D. Keith Robinson

Design, product, UX and such for Atlassian. Damned if you do. Bored if you don’t.

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No More “Users”? Good luck with that.

For reference: Jack Dorsey’s memo: Let’s reconsider our “users”.

I sort of like where you’re going with this Jack, but, it’s not going to work. Like it or not, we’re stuck with the word users to describe people who use our products.

You make a fairly good case; suggesting going with “customers” instead. But, the problem there is that not all users are customers and, well, that makes things confusing. I often co-mingle the two, refer to people as user/customer, etc. It’s harder to keep straight than you might think. And I’m one of the lucky ones where all my customers ARE users.

But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is you’ve put the focus in the wrong spot: on a word and now that’s all you’ve got people talking about. The focus should be on your users, not whatever word you choose to use to call them.

Look, I’ve tried this. I used to run a small consultancy in...

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Product Design Advice from Google Ventures

Good post from Braden Kowitz. Lots of sense in there and it’s a short read. I really liked this bit:

It’s tempting to think that you can outsource product design: hire someone who goes away, does some design work, and returns with a magical solution. But because product design is so complex, it can’t be outsourced and solved in isolation. Great design requires the knowledge and experience of everyone on the team.

This applies to ANY design effort, IMHO. It doesn’t mean you can’t bring in folks to help you out—clearly, given who’s writing this—but it needs to be a true team effort.

One thing I’ll never get, though, is calling out visual design.

Often when people think about design, they think about the surface visual design. But early in a startup, visual design is probably the least of your worries.

Is that really true? Is there so much confusion about what design is that we can’t...

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Actually, Failure Blows

Just read this post by Francisco Dao that echoes closely some of my thinking on the recent trend of celebrating failure. He makes a solid point:

Even worse, many entrepreneurs now celebrate their failures as if they were an indicator of their skill. This is as ridiculous as a race car driver saying his numerous crashes are what make him a good driver.

Amen. As someone who’s gone through a few pretty major failures—in just about all aspects of my life—I’ve never really understood the “celebration” many entrepreneurs associate with failure.

I have learned a lot from failure (the biggest lessons are around not making the same mistakes) but I can’t say failure is the primary learning tool in my life, and, frankly, it’s got some horrible downsides, especially when you’re aiming high.

Failure sucks. It hurts. It can lay a person low. It can cause wide-reaching problems and, despite the...

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Working Smart: Time & Place

“You came here because we do this better than you, and part of that is letting our creatives be unproductive until they are.” - Don Draper

There is some subtle truth about how we all work in that statement. It’s not all about creatives (hate that word) being productive, it’s about creating an environment for people—anyone really—to succeed by doing their best work.

At the core of this environment lies a culture built on trust, empowerment and ownership, but, beyond that there are the nuts and bolts of how, where and when people work.

We all work differently; different things recharge our batteries, get us excited and drive us forward. Some of us need other people around us; some need alone time. Some need silence; others rockin’ tunes. Some need routine and some great variety. Many, like me, prefer different things at different times and for different kinds of work.


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Code. Design. Awesome.

Jeremy Bell over at Teehan+Lax has written one of the best posts I’ve ever read on the sometimes controversial subject of designers who (should) code.

It’s thoughtful, with many compelling arguments, and, more importantly, it doesn’t throw designers under the bus. Rather, he describes a sensible path towards bringing them up to speed, while at the same time letting them work in a way that takes advantage of their valuable skills.

You should read it.

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The Newfangled Myspace

The new Myspace is creating a lot of buzz and getting some serious kudos for its design. And, yes, it sure does look pretty slick in that demo video. It’s all very sexy and Metro and full if of nice interaction touches and transitions. I got a little excited. Nice work JT.

The direction seems smart too; if there was one place Myspace held, and still holds to some degree, it was entertainment. Myspace, despite a horrible experience, is the place many artists go to connect with fans.

Sure, Facebook has made some strides there, and there are some interesting publishing tools out there like BandPage and Onesheet, but Myspace still lingers and dominates Google search results.

So, yeah, it’s interesting and sexy. And a great experience might be just the thing to breath life into it. As well, from a visual design standpoint alone I think it can be applauded, even if it’s not actually all...

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Reframing UX

Recently I’ve heard some talk questioning or knocking the value of UX (User Experience) and design for startups.

This bullshit is derived, as usual, from how is UX typically defined.

Most people think of UX in the wrong way. They associate it with an expensive, time-consuming Process and fuzzy deliverables that don’t actually add a ton of real value to a product. As well, when it’s associated with a job function, I think many people picture an expensive consultant or specialist that runs this time-consuming Process and produces these fuzzy deliverables that don’t actually add much real value to the product.

So, based on that definition of UX, startups definitely wouldn’t have a use for it. I’ll take it a step further. Hardly anyone needs that. Big, small, startup, established…it doesn’t matter.

Instead of saying startups don’t need UX, let’s change the way we look at UX.

I think...

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Motivational Tip: Helping

In my post about what I do as a product designer, I mention a bunch of things I do on a daily basis. In thinking about that, I realized something that I try to do often to help “get me going” on things.

Often, when I’m not sure where to start, or have a mountain of daunting tasks piling up, I begin by asking someone else if they need help with anything.

To me it’s probably the single best motivational/productivity tip I can think of. Sure it’s slightly counter intuitive, as you’re potentially taking on work, but the rewards are mighty. I find that after I spend some time helping someone else get started (or finished) I’m refreshed and ready to get going on my own stuff.

Try it. It works every time.

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What Does a Product Designer Do, Anyway?

I’ve recently been following a few discussions over at Branch about product design. They’ve been interesting, you should go check them out.

  • http://branch.com/b/product-design-and-ui-design
  • http://branch.com/b/showcasing-invisible-design-work
  • http://branch.com/b/how-well-has-the-ux-client-services-model-adapted-to-the-way-products-are-built-today
  • http://branch.com/b/does-the-world-need-product-managers-any-more

It seems like there are many ideas as to what a product designer (and/or product manager as I feel there can/should be a lot of overlap) is and does. There are a lot of articles out there describing these jobs and what goes into them. And don’t get me started on the job descriptions; they’re often confusing as hell. I do get where some of the confusion lies, but when I think about it on a day-to-day basis and look back at my career it doesn’t all that complicated.

So, I was...

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Blink Then Think

I’m a big fan of my gut. I trust my instincts and generally lean towards being a feeler more than being a thinker. In fact, I usually begin expressing myself with “I feel…” as opposed to “I think…” I’m pretty sure I’ve been doing that my whole life and only just began to notice it.

In Lean practice the is an axiom, “test your assumptions”. I love this and feel like it makes a ton of sense. I’ve learned over the years that it’s good to test and validate your ideas, decisions, thoughts, etc. Even if you initially have a strong gut feeling that you’re on the right track.

And, honestly, I’d bet most of the time your gut is right! Even so, there is a lot of value in testing your assumptions, regardless of what they are and how confident you feel. I used to be very proud of my gut, but now I see there is a lot to be said for stopping to think, even when you trust what your instincts are...

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