. I admit that I’m a motorcyclists, so I have a lot of this stuff. I don’t think I’d ride
any of these, per se, but what a wonderfully kind
of uncomfortable experience it is even looking at these things. And I just wonder if we can add to that slight sense
of discomfort to stuff just to make it something that’s a little bit more memorable. Words that we see on brand platforms and brand strategies constantly. And on product briefs, and so on. Does everyone kind of
see these sorts of words? Helpful, contemporary,
dynamic, encouraging. There are 110,000, I don’t
think that’s working again. Hold on a second, adjectives
in the English language. I don’t know them all. (laughs) Couldn’t we get more creative about some of the words that we
use to describe our products and our brands and some of the value sets that we have for those
and some of the attributes that we want to feed into
those platform products, ecommerce as well. Imagine if we started to build a product that was mad, that was
bossy, that was stubborn. Everyone always wants to kind of dial up positive attributes. Maybe it’s my Britishness coming through. I just don’t think that’s
quite how the world works. I think we connect with the fallibility a lot more than we do with perfection. It’d be great for us to build in a sense of the slightly imperfect, even to some of those experiences. And I think that sense of friction would really connect with
people on a sort of human level. I’m gonna finish with
some board game stuff. So my daughter turns four
a week today, I think. Which I’m thoroughly looking forward to. Snakes and Ladders is for ages four plus. So I’m super excited about this. So obviously I follow rules. I made sure that we’re
not doing that earlier. So I’m really hoping that,
by the way, I’ve tried to play it her, she has no idea what’s going on with this at the moment. So she must wake up in a week’s time and suddenly go, horrah, I’ve got it. (audience laughs) Now, look, there’s nothing
enormously intuitive about Snakes and Ladders
in its current form. But it’s wonderful, right,
everyone played it as a kid. You know, why would
you slide down a snake? Do you go up or down the ladders? The color schemes are all over the place. It’s pretty tricky. If we were gonna go through a kind of UX and create a process around
this, often what we do is go, yes, well, I don’t know
if the call to actions are quite as logical as they could be. I’m sure we could make this a bit easier. That color scheme, so confusing. Why are some yellow, are
the yellows connected? Are the reds connected? What are we trying to
say about these blobs? I just don’t know. It doesn’t feel like a visual language. It doesn’t feel like we’re really trying to connect these together. Let’s change it, oh, that’s better. That’s better like that,
so we got a visual language that makes more sense
now, excellent stuff. But visual metaphors,
let’s just keep this easy. Keep this easy. Arrows
(audience laughs) instead of snakes and
ladders, that’s much better. Yep, I get that now, I get that now. So I land on 20, and then I move up to 59. Actually I’m not quite sure why that’s, should that be turned blue, is it purple? Purple and pink, does pink mean down? Does it signify down? I’m just not sure. Icons, so there’s a flat,
that go is a bit garish. I’m just not sure about that. Oh, that’s, yeah, that’s
better, no people know that a, no, does a flag mean a start or does a flag mean a finish? I’m just not sure, the colors
are still pretty garish. I’m definitely getting some clashes there. I think we can make the
arrows stand out more. Is that better? Yeah, okay, so we don’t need the arrows. Let’s just give people
really clear instructions. It’s all about nice simple,
visual and verbal language. So actually when you land on that, we just go, go to 24,
that makes perfect sense. Get there instantly, no problem. But the flags and the trophies. Could be the other way around. I’m just not sure if that
says that that’s where we’re trying to get to. And there are a lot of steps there. That’s 99 steps that
people have to get through. And there’s a shortened
attention span in the world. I don’t know that people will
stick with us for that long. So let’s make it a little bit quicker. That’s better, perfect.
(audience laughs and applauds) Thank you.

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