I don’t need more confidence

Another round of research from the “lean in” crowd.

This concludes that women “don’t know” that minimum qualifications aren’t minimum, and that breaking the rules (as in, applying for jobs where minimum requirements are not met) is what we need.

Except I’ve always done that and known that.
Some people, not all, but more than you’d imagine, don’t realise that they react differently to different sorts of people for the same behaviour. I can’t say it’s a “man”/”woman” thing because that’s not been my experience. A lot of times, it’s women enforcing the ideas.

When I apply to Campus Madrid to host talk I’m more than qualified to give, which I know has a lot of interest, in a venue advertised for as being open to anyone in the startup community, I was almost asked to provide enough papers for a job application. And I was turned down and told that only people involved with groups already presenting on campus were allowed to speak.

That info does not appear anywhere on their site, so I assumed it was a polite way of saying no to me.

When I tweeted about looking for a venue, I got a few high profile retweets and replies. Then Campus reached out this time asking for me to apply again.

I explained to them I wasn’t already a member of a group speaking at campus. This didn’t seem like it was a block. They replied, “please, apply and we’ll work it out”.

Rules are entirely discretionary.

In another instance, I saw an email for a remote working product designer on a product that seemed ideal for me. The application process was really user unfreindly and the video attachment function wouldn’t allow me to upload a 1 minute video recorded on an 18 month old android. So I emailed in the video.

Breaking the rules. Showing initiative and creative problem-solving. Pointing out a usability problem in a low key way.

Of course, I got lectured by email that they wanted someone “smart enough” to work out how to edit their video before uploading.

Maybe they really wanted someone with a bar of problem-solving so low that editing a video instead of fixing an application form is the best they can do.

but..maybe not, eh?

Some people are just held to different standards, depending on who the gatekeeper is and what their biases are.

I don’t know why it is I run against this more frequently from women than men, but I suspect that experiencing bias against you in one dimension of your life may provide a moral licensing effect. They might think “I’m from marginalised group X so I can’t be part of the problem and I would know problematic behaviour if I saw it.”What bothers me is wondering to what extent I manifest this behaviour as well.

It also might be that guys are just happy to break up the sausage fest that they are less picky about who applies, while women benefit from being the only or one of a few girls on the team, so don’t want to give out those spots too easily.

Either way, the solution isn’t having guts and speaking up and leaning in. I’ve been doing all those things since I was a teen.

We live in this weird world where people tell us what we need to be to become palatable (I’m sure this applies to men in different ways, drop a comment if you have examples). Then that those things make us unfit to progress.

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She gets me

Here’s the thing, though. I never noticed this until I was on the wrong side of it.

In Spain, I often feel exhausted just running small errands because I’m always expected to move around each person in the street. Also, I have to sidestep dog poo in every other step, so walking down my street feels like a really long game of hopscotch.

Eventually, I made a rule that only old people, young kiddos, or people with prams or other mobility issues get me to move. But that doesn’t feel better, to be honest. It feels hard.

I don’t want to be hard, but I don’t want to be a sucker either.

Did I ever notice who was moving around me in the UK? Or for whom I moved while walking? I must have moved on occasions and not moved on other occasions based on some feelings or notions I never bothered to unpack. I regret if there were people flowing around me and every other person I never noticed.

The only consolation I have is that I must be guilty of that same behaviour.

There is something very true about interruptions often being about power dynamics.

There is a person who signals to you that their time is somehow precious, while yours is worthless.

The client that doesn’t answer your email for weeks, but wants results 12 hours after they reply.

The startup that has a codetest, requires an essay, and that requires you to shoot a series of videos answering questions, edit and compress them before the form accepts them, but won’t answer your email.

The last time I worked for free, the final straw was actually setting up emails. There was a girl for whom I had reset the password and sent instructions to change it to one more memorable. Of course, I got no reply for weeks. Her time was far too precious. Then, the day before she needed to send a campaign, I got floods of messages demanding I drop my paid work and reset her password again because the original had expired.

Since we’re both from the UK, I saw the underlying attitude quite clearly. Here was a person with 14 years experience in building web experiences and consulting on web workflows being treated like BT remote support by someone who maybe had a shot at getting hired as an unpaid intern.

In my old office job, marketers emailed me for how to do the same steps over and over. So I documented those steps and sent them the links. They would reply that they didn’t have time to read the link. But it was the same instructions. To some extent, it made sense that there might be anxiety over how long the text might be and if it was an epic scrollable tome I had sent them, but not everyone replied this way.

A specific type of person would baulk at my sending the link. Over time, I realised they were upset that my time was too important to copy and paste replies to them because this signalled that their mental hierarchy was broken; I wasn’t beneath them.

This is one reason I am so adamant that work should be asynchronous. Some people get interrupted more than others as power displays, and when they try and mitigate that, get told they have an attitude. When they don’t, they get told they’re not delivering enough or managing their time well enough.

Biases are ingrained, but work habits are easy enough to change.

In design, the wrong decision is not making one

There are two ways to make design decisions, but I’m going to start by telling you the wrong way, the way that too many companies use because it feels safer and easier. The way that’s guaranteed to crush the soul of every person in the project and result in unambitious, bland, ultimately forgettable products and increasingly lower standards.
That way is Consensus.

“Consensus: “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: ‘I stand for consensus?” – Margaret Thatcher

What’s so bad about wanting a consensus? isn’t that democratic?

No. it’s not.

It’s cowardly. It doesn’t have to hurt anyone’s feelings because it’s not any one person’s opinion.
It’s an abdication of leadership and vision. It says that all inputs and outcomes are equal as long as no one objects too much.

I am no fan of Thatcher’s politics (although for many reasons, I admire her) but she nailed it about consensus. Design is about solving problems, and consensus steps around them for the sake of pleasantry and getting along.

Consensus is what gave us the Kendall Jenner coke ad. Consensus is what gives us the Eurovision entries. Consensus is what makes Microsoft products still feel shitty even though they have some of the very the best brains in the industry working for them, because at this point they have to please all these opposing interests, so the products please and cater to no one, but don’t alienate anyone too much.

This isn’t how you make an impact. You have to choose. You need to have conviction. You need to be able to see where this is going and who your people are in this journey and cater to only them. You might hurt someone’s feelings. You may be disliked. You may be seen as weird or niche, or mean.

You may even have to eat crow from time to time and pivot. And as long as you don’t do it at Theresa May frequencies and hold to your vision of how your want your product to impact people, you’ll be ok.

And you’ll be respected. Maybe even quoted.

Tips for Bilingual WordPress Sites & Plugins for Wedding Sites

TL:DR; How to translate a wordpress plugin or theme. Just read that link because that’s what you need.

“No,  I have time..what problems might I run into when building a bilingual page?”

Thanks! OK, so we’re using wordpress to make a wedding site. I would prefer to GTD it by using a free, ready to roll site but our requirements were:

  • online RSVP, including menu options
  • Fully bilingual
  • hidden from search engines

So self-hosted seemed like the best option. At the time I thought wordpress would be best for being able to switch the content around, update guests on any changes in plans (since most of my people aren’t just outside Spain but outside the continent of Europe as well) and was extendable as needed.

Only it’s a bitch to translate after you have a few plugins involved.

Plugins we are using:

Here was how I thought translation would go:

  1. I download WPML
  2. I create the English content.
  3. my S.O would write the Spanish content.
  4. I’d link the content up in the WMPL plugin.
  5. Voila!

Here’s how it actually went

  1. I download the WPML plugin.
  2. I create English content
  3. I create Spanish content shittily because S.O is ‘too busy’
  4. I translate the navigation bar.
  5. I translate the helpful links section
  6. The language switcher isn’t working and I lose my mind.
  7. It’s not working because I forget about the static homepage in the theme (since we have no blog content yet. Just pages). The language switcher won’t work because the homepage only exists in English.
  8. I create a Spanish version of the static homepage with WMPL. (basically, hit the plus sign and create another empty homepage inside the pages list.) Now the language switcher works.
  9. But the widgets on the homepage are in English.
  10. I download WPML widgets.
  11. I create two versions of every widget on the home page and use the language select option to specify which language they should appear on.
  12. realise that WordPress still counts there being two widgets in each area and the theme formats the one visible widget to occupy half the page width, to the left of the page. Because it’s a dynamically created page, there’s nothing to edit but to remove the widget counting function, and I definitely don’t want to do that because I do want to occasionally use the two widget layout.
  13. I ponder adding jquery to remove the “two-widget” class to select elements. But do I really want to load jquery on a page just for this? Most people will load it in mobile where it renders fine.
  14. I install a static HTML cache (WP super cache) because that at least speeds up page load speed while also rendering a static html page in which I can remove the “two-widgets” div element from.
  15. I edit the static html and everything that should be centred is centred.
  16. S.O is finally available and needs me to edit all the Spanish content.
  17. I delete cache to view the changes and (as expected) my edits are gone.
  18. Repeat step 15
  19. S.O has realised the navigation bar needs edits in Spanish
  20. repeat steps 17 &  15
  21. S.O notices a typo
  22. disable cache until all edits are done and create a trello board for issues.
  23. S.O notices an error in a WordPress translation of the form fields. It’s saying required fields are NOT required, which is just confusing.
  24. I rummage around plugin folder, core WordPress translation files but nothing I do results in changes. This takes forever.
  25. I eventually cheat and use the “Advanced” tab inside ninja forms form editor for that form > “display settings” > “Advanced” > “custom labels” and type in sensible Spanish.
  26. S.O wants the field above the comment section which I’ve changed inside the Comment Guestbook plugin to read “leave a note” to appear in Spanish on the Spanish site. I remove the custom text inside the plugin since it’s not translatable and decide to edit the english text since the spanish text makes sense with defaults on.
  27. Rummage some more inside the core translation. Find ‘comment-template.php’ file and edit “leave a reply” to ‘Leave a Note’,
  28. The Spanish translation now says “Leave a Note” in English.
  29. Open up es_ES.po inside /wp-content/languages/ search and find and replace “Leave a Reply” with “Leave a Note” so the translation has the updated string.
  30. Discover this isn’t enough because the .po file needs to be compiled into that .mo file I keep seeing everywhere.
  31. Download Poedit, which 1) makes finding the string much easier. 2) compiles the texts after editing. Edit and save.
  32. Upload the edited file and generated .mo file to the FTP server.
  33. It works now.

Take homes & tips:

  1. As with professional sites, it’s always down to having content ready for you to put in.
  2. If you do have to go ahead without the dummy text or your own translated efforts without your translator, keep a list of every item you’ve translated so you can go through everything methodically rather than on a “visibility” basis. Just because it’s personal, don’t assume you’ll get it done faster than if it were paid.
  3. If you have a static webpage, make sure you “translate” that too in WPML, even though it’s technically an empty page in the I’m using.
  4. Don’t bother with po/mo editor plugin. It takes ages to load and didn’t save properly. Poedit was way more efficient and easy, but you need to be able to ftp or have access to file manager in Cpanel.
  5. Use browser language, never IP address for presenting translated pages.
  6. Don’t expect people to see the language switch option in the navigation bar- on mobile this is often squished into a “hamburger”. Use system language detection. Although this does rely on javascript, which is limited.
  7. Separate folders or subdomains are best in case the system language detection doesn’t work. In our use case, we can send the /es/ version to his family and friends.

Anyone with tips on multilingual or bilingual pages? I’d love to hear your tips!

The Creative (ADHD) Person’s Guide to Productivity at Home

I am a woman in a domestic relationship, and thus, no matter how enlightened my partner is and aspires to be, no matter how much my mom flat out refused to cook, clean, or buy my brother and I gendered toys as children, I am still affected by cultural expectations ambient in our environment. This means that while both of us work from home most days, I feel the burden of needing to shop, cook and tidy up most of the time. We discuss this. He tells me I can delegate, I can ask. I think that needing to delegate often will be seen as me being “not in control” by him subtly. We discuss why I would feel that way. We’re a two person cultural panel-cum-assignment-taskforce.

I used to be in a relationship where we “understood” each other and never discussed anything but fun things. It worked great until we grew up. I prefer this way.

While working for yourself is pleasant, being your own project manager, sales team, marketing team, HR department (what training should I do next?), head of strategy & investments, and own legal team is draining. I’m also the webmistress of my boyfriends Political Economics blog and facebook page (he’s slowly becoming a big deal) and in-house IT person. I’m planning a wedding, have a parrot who — like all parrots— needs a lot of attention to be emotionally healthy and happy, am always training for the next race and have a project on the side which tends to get ignored on weeks like this week when the wedding website has problems with translating widget content.

My time is very full.

Distractions have to go if I ever want to deliver assignments, maintain basic hygiene standards and eat one square meal a day.

But there is a difference between being focused and being effective. Effectiveness is when you focus on worthwhile things and I’ll discuss that at the bottom.

How I get Shit Done

  • Pomodoro all the things. You know how when you hear there are people on the way over you run around cleaning for ten minutes then wonder why your place never looks this tidy normally? That’s the kind of result setting a 20 minute timer gives you. Having a timer on means I have to prioritise: unload & reload dishwasher, or put the plates by the sink to be cleaned before doing dinner? Change the bird’s cage liner, or just vacuum around the cage? Do the floors NEED cleaning or just spot vacuuming/wiping? By the timer runs out, the place looks respectable, but I didn’t get sucked into it. I also Pomodoro time personal admin (emails to my tax guy, dealings with Oxfordshire country council, or my letting agency in the UK), which is by far the thing I hate doing the most. knowing I’ll only spend 25 minutes doing something makes it seems less daunting, and I reply to emails faster and worry less about the wording. It ends, and if I need more time, I will get back to it another day or in another session.
  1. Planning the week.  After I’m done with the morning swipe and have my coffee, I check my planner. This is the wireframe for my week where I keep workouts, deadlines, and day related tasks or appointments as well as plan tasks around energy intensive social obligations so I’m not drained or overwhelmed on the day. The most important thing about this system is that I only have the things I need to do this week on there. Some things might be day specific, but I like to leave tasks as for the week. This gives me a little bit of time to get everything done without a panic if I don’t get something done on a particular day.  The reason paper works better for me is because I can’t “cheat” with it and perpetually move tasks to the next day, like I do with digital to do lists.It’s either checked off, or it’s not. Also, it doesn’t annoy me with popups and alerts, which distract me from what I’m doing in the moment.  For tasks that have multiple steps associated with them (as most of my digital work does, as well as wedding planning) it’s easier to break those next actions down and space and schedule them out in trello.
  2. Scrum Points for Spoonies: Inside trello, I use an extension that allows scrum points to be added to cards, although as a solo worker, I don’t use scrum. Scrum points are an estimation of effort and that helps me be realistic about how much I can get done in a day as a spoonie. Above 21 points in a day is a sign I’ve taken on too much..
  3. Maintain regular work hours: blocking off my time -as much as possible- really helps me focus. Also, I know my relaxation time is after 8, and that I have time to workout, do the evening tidyup, and run whatever errands I need and chillax thanks to my planning steps above.
  4. Capture Inspiration While doing stuff, other ideas will pop into my head that are not related to the task at hand. I have one page in my planner for incoming ideas I want to expand one. If the idea is a good one, it can get expanded on later and added as a project in my queue. But capturing it allows me to get back to what I’m doing without spending energy trying to “hold that thought”.
  5. Block distractions. As I said about paper planners, notifications are distractions. In my mac I switch off as many of these as possible (even slack) and only have my time logging tool reminding me to log my billable time. I’m not a sysadmin, so I can check alerts on my breaks. I also use RescueTime, which only allows me to check certain sites on Pomodoro breaks until 8pm. The best thing about Rescue Time is that it tracks your behaviour on mobile as well as computer and scores you daily on productivity.
  6. Avoid email. Email is a time sinkhole. There’s always something interesting to check out, but the time to do that not now. Sending emails happens after work is done, in the personal admin pomodoro.
  7. Hide the taskbar and app-launcher.Yes, I’m serious about blocking distractions, and the taskbar and app-launcher are just reminders of OTHER things I could do or should pay attention to, like edit that youtube video for my channel with only one video on it, or that blog post on how people make decisions for my work blog. The thing is, I can’t do anything effectively with my mind of something else. The best thing I can do is focus on the task at hand and leave others for after whatever I’m working on is done.
  8. The ADHD buster: I have a column in trello called “doing” which may only have one card at any given time. I have a goldfish memory, and if anything interrupts me (answering the door for a delivery), it takes me a while to remember what I’m supposed to be doing, especially with all those other lovely ideas popping up all the time. Referring to the “doing now” column in trello stops me opening another tab or getting lost in a new tangential idea and makes me want to push that card into the “done” column.

There is one sneaky thing I’m not telling you, though.

It’s really easy to stay busy. 

Especially if — like me — you equate being busy with being useful. Yes, the opportunities for being busy are everywhere.

Being effective is hard.

It’s important to assess each would-be project in terms of positive impact on my life, or on others.  To that end, I have a page in my planner about areas of responsibility: (work, house, health, business, partner, parrot, etc.) and another page for my values.  There are just there for me to review, not to link to anything.

Every app I’ve tried that links these areas to projects and those project to tasks takes more time to manage than is worthwhile.

It’s up to me to make sure that my projects -whether building a raspberry pi powered amazon echo*, or baking an actual raspberry pie- align with those areas of responsibility and those values.

Otherwise, it’s not worth my time.

What about you? How do you manage your time? Especially for the energy or health challenged, I’d love to hear your tips!

*Designing pleasant voice interactions for products is an area of responsibility in my work and also ties with my values of making the interface as out of the way as possible. If I could, you would blink twice and think of pizza and it would arrive.

UX: design, sharing and collaboration apps, and specification tools

I’m still feeling my way through working in UX. My repeat client is a team of developers of SAS web applications. They code and my job is to make their mighty, very powerful and feature rich web apps pretty and simple looking. I work in graphic design software, share the jpegs, get feedback, make changes, then hand over the PSD source files for the devs to pick apart, which adobe makes really nice and easy with their online tools.

Only, Photoshop is really a very big, slow behemoth for UX design. While nothing can touch it for editing images, photos and logos to perfection, it isn’t fast to work with. I used to design websites direct in the browser, only using photoshop for wireframes and creating assets like backgrounds and headers, so I didn’t ‘get’ why many in the community bemoaned the death of fireworks. Let’s just say, I get it now.

Enter Sketch. I downloaded it reluctantly, initially distrusting anything that seemed to get so many mentions online. It felt like the hipster mustache of the design world and I was sure I would hate it. On the other hand, it has a one off price, as opposed to adobe’s subscription model (which essentially pays for a new shrink box version of photoshop each and every year), and people kept saying it was ‘lightening fast’. Since I’m freelancing, anything that speeds up my turn around time translates into me earning more, and that was worth investigating. I got a copy, and a short but extreemly helpful course on Udemy which got me running in it in no time, and started using it for projects right away.

The verdict? YES, sketch is better for UX. This isn’t a debate or even an opinion anymore. It’s just a fact, like the legality of gay marriage, or the reality of global warming. Our feelings, nostalgia, or idealogoy don’t factor into it.

It is annoying that it’s mac only, but that’s the way the web design community rolls now. All the cool toys are for mac. I used to be a PC girl, but you gotta move with the times.

So, as far as tools go. It’s sketch. I will try and kill my photoshop subscription if possible within the next year. The money saved on that alone can buy me a mac mini (not that I’d want one to work one..) or new thermomix within a year (or at least save in case either laptop or thermomix die suddenly), so it’s not just me being “anti- the man” here. It’s actually quite a lot of money I spend for this product, for not a lot of return on investment, since I’m not a photographer nor working in a photo rich industry.

Review and feedback
I use Skype for discussing the project and it’s scope, and for online group meetings, and have used skype’s screensharing for reviewing files while still inside the design application, but I so much prefer to use InVision for feedback now.  I like that I can sync it up to upload screens straight from sketch (or PSD) file layers so I don’t need to export and upload anything, and I add interactive hotspots to the next screens to help me and client better visualise how the finished app will work, and any interactions that need considering.

It also saves all versions of the file and works as a image SVN tool (do you remember layer vault?) allowing me to download and go back to a previous design iteration. Really, I can’t say enough good things about InVision. It’s simple to use, I can see every change I make to the file online within seconds (on a fibre optic conection, at least) and my client sees all the screens I’m working on, linked together or in a slideshow, as I prefer,  and can place comments on specific parts of the design so we don’t misunderstand each other when he talks about “the dropdown”. I can also add the developers to the project so they can download all the assets, such as fonts, source files, and backgrounds, but I’ll discuss that a bit later.

I’ve also used UXPin for demoing designs and showing UX interactivity, but it’s just slower and is designed for building interactivity demos, rather than design collaboration. It needs exporting from the design app and is just slower for my day to day work. It’s a very powerful application which lets you design from lowi-fi mock ups to high fedelity apps in the browser, but I don’t see myself using it enough to pay for it right now. I have upgraded my InVision account, however.

Handover and collaboration
I’ve said before that the devs pick apart the final files for building. Unfortunatly, the only layered file I can export (other than a .sketch one) from Sketch is SVG. And SVG files are basically the 5th circle of hell. Groups of layers (e.g. for menus, navigations buttons, drop down layers) all get ripped apart. Names are discarded and replaced with numbers. NO, I am NOT handing over that nightmare to developers.

Sketch does allow you to copy and paste CSS from groups and from individual layers, and I will take time compile a css document of styles and tidy it up and make it into something a human can understand (automatic code is always slightly incomprehensable and ‘dumb’, even at the best of times) without assuming too much about how they should mark up the page. I’ll comment things like “navigation text” and “navigation buttons”, for example, rather than “li” or “nav container”. Maybe I should make more assumptions and stick with bootstrap terms. I also export the assets, which sketch makes easy to do for different formats in one shot.

Invision allows me to add co-workers to a project and then they can access all the assets associated with the folder, but I don’t want my clients to see me making changes to new screens as they are being designed, so I’d rather use dropbox for handover of raw files and assets for now and keep using InVision for review and feedback.

I’m also really loving Zeplin for making the styleguides right now. Unlike my manual approach, zeplin allows me to add features and screens without needing to go back and re-edit my style sheet. It basically acts like adobe’s online asset sharing page, where each screen has all elements measurable, and all fonts and colors are visible for picking apart, and all styles copyable. I think it perfectly meets what the devs want to be able to do, with how I like to work and I can see myself upgrading from the free account.

So, that’s my current toolset for work right now. I also started to use diigo screencapturing for UX research and for storing design patterns, but those screens are saved as ‘private’ by default. I do prefer saving my screenshots online and tagged for reference rather than cluttering up my harddrive with a million screenshots in folders (I know I can tag my files on mac, but I rarely do while saving them), so I think that’s here to stay.

Any suggestions or comments? I’ll come back and re-write this a little bit later when I have a moment, but if I don’t post today, the chances are this draft will languish forever unpublished while I attend to the endless list of “important things”.

“Perfection is the enemy of done”, right?

oh my gold – What I’m using to plan & focus lately

filofax-saffiano-2015-limited-edition-gold-a5-organizer-1000x1000

I want to pre-order this so badly, but it costs about what I pay my tax guy per month, and despite the fact that paper is definitely more effective for me  to plan things (I have problems understanding time, so my do to lists are as long as the Iliad, and I get stressed and angry at myself for “failing” to complete them), I just don’t think I can justify having two organisers. Continue reading

Dagaz

Today I’m mostly pillaging Quora’s UX section for blog, tool, podcastbook, and skill recommendations for UX stuff. And hitting up medium for Sketch and framer.js tutorials.

I don’t want to be “that web designer who tries to do UX” and make the mistakes and omissions of a newbie. I want to roll like a pro, as quickly as I can.

I have a million tabs open, not enough hours to listen to these podcasts, and no idea which interaction tool is best. I’m a little overwhelmed, but want to use this down time to level up before I’m contacted again by the company I’m working with.

This is growth, right?