Making UX Work with Joe Natoli

Episode 09, Peter Kaizer :: Designing with the head, the heart and the hands

October 16, 2018 Season 1 Episode 9
Making UX Work with Joe Natoli
Episode 09, Peter Kaizer :: Designing with the head, the heart and the hands
Chapters
Making UX Work with Joe Natoli
Episode 09, Peter Kaizer :: Designing with the head, the heart and the hands
Oct 16, 2018 Season 1 Episode 9
Joe Natoli / Peter Kaizer
My guest today is Peter Kaizer, a UX designer and developer with over 20 years of professional experience — a career he began making things with his hands.
Show Notes Transcript

My guest today is Peter Kaizer, a UX designer and developer with over 20 years of professional experience. What’s particularly interesting is that Peter started his career making things with his hands, namely what he calls "functional pottery."

That's an altogether different kind of user experience — but as you'll hear, this approach and experience absolutely informs the digital products that he creates. The result is an emphasis on things that are both highly functional and beautifully designed.

Peter describes himself as creative, collaborative, curious, opinionated and optimistic. He is all that and more, my friends; you're going to enjoy this one.

Twitter:

@pdkaizer

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Website:

peterkaizer.com

Speaker 1:
0:08
Hello and welcome to making us work to give you X podcast.
Speaker 2:
0:12
And your house host Jonah totally and our focus here is on folks like you doing a real often unglamorous work in the real world. You'll hear about their struggles their successes and their journey to and through the trenches of product design development and of course user experience. My guest today is Peter Kaiser a user experience designer and developer with over 20 years of professional experience. What's particularly interesting here is that Peter started his career making things with his hands which is an altogether different kind of user experience but absolutely informs the digital products that he creates. The result is an emphasis on things that are highly functional and beautifully designed. Peter describes himself as creative collaborative curious opinionated and optimistic and as I think you'll hear in this conversation he has all that and more.
Speaker 3:
1:11
Here's my conversation with Peter Kaiser on making us work.
Speaker 4:
1:17
So Peter how are you. I'm good. I'm good. Thanks for having me on. Really appreciate it.
Speaker 5:
1:22
Thanks for joining. It's been quite a while since you and I talked in person.
Speaker 6:
1:27
Yeah I'm trying to remember when it was I think I was still at the large nonprofit Catholic Relief Services where I was the digital director for many many years for nearly 15 years which is a long time.
Speaker 7:
1:45
I think we were talking about actually doing a podcast weren't we. I think we were going to. Go actually. So here we are. Isn't that crazy.
Speaker 4:
1:56
Yeah well contests are having a moment right now. I mean they have been for a while.
Speaker 5:
2:02
Yeah I think so. I think so it's and it's. Well let me ask you. Why do you think that is.
Speaker 6:
2:07
You know a little bit of it is it's part of the democratization of technology. I mean if you think about it when I'm probably a little bit older than you are but when we were young we'd listen to you know somebody on the radio broadcast or you know a woman or a man and think oh that's cool. But but we had no access to being able to do something like that.
Speaker 4:
2:33
And now you can make an A movie on an iPhone.
Speaker 8:
2:40
Yeah we've come a long way.
Speaker 4:
2:43
I think that that's part of it. I also think that increasingly people just want more control over their information. I mean that and that's a double edged sword. I think a little bit because there are forces out there at play and I don't want to sort of get into the sorry state of our of our society. We'll be here forever. But you can you know you know you've got to do is just look out the window.
Speaker 9:
3:14
You know I think and I agree with you I always wonder if part of this isn't people just sort of trying to take back the truth in a way that the state of sort of broadcasts where you know the few get to dictate to the many. I mean that that started at the end you know with the Internet. But yeah I have to wonder if if a lot of this isn't just people saying you know what I'm tired of this and I want something else I want something that with more depth with more humanity with more truth you know. So they're doing it.
Speaker 6:
3:47
Absolutely. I also think look I come from the world of the maker. So I started my creative career as a you know as a kid when I was 12 years old making stuff with my hands. And so I you know I'm a child of the 60s. I was born in 1957 so I grew up through the 60s and you know as a as a young kid in the late 60s I started making stuff actually out of leather with my hands and then I started making handmade pottery and I did that professionally for a long time. So I came through that sort of studio Crafts movement.
Speaker 9:
4:27
Yeah I saw that in your in your profile.
Speaker 10:
4:29
The do it yourself kind of thing and I think now with technology we're in this new 21st century age of do it yourself.
Speaker 4:
4:39
Yeah yeah. And so I think podcasts are really a part of that in a way. The access to the technology. I mean even 10 years ago it would be hard to do what we're doing right now.
Speaker 9:
4:52
No question no question. It was sort of a privileged position you know to be able to put stuff like this out into the world. Absolutely indeed. So let me ask you a question. I mean I I saw on your profile you know you the your craftsman with handcrafted pottery and things like that. I mean that was from the looks of is like 18 years of your life. So and as you said you started working with your hands at a very early age. So one of the things I've been eternally curious about OK in terms of especially is digital design has replaced print design where there's no tangible thing you hold in your hands right. When this is done aside from tapping it on the screen maybe right. Do you feel like the absence of that the absence of tactile senses contributes to this sense of man. I don't want to get huge here but but it always it's always on my mind that I don't know this sense of of hollowness emptiness I don't know what to call it.
Speaker 1:
5:56
Well I'm going to answer the question I think from sort of the other side which is I have always felt that I am very good at what I do because I spent so much of my life basically defining user experience by creating actual physical objects that people used every day agreed. So I made pottery and before that you know handcrafted leather goods that were functional that people use to wallets belts handbags and then in pottery very functional pottery that was always really intended to be used in the preparation and serving and enjoyment of meals of good food and drink. So when you make I don't know a thousand mulk coffee mugs a year that somebody is going to drink their morning coffee out of you pay attention to details like what does the lip feel like on a person's lip as they're drinking their morning coffee or what is a cereal bowl feel like in their hand as they're as they're you know eating their morning cereal and. Or what does that picture feel like when you pour orange juice out of it. Is it weighted correctly is balanced right. So you learn about really about the usability of things and of course you know look one of the Bibles for all of us you know you designers is Don Norman's the Design of Everyday Things.
Speaker 4:
7:30
Absolutely. That has that famous picture I always laugh at this picture on the cover of the weird Victorian teapot the spout. Does you know it was like How can you pour something out of that. Exactly. So I guess the answer your question yes I think if you haven't spent time making products or objects that people actually use with their hands I think in a way maybe you miss out on fully understanding what user experience can be.
Speaker 9:
8:07
Yeah and I agree with that. I think there's a dimension missing. You know it doesn't. I don't know that necessarily makes people. It's not a detriment to their to their skill set. But I do think like you're saying there's a dimension of understanding that sort of not there from a user's perspective though. I mean one of the things that I guess I'm trying to get at is when you use a digital product to me. All right and maybe this is because of my age as well. There is something missing there isn't there is an element of use of engagement of feedback.
Speaker 5:
8:46
I don't know what it is that is missing as opposed to when you use a physical product you know in your head whether that's a tool or a book or you know driving your car it's like this thing about self driving cars. Yeah. Yeah right part of the reason I hate it I hate the idea of it. I think if I'm I'm being honest is that I don't want to let go of the experience of driving the car.
Speaker 4:
9:09
Yeah. Yeah. No I think you're right. I think you see it even in you know the digitisation of audio and use it. So you know the audio files that I knew as a kid you know they wanted to hear the sort of the warmth of the sound that that had needle on on vinyl has. I mean I knew audio files that were like they were even crazy about the shape of the wire that was connecting their speaker of wax ribbon copper wire would transmit sound you know. So there is there's a lot of sort of tactile aspects to producing digital products.
Speaker 9:
9:55
You know Neil Young has been trying forever to come up with this different sort of compression scheme for audio. For that reason I tend to agree with what he says and that there's an entire spectrum of sound that is missing from digital music. For instance I refuse to use wireless headphones. Yeah because I've listened to them and they do sound good. Don't get me wrong but to me there's a big chunk of stuff on the spectrum that is that is missing from me right.
Speaker 4:
10:27
It's almost like we've made it so clean that it's lost you know sort of we cleaned even some of the life out of it.
Speaker 9:
10:35
Yeah yeah the humanity the humanity sort of comes out of it. Yeah yeah yeah yeah. I ran a small record label for a couple of years it was like I don't know three or four years. And one of my partners had a studio so we used to record bands as well. So I've produced a handful of bands and one of the things that I sort of insisted on and we tried it both ways. OK but one of the things I asked her to do insist on is that the band has to play live together. I don't know what that is. I don't have a name for it. All I know is that when you run separate tracks and everybody tracks themselves by themselves yeah something dies something goes away and the music is perfect and it's to a click track and it's pristine and all the stuff. There's something something that punches you in the chest that's missing. It's not there any.
Speaker 4:
11:27
Yeah. No. I mean I think I think the other thing with back to your question about what's missing with digital products so and we know we've been through in terms of sort of design approaches are designed Perre paradigms.
Speaker 6:
11:43
We you know we've been through the skill of morphic age of software design where that notetaking software looks like a you know lined ledger paper and that don't you know that audio interface has dials and stuff on it. It looks like dials even though there are digital controls.
Speaker 4:
12:03
And so you know there there is something kind of virtual about digital products that know you can't actually touch them with your hands. And I'll be curious like the fast forward in. I think probably 10 15 20 years because I think the physical screen is ultimately going to go away from a digital product perspective. I think we're going to wind up with you know interfaces that are maybe not probably not true. Virtual reality INTERFACEs but mixed reality are augmented reality INTERFACEs. You're going to access the news feeds that you want to read kind of virtually through a pair of light field projection glasses that are basically going to beam that data directly into your retinas. I think that's ultimately where we're going.
Speaker 9:
12:59
Do you think some of the sensory experience will come back in a sort of virtual reality situation like that.
Speaker 4:
13:05
Well I think it I think it can. I mean that's sort of the promise of virtual reality is that it can be more immersive. Now you know are we going to get to a ready player one state.
Speaker 7:
13:21
Oh I hope not because that wasn't sore. Sorry commentary on society. No thundery but.
Speaker 4:
13:34
And I thought the book was way better than the movie. I didn't read the book. The book is The book is really good. I read the book first actually I. And I am glad I did actually. What was the core difference. A. Well so the way that the group of five you know the meat they don't meet in person nearly as soon in the book as they do in the movie. In fact they don't really meet in person till the very end of the book. But you know Spielberg had to. And the author of the book I'm blanking on his name right now but had you know he was he wrote the screenplay. So it was it was a slightly it was a pretty radically different story. And I mean the premise was the same and everything but. But anyway I you know I hope we not we don't get you know the future is that you know people who are sort of so walled off basically walking down the street you know living in their own world. I hope that whatever sort of augmented reality evolves that it it allows sort of a a mutually beneficial coexistence between the real world at hand and the virtual world.
Speaker 9:
14:52
Well I agree with that. I mean I think that's one of the that's one of the sort of negative sides of of the way we use technology right now is that there is a great degree of isolation. We get a world full of people staring down into their phones. Yes when out of 24 hours a day. Yeah I know. And I understand I've been plenty guilty of it myself. And you have to really force yourself right sort and not to do it because it's always there.
Speaker 4:
15:23
I agree. I had so I was on a podcast earlier this year. A friend of mine does a podcast with his brother.
Speaker 10:
15:35
It's called the stories our robots tell us an anti-hero. Yeah it's a great it's a great title. I'll email you at length to the podcast. And I so I started listening to it and it's really about sort of how we inform our technology and how our technology informs us. And it's a fun conversation. These guys go through. So I I listen to a couple of episodes and I emailed this friend of mine and I said you know hey great I've been enjoying it.
Speaker 4:
16:07
Here's a question for an episode. Can robots make art. And he said Oh great idea. You have a unique perspective on that given your background. Would you like to be a guest on it. Oh it sounds awesome. So I'll send you a link to that for that episode because it was it was curious and this gets back to that sort of what's missing in digital products that you are talking about. To me art and let's set aside the sort of the whole you know raging debate that has gone on in the you know is it art or is it craft beer. Yeah I think. I don't want to go there because or somebody you know permutations of that. But. To me art is something that elicits an emotion from somebody. Whether it's you know something that's hanging on the wall whether it's something you listen to whether it's something you read whether it's something you watch on a screen whether it's an object that you that you use. So it should elicit some sort of emotional response which makes me think well the maker of that object should be able to experience emotion and I'm not sure robots can yet know right.
Speaker 9:
17:21
Right. We're not there yet we're certainly not there yet. And I think that's part of the problem. Because you just you just hit on something that to me is really important that the maker needs to be able to experience emotion. I think that is one of my big hang ups. You just gave it a name or a definition. I'm constantly reading about. It. You know these these automatic frameworks OK they creates web layouts they create interfaces and they create you know responsive grids and also other stuff. It's all tools and frameworks tools and frameworks and frameworks. And I feel like look. You're you're cutting out a massive part of of the empathetic part of design that creates positive user experience you can't not have human intervention because of what you just said you know a machine does not experience emotion. Yeah. I mean it does. Maybe it will in the future. Who knows. Yeah but this to me. I am really against I suppose this increasing reliance in this sort of superhero fetish about technology doing its own work. I just yeah I think it runs counter to everything that we do.
Speaker 4:
18:48
I completely agree with you. I mean look I started writing H.T. Amelle in the late 90s and I've never used you know the editor. And you know I'm I'm I'm a coder I'm also a I'm a designer I'm a Kotara I'm one of those people that can do a lot of things because I've had to and I've been doing it a long time. And I I love I mean frameworks have a purpose tool tools and and front and tooling has a purpose. I kind of bundle a lot of that stuff and there isn't. You're absolutely right. There is an oversized obsession with that stuff right now. I bundle that stuff into sort of you know design ops. There needs to be good well-thought-out design operations just the same way there needs to be good well thought out dev ops developer operations for a product team that's producing a product you have a habit but there's something very important that has to come before that and that is thinking about you know it's a human being that's going to use this product. And one of my big sort of bugs you know things that just drives me crazy is so we have these great pop you know publishing platforms Wordpress Drupal you name you know content management flavor of of of choice. Nobody pays attention to what the user experience of the poor soul whose job it is is to keep that Web site up to date with current content.
Speaker 8:
20:25
Thank you. Thank you. Nobody pays attention so that nobody pays attention to it. It's an insane.
Speaker 9:
20:33
If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me it's just an admin. Yes and such I would be a rich man. That's craziness. Human yes. Use that part right. No one cares. You said it.
Speaker 4:
20:49
No one gives a shit about how hard it is that nobody cares. Yup and it's you know look I've done enough. Know custom druk Drupal development custom WordPress development. No doubt it's super easy. It's just laziness. Exactly. It's not. It's not considered sexy. You know. Oh there's no return on investment on sort of internal administrative user experience. That's such a B.S. I agree. Couldn't agree more. I mean. We build you know the firm and firm I work for builds some great products really big products and of course the federal government right now loves Drupal which I think is a pain in the ass. I mean I think it's. It is. It's very powerful and 90 percent of the federal government websites that are done with Drupal could be done with Wordpress for half a half to half the amount of money. Oh right. But that scares me. Yeah that's CURE's although interestingly enough you know who uses the word word press a lot in the federal government. The State Department. Are you kidding. No. I will wear them there. Yeah. That's funny.
Speaker 4:
22:07
The world is an interesting place. So yes. Anyway nobody you know people don't pay attention to it. I don't know why it's like even when you know sort of the usability they're all stuck on you know what's the end user being presented with. That's you know nobody is saying that that shouldn't user experience and that shouldn't be great. Right. But if you're if if the problem you're trying to solve and this gets sort of this is me with my developer hat on I was like what's the problem you're trying to solve and we're trying to build a publishing platform where we can easily publish and disseminate information about our you know our government agency to the citizenry of the United States. Right. Well why wouldn't you want an administrative interface that made it easy for your federal employees to publish that information right now.
Speaker 9:
23:03
Exactly right. And that's the right question that's always the right question. Yeah I have never once when I shouldn't say never once because when I'm younger when I was younger man in my early career I certainly did a lot of sort of subservient projects where it's like you want this. Okay great. That's all going to do. Right. The majority of my career is companies coming to me and saying we want to do this and we have this problem. And my sort of first order of business is OK well what's really going on here. And a lot of times you find out with internal systems in particular and I spend a lot of time right with with enterprise organizations and government work what you find out is that the real issue isn't so much end user experience. The real issue the things that are that are really sticking in their in their throats is the fact that they're bleeding time and money.
Speaker 9:
23:55
Yeah. All over the place. Yeah. And nine times out of 10 it's always because as you just said the attention paid to the internal administrative parts of. Whatever they use to to do their jobs and deliver their services is sorely lacking. And so we say well you have to fix this problem first because this other stuff is symptomatic of this problem right. You can't execute because your tool is garbage. Right. You know I mean you have to fix that first and plenty of organizations that have worked with have seen massive gains from doing very small things internally. Yeah yeah. Like you and I have had some similar experiences.
Speaker 4:
24:39
Yeah yeah. No I agree. I mean you know and there's there's still a vast number of federal government you know public facing federal government websites that are powered with you know really antiquated legacy content management systems that you know things like percussion on Team site you know these huge job platforms that cost you know millions of dollars and just don't work very well. Yep. And I also think there's particularly in the government space there's too many cooks in the kitchen in terms of the procurement process. The decision making process. And you know it is what it is I'm not sure it'll ever get streamlined. Probably not. I think I think the British government has done a much better job with their public facing government sites.
Speaker 9:
25:38
So they've taken quantum leaps forward.
Speaker 4:
25:41
From what I can see mean if you just look at your gov dot uk it is great. Most of us know. Yeah it really is. And you know and I will say that after the debacle of healthcare Daugava in 2013 when they first tried to launch it and I actually worked on that site for. AFH on the team that worked for a year I worked on site after it was fixed. Yeah I was working for a smaller government contractor at the time that was part of the team that fixed it basically and I didn't come on to that project. I guess it was early 2016 and I worked on it for a little over a year and it was fascinating. It was really really interesting. You know from the attacks that I mean I'm sure healthcare dark of it doesn't actually have a content management system. No kidding. No it will. Does it run on what is it. At some it's. Well you heard of. You know what a static sight generator is. Oh yeah. And so you've heard of jacal. Yeah it's jacal. It's the world's biggest Jekyl site. Wow that's incredible. And all the content is managed and get in get in get hub repots and now and then pushed out to Akamai. Wow. Yeah it's I mean it's lightning fast because it is it's not a lot of overhead and then there's a bunch of javascript framework.
Speaker 4:
27:07
Applications that are built into it. So there's some angular.
Speaker 9:
27:11
There's a couple of Mangler applications there's some react applications and you know you still though I mean that to me says that there are a lot of incredible people doing a lot of work. Yeah. Oh yeah. Every single minute of every single hour of every single day.
Speaker 4:
27:30
Yeah yeah yeah yeah. No for sure. Runnable Yeah. So I mean there's you know you've you've got that and I think the so after after that debacle in 2013 the Obama administration formed the U.S. Digital Service. You know trying to take a page from what the Brits did. And that is still exists and it's actually falls within the executive branch of the federal government. And you know there's some great people there. You have internal sort of agencies like 18 1/2 which is you know sort of an internal digital agency that lives within GSA and they do great work and things like the U.S. web design standards which is a framework of front end components and stuff a library. That's a step in the right direction. I actually before I started started working on the project I'm currently working on. I was the lead designer lead designing Medicaid dot gov for basically based on the US web design standards so we took there sort of what their branding. And we moved that over into a front end design that was based on the US web design standards.
Speaker 9:
28:48
So it sounds like this is very heartening to hear by the way. But it sounds like those entities have survived so far this current administration.
Speaker 4:
29:00
Yes. Yeah. You know the fact. I mean again without sort of getting sort of you know rolling in the mud of our current political morass and trying not to but that was one of my biggest concerns and I felt like a lot of strides were made and and those strides those are still in place because as the segment of the federal workforce that actually makes those decision are not political appointees. I mean they're so far down the food chain that I don't think it really affects them. I mean you know this current administration you know saying it's going to slash funding and and slash federal jobs. Well all that means is companies like the one I work for which is one of that you know and now work for a huge contractor. You know there's just more in the works got to get done. But there still is a mindset I think within know federal digital platforms. That modernization train is still running. So that's good. Yeah. No I think it is yeah.
Speaker 9:
30:12
You know you just want to see that you want to see that continue so that really is. I got to tell you that's a first good news I've had quite a while. Yeah. Where the federal government is concerned so that's that's really the answer here.
Speaker 4:
30:27
Yeah I mean and you have places like currently I'm working down at the U.S. Postal Service on redesigning some of the applications that live within USPS dot com. Yeah like there's a lot of progress there. Yeah you know it is although I mean some of the development practices still need modernizing in terms of course of ops and stuff like that. But yeah there is definitely there's definitely a push to modernize and you're starting to see things like design systems come into play and true dev ops and cloud based you know A.W. ass's used extensively within federal websites because they fed ramp so they have their own sort of secure corner of of Amazon Web Services that Web sites can be hosted. So you smart you see that and use that you have companies like Booz Allen who I work for like you know like some of the smaller ones that actually came out of the rescue of health care doc of like Naava ad hoc you know you have staffers at those smaller companies that used to work in Silicon Valley and they know how to do stuff the right way.
Speaker 4:
31:45
I mean I think a guy who is a current administrator of the U.S. Digital Service is Matt cut who was a longtime Google guy. He was one of the early engineers at Google and the guy who the original guy who was the administrator Mikey I can't remember his last name left. His position was a political appointment. And when the Obama administration went out you know his appointment was done. So they brought Matt Cutts came in as an interim to fill that. And I think he's still there actually. So so there's good stuff. I mean there is good stuff going on. Yeah it sounds that way. Yeah. It's something you have companies like mine and others you know that are really trying to push modern user experience and development and design practices. Now the the part of the problem ultimately with it's really comes down to sort of the decision making process. There's just still within the federal digital space there are so many hoops that you have to jump through and so many to so many cooks and so many hands in that pot.
Speaker 7:
32:56
Believe me I hey I do some government work every year.
Speaker 9:
33:01
This year included. And that's exactly right. There are so many levels and so many layers and so many people have. And in every one I've seen that every every one of those levels there are sort of two camps there are people who are fighting like hell to make things better. Yes. We cared an awful lot about how this runs internally they care an awful lot about how it affects the human beings on the receiving end even you know inside all these different branches and departments and agencies within the government and then on the other side you have people who sort of have their heads down and are tasked with doing a lot of other things. Where were some of the stuff is kind of in their way. Right. So they see it as as disposable they see it as well. We'll deal with it later. Right. I can't say that I've encountered anybody who is sort of maliciously you know thinks it's a waste of time. I just feel like there's so many pressing concerns and all these people and they all have responsibility. Like you said there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. Yeah yeah. I think there are so many competing agendas and responsibilities. I think it's damn difficult.
Speaker 4:
34:12
Oh yeah yeah I think it's I think it's very hard. And I think we you know we've come a long way in terms of the federal space. I mean my job is well for 15 years I worked for a faith based non-profit. It was actually I worked for the Catholic Church. I was I was a rational Catholic working for the most hierarchical organization on the planet prepared me very well to basically be a contractor to the second most hierarchical organization.
Speaker 7:
34:42
I believe that the US federal government. You're upgrading now.
Speaker 10:
34:51
Yeah. It is fascinating. What's going on. And I think you know like the IRS.
Speaker 4:
34:58
We were involved the firm I worked for was involved in really modernizing a lot of the IRS public facing website stuff. They finally migrated from I think it was percussion to gyroball and you know they they really did. True you know sort of user experience analysis. And it's it's it's way way better than it was.
Speaker 9:
35:22
Yeah the Web site is certainly better. And I say that as a small business owner myself because there are other issues of course within the IRS in terms of it's where information goes to die. Right. In a lot of cases but that has nothing to do with the website. What I do see in the public facing part and having to research things and having access things is that it's gotten infinitely better. It leaps and bounds Yeah. Because otherwise for instance I had an ongoing problem for the last five years. OK were we. We filed specific forms related to our business. Send it certified mail five times with a letter. Okay. And a mountain of paper and said I've sent this to you five times now. You keep telling me you don't have it. I know you haven't. I don't know where it went after this person signed for it but you have it. It took five years to get that taken care of in the linchpin in the last year that I went through this was really the increase in information on the website because I was able to find very specific information to sort of circumvent some of these departments I was dealing with. And were it not for that this would still be going on. I know it would be.
Speaker 4:
36:33
Well I'm glad to hear that. Yeah I think that's the good news. You know there are there is a sort of let's modernize this let's make it better. And so I mean. It's funny it's almost like you know you think about federal websites and you just think oh bad design bad you X you know nothing good about it. So you're starting sort of the expectations are pretty low. I actually think you know if you were to chart the progress it's a quantum leap because everybody's expectations had been so low for so long. So that's good. And I think it's you know it's important. And there's a lot of stuff we still don't see. That's you know internal systems and stuff like that as well which are very important. I mean the Postal Service is an interesting sort of user experience case study in so much as you know USPS dot com is actually something like a billion dollar a year e-commerce site.
Speaker 4:
37:40
I mean you know it's very very widely used. Interestingly enough my first federal project a little over four years ago was an internal Internet ija project at postal. When I first got hired it got hired and the user base so this was the part of the U.S. postal services ensuring that what they call blue no postal blue which is you know it's powered by this very very old legacy enterprise software platform which is a beast but whatever. And it was to reorganize you know the content just within the human resources section of that. So the user base was management level. Postal employees a user base for this internet not public facing was bigger than many public facing website. It was 250000 management employees at the Postal Service. Huge. Yeah. I mean the Postal Service has something like six or seven hundred thousand employees. That's just us.
Speaker 4:
38:49
USPS dot com. Yeah right. Right right. So service. It's crazy. Talk about a challenge. Yeah yeah. So you know the scale and that's the thing I think a lot of people just don't know the scale. I mean I I remember I was doing some work after that when I went to HHS for a while. I actually worked with A.R.T. who you had on we used to work together. Wow that's really cool. Yeah yeah. Yeah. HHS Secretary Secretary of HHS I think oversees something like 70 or 80000 federal employees. That's just HHS. Massive Yeah. So the scale that's the I mean the point is is that when you get to organizations that have that kind of scale there's unique challenges that go way beyond what you know most product designers or developers are having to deal with.
Speaker 9:
39:48
Absolutely. So a whole different universe. I mean on every level up on every level you know the cheese. I mean the technical development challenges alone from front end to mid tier stuff to back into or enough in and of themselves. Yeah. To totally absorb every second of your life.
Speaker 4:
40:08
Yeah. In any given project you might have three or four different contractors working on something. You know it's it's interesting and unique. But if somebody could go in and I mean this might take like the rest of the time to do this the process map what happens.
Speaker 9:
40:28
Yeah. Because at any given time you're only looking at a slice of it. Yeah. You know your head and your arms around these higher part right. Right. When I when I've done you know white board process work which is always part of my engagements with government agencies in particular. It's an amazing exercise because the board is never big enough. Yeah. Yeah. You know when you start down one path and you start trying to diagram all these offshoots of people and process and paper and information and everything else and it just goes off the rails you know 30 minutes in you're like wow OK yeah yeah we did a couple of days I think to do this. And you only talked about a small department. Right.
Speaker 4:
41:11
All right. Yeah. It's interesting. There's other places that have similar challenges. I mean I think you know I spent 15 years in a very large international humanitarian aid organization that was a global organization. Sirius had similar challenges being of the scale it was the other place that I think is pretty you know has big challenges is higher ed. I don't know if you've done work for hire and I know that to you that's very unique there because so I've spent some time out at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. A day they are visiting with their internal web team and they had a really good internal you know communications department. The reason I was out there was this when I was still a Catholic Relief Services Inkar incoming CEO and president had been a dean at the business school there. And so you know I just thought let me go out and talk to these guys. I knew about them. There were some developers and designers who I had followed on Twitter and stuff that I knew about. So I went there to talk to them. This will blow your mind. University of Notre Dame by itself has 350 standalone websites.
Speaker 9:
42:32
Wow 350. Yeah that's it in a way I'm going to tell you what. It's shocking number to hear out loud. Yeah. At the same time my son is going to university of Maryland here shortly. Yeah. At the end of this year and of course we've been dealing with their web site. Yep yep. It blows my mind at the level of disconnect. Oh yeah. And the number of sites that we've had to use to do things that you would think you could do are logically connected but they are.
Speaker 4:
43:06
Yeah. Yep yep. Now I did some I've done some freelance work for a university in Maryland for the forming Arts Department years ago. And yeah now it's the same thing.
Speaker 11:
43:18
And so from you X and sort of design perspective they really need to have design systems. They were actually the first type of war zation that I started seeing you know sort of the precursors of true design systems being put into place and design systems are a huge interest of mine and they're you know they're a hot thing right now. But you're starting you know you're starting to see that media organisation the BBC actually published probably the very first early design system in the form of their global experience language that they published back and I think it was 2006 and so that you know that stuff to me is that's where frameworks are really important.
Speaker 4:
44:05
I agree totally agree because they're there. They're not at that sort of level where they're generating the code base or anything like that or even defining the use of the UI elements there. The encapsulation of everything that's needed for your digital product or your digital product universe for your organization.
Speaker 9:
44:34
Yeah but but from an organizational standpoint this is one of those areas I read in particular one of those industries if you will where I think there is some significant organizational challenges that have to be overcome first in terms of how they procure and implement. Oh yeah. Technology. I see a lot of handicaps I'll put it to you that way in the things that they are sort of forced to use. Yeah yeah. Because the people making those decisions are removed from technology.
Speaker 10:
45:06
Yes well you have that. I mean that same thing happens in the federal government of course and it happens in nonprofits as well.
Speaker 9:
45:14
So I guess my question that I'm getting to for you particular what do you do about that. How do you change it. I mean I agree with the power of frameworks and the fact that the solution is sort of obvious right. Yeah how do they get there.
Speaker 4:
45:32
Well that's where I think really trying to hone in on asking the question what's the problem you're trying to solve. Because a lot of times an organization let's keep it sort of you know type of organization agnostic might say I need more subscribers I need you know blah blah blah I need this. Well maybe what you need is a good well thought out email marketing program you don't necessarily need a whole new content management system. Right. Maybe maybe you need a good welcome here if you're a nonprofit maybe you need a good welcome series of emails that you know sort of brings a an interested person along the journey from you know interested in the work the organization is doing to maybe being an advocate for the organization and then maybe being a donor to the organization and then maybe being a legacy donor. I mean this was a challenge we had at CNRS was how do we manage that we had lots of different types of end users who were coming to our website and supporting our organization. And so and colleges and universities are no different. What's the problem you're trying to solve.
Speaker 9:
46:43
I agree with that. I think the unfortunate reality and of experiences in organizations is that the pain has to be clear. Yeah. You know the pain that they're experiencing as a result of those things has to be very clear and very felt in order for somebody to say OK I know we've mandated using this product to this higher ed product in the past. I'm not going to name any names. But it is now starting to cost us a great deal of time and money and it's increasing the level of support we have to give to students. Twentyfold. And ok maybe now it's time to consider something else. In my experience that process takes a long time before the folks with the purse strings start feeling that pain. Before they throw up their hands and say OK I know we've always done it this way with this product. Maybe it's time for something else.
Speaker 4:
47:44
Yeah and I mean if you're if you're talking about products like learning management systems Sam then you know that's that's really gets complicated because you know there's basically one big player in that arena and it's terrible and it's not good I'm terrible.
Speaker 9:
48:01
I mean that the level of of sloppiness in that product blows my mind absolutely blows my mind. I actually had a friend and former colleague.
Speaker 4:
48:13
Who worked with me about three years ago in the federal space who left and went to work for this company. And she said Oh you wouldn't believe the dysfunction here and you're like.
Speaker 7:
48:29
But I would.
Speaker 4:
48:30
Yeah yeah yeah yeah. So I mean yeah. You know with that particular learning management platform although there are some that are worse really believe it or not. Yeah I Tida new be for a while. Same here. And I'll add whatever they use is worse than the big player or whatever they were using at the time. I refused. I put all my course where I built WordPress sites for the courses I taught and put all my coursework there.
Speaker 9:
49:06
Yep yep. I think I was using them. Oh my god I can't remember Adobe's product for virtual. Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah most rooms. That was great. And I did the same thing you did. I was posting stuff in a private area of my own wordpress site. Yeah yeah. And I wasn't using the sanctioned products right.
Speaker 4:
49:29
What was the Adobe Connect I thought Oh yeah it was. I mean. I mean look Adobe has got its own problems. Of course there are big fish that are big there are big fish. They own the market although they're getting a run for their money right now in terms of design software and design tools from scratch.
Speaker 9:
49:48
Yeah and what they're what they're experiencing is the same thing and you probably remember this. Having done this work for a while they're experiencing the same thing that cowork experienced. Oh yeah. When InDesign first came out AK design came out. Cork essentially said nope you're going to pay us 800 for the software and to upgrade in any way shape or form is another hundred dollars. And we kind of don't care right these features that users have been screaming about you know for a solid 10 years I remember cowork reps coming to talk to us where I worked. Yeah. And their response was basically Well yeah you can have that maybe if you pay this and so InDesign came along and said Hey 99 bucks if you have a quirk license that's yours. Yeah. And Adobe buried them. Yeah. Yeah. Rickly and I think finally the same thing is starting to happen to them. It's like I said a minute ago about pain. OK. They have to really feel it before they start to say you know what. We've gotten a little easier.
Speaker 10:
50:51
Yep. You know sketches 99 bucks. Exactly. And it's great. It's a wonderful program. I spend most of my time my day using sketch. Not that you know the end of the tool doesn't make you a good designer. Of course not. But you know there are sort of things within that design software tooling that can make it easier to do things. I mean I think in some ways one of my other sort of great advantages is I spent a lot of time you know creating objects as a as a younger person and in the first half of my working life. So essentially designing and creating user experience with actual physical objects. The other thing is I don't come out of a print design background I'm not drag any of that baggage with me which is a good thing which is a good thing. And I think it makes a huge difference particularly on the you know the interface design side because there are constraints that you have to deal with design constraints constraints are a good thing.
Speaker 9:
51:56
I totally agree. And I think print designers unfortunately because I was one and I started out by design there was no internet right. But I will tell you that the way I was taught design is very very very. Hundred thousand percent different than the way most print designers learn design. And I think that's unfortunate because they have been shortchanged. Yeah. Yeah. By their educations I really firmly believe that because I was able to make the transition to digital with no problem the principles were exactly the same the things that I was taught to pay attention to. Right. Or exactly the same. Right. And if you go back to pure design principles that's what you'll find. I think a lot of these folks unfortunately have been given a this is just my opinion. OK. I really feel like they've given been given a bad hand and that bag that you're talking about is the result of that.
Speaker 4:
52:51
Yeah no I agree. I agree. I mean I you know I basically came from this sort of had a similar experience from you without having been a print designer because right.
Speaker 9:
53:01
But you learned you learned the same principles. No exactly. You learn the same principles in working with your hands that you're applying now.
Speaker 4:
53:08
Exactly. Exactly. And you know talking about design education so you know who Mike Monteiro as Usher. So did you ever. Did you read that median piece that he published. Earlier this year called designs last generation.
Speaker 9:
53:25
I may have read I read this stuff every once in a while when I have free free minutes and there's so much of it I don't even recognize it by the titles anymore.
Speaker 4:
53:35
It's a great piece and I actually heard him read it on a podcast I was listening to what it was talking about was ethics and design which I think is another super super important thing you know as we're sort of reaching this point and the early part of the 21st century where you know we're now making these products and it's like OK should we be doing this.
Speaker 9:
54:02
It's the great power great responsibility kind of thing. I agree.
Speaker 4:
54:05
And that stuff is important I think. I think younger designers are starting to recognize that.
Speaker 9:
54:12
I think as we talk about it more I think it changes. You know people in positions of influence like Mike. I spent some time with with Alan Cooper last year and this was he's a fascinating guy. Yeah one of the things that he talked about incessantly. OK. In the conversations that we all had as a group and in his his talk at this conference I was that was all about responsibility and stewardship and that is his thing right now and he's pushing it as hard as he possibly can. And I think it's great Mike is doing the exact same thing Erica Hall yet is doing the exact same thing. I just listen to a podcast with her. Yeah. That man I want her to stand up and cheer. I know she kept saying we have to stop glorifying these things in a way that is them away from from humanity.
Speaker 4:
55:06
Oh yeah. I think I think I listen it was that she was unreasonable with Jeffrey main. Yes. Yeah. Who's great. There are voices out there talking about it and talking about you know the responsibility and pushing companies you know like Adobe and and to really think about this stuff that's about people.
Speaker 9:
55:29
I mean at the end of the day it all comes back to human beings. I said this in an interview I just did earlier this week and I'm going to say it again. I really feel like Peter at this point in my career I feel like everything I do. I want it to be an antidote to bullshit because I just feel like a lot of the human aspects of what we do are being lost in the conversation. And I want to bring it back there.
Speaker 4:
55:56
Yes. Well it just gets back to your point about you know frameworks and sort of soft technology doing the work that humans should be doing. Ninety nine point nine percent of the problems we're trying to solve are not technology problems. They are people problems they. They're human problems. You know Silicon Valley is very culpable in this. They want to disrupt everything with you know the latest shiny robotic whatever. Right. Technology is great. And technology is terrible at the same time.
Speaker 9:
56:35
Yeah I think we're learning some very hard lessons right now. We are.
Speaker 4:
56:40
And so it's like you know how is this thing this widget is whatever that I am working on going to make your life better or easier or give you five more minutes of your time. Actually you can read your son or daughter or a story.
Speaker 9:
56:58
Right. Right. More to come. The converse of that is it going to harm you in some way.
Speaker 4:
57:06
Yeah. Is it going to expose something about you that you don't want exposed or shouldn't be exposed.
Speaker 9:
57:12
Right. I mean you mentioned Mike OK and I'm in. now and both of those folks have essentially in very loud voices said look if you work on these projects and you knowingly do this work you are in fact responsible. And I agree with. I absolutely agree with that. I have turned down plenty of things in my career. That I didn't feel comfortable with. And I get that that's a hard decision to make. I get that there is privilege that in some cases where you have the luxury of saying no. But I will also say at the same time that one of the most important lessons I ever learned. In the slowly approaching three decades of doing this is to say no to things that cause that tight feeling in your chest. Yeah. Yeah the one tried to teach me that at a younger age and I wasn't ready to hear it. Yeah but it turns out to be one of the most valuable things anyone ever taught me. Yeah it matters because the implications of doing the work anyway are far reaching. And the way it weighs on your heart and your soul are far reaching as well.
Speaker 4:
58:21
Yeah. No. I mean you now have companies like Google where you know engineers at Google are saying oh Arnaut a I was used for weapons. I want to be working on that right.
Speaker 9:
58:34
You know the Facebook thing right. Move fast and break things. OK well it certainly broke some things right. Right. Some people along the way and it's still happening.
Speaker 4:
58:43
Yeah no. I completely agree.
Speaker 9:
58:45
And I know it's not as simple as saying well we'll just say no. I mean nothing in life is that black and white are that easy. I get it. No no no. But that power really does start with the people in the lower trenches who feel like they don't have any power. They don't have more than they have more than they think.
Speaker 4:
59:05
Yep. Now it's interesting. I would be curious to see where it goes as digital products worm their way into you know places we never thought they would be. I mean I drive an all electric car now. I finally bit the bullet made the decision. I'm not buying another internal combustion engine car. Cool. I approached acquiring that vehicle the same way I approach acquiring a new mobile phone. It was just another gadget I was going to lease. And it's just like a big piece of technology. It's now gaslights. You know it's a Chevy Bolt but it gets gets the same ranges up as a Tesla in terms of a full on a full charge. And you know the display and everything and you know it's like pretty soon we're going to be designing interfaces for the inside door panel of your automobile.
Speaker 9:
59:53
It's coming out that they're coming. Yes. So well we're at the point where I get to ask you some difficult questions. OK. Or at least interesting questions don't have to be difficult I guess I'm ready. What is what is something that we don't know about you. What is something that most people don't know about you but that they probably should.
Speaker 4:
60:16
Well I mean we already talked about my career as an artist and as a studio Potter let's see. Question difficult crash. Yeah I said it's a good question.
Speaker 9:
60:28
Well let's let's phrase it a different way. What's a hidden talent that you have that not many people know about.
Speaker 4:
60:34
Well I am a really good cook. There you go and I've been making delicious food for as long as I've been making things with my hands for as long as I've been a defining user experience in some way or another which is to say most of my life. And I started cooking when I was 12 years old you know. So sometime. So to me food was just another material to be creative with. Know and early on leather was you know I was first material I worked with the sort of make objects and that was Clay and you know now it's pushing pixels around. But at the end of the day to me it all comes back to creating a really great experience for people for humans. I mean this comes back to trying to connect all of this to our enjoyment to people to people. The other thing is I'm an eternal optimist. I. Mean I really am as with all the you know all the crap going on in the world. I still am an optimist. I always have been when my my wife and I when we got married you know part of our wedding vows were that I'm a glass half full person and she's a glass half empty person. So we balance each other.
Speaker 4:
61:53
Balances Yeah. So I mean I am I'm a skeptical optimist internally. And I do think that you know there's goodness pretty much almost anywhere and that like we've talked a lot about the challenges that you know you and I face in our in our day to day work. And you know that happens when you get to sort of organizations of scale that are trying to do something right. But I think that you know if the intent to improve and make something better is there you'll find a way. I mean the process may be suck all the wind out of your sails but you'll get there.
Speaker 9:
62:33
Yeah I agree with that. Journey is never what you think it's going to be.
Speaker 4:
62:36
Yeah yeah. So I'm also been a practicing Buddhist for I don't know 45 50 years.
Speaker 9:
62:44
I think you know I think I knew that about you because that's something that although I'm I wouldn't call myself practicing but I think that is something that you and I share yeah.
Speaker 4:
62:53
My joke was know I'm a nice Jewish boy. I was a professional Catholic for 15 years and I've been a practicing Buddhist for most of my life as my spiritual tripod spiritual Tripel and I like that.
Speaker 9:
63:07
I like that. What's the last book you read.
Speaker 4:
63:09
Actually it was ready. It was Ready Player One wasn't it. Yeah I tend to go between fiction and nonfiction I'm a big nonfiction consumer so I tend to jump in between the two. So I also because of my interest in food I read a lot of. So the book I read before that was a fabulous book but it was written by Edward gly who's a chef. He was actually a Top Chef contestant he owns a restaurant in Louisville. It was basically he took some time and traveled around the country to different communities of immigrant communities to find out about the food of those immigrant communities. Basically my guy had no idea that Dearborn Michigan had the large has the largest Muslim population of any community in the U.S.. Wow I didn't know that either. And that in Paterson New Jersey is a mecca for Peruvian food.
Speaker 4:
63:58
So it was really interesting. That's really cool. Anyway so I go back and forth between fiction and nonfiction. But what brings you the most joy. Creating something that people enjoy that people enjoy using. So whether it's a meal a well-prepared meal whether it's an interface that I've designed whether it's a conversation I've had with them even if it's a difficult conversation because I had that conversation with them in a way that we can just agree to disagree. You know like there's a there's a person on Facebook that I'm connected to who probably couldn't be more different than I am politically. But we have fascinating back and forth because it's respectful. I mean even that's you know sort of kind of experience. So any time I can sort of facilitate or be part of creating an experience that people think is a positive experience. I think that's a good that brings me a lot of joy. I think that's a great answer. Yeah you know I mean other than walking both of my daughters down the aisle last year for their weddings four months apart. You know. Wow. Incredible. Wow that's incredible. And you're still standing still there. My bank account is off of life support.
Speaker 4:
65:28
Yeah yeah. Both my girls got married last year.
Speaker 9:
65:31
Congratulations that's fantastic. So last question. All right for younger designers developers you Ekspres people coming up in this discipline one way or the other. What do you think is the most important piece of advice you would have to offer them having done this for so long and somebody different ways of having touched many parts of user experience.
Speaker 4:
65:54
I would say two things I would say. Learn how to be a really good listener. I mean a really good listener you know and right learn how to write because anybody can learn how to use a design tool. Anybody can learn how to write code. I mean for some people it's easier than others. But pay attention listen. Be responsible for sort of your actions understand that what you're creating is for the most wily not unstable but unpredictable entity in creation are human beings. Truer words were never spoken. So you know you're rich and you know don't lose sight of what the problem you're trying to solve is.
Speaker 9:
66:50
Yeah I think that's great advice. Thanks. Thanks Petyr. I cannot thank you enough for your time today. This has been a great conversation. I feel like I could probably do this for another couple of hours so some can have.
Speaker 7:
67:01
It's been great. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. So same here and maybe we get to do it again sooner rather than later.
Speaker 4:
67:08
Absolutely I would. I would love to sort of keep you know keep in touch keep the conversation going. Thank you so much. All right take care. Have a great day. You too Peter. DR sir.
Speaker 2:
67:18
Yes sir. That wraps up this edition of making us work. Thanks for listening and I hope hearing these stories provide some useful perspective and encouragement. Along with the reminder that you're not alone there. Before I go I want you to know that you can find shows and links to the things mentioned during our conversation by visiting give good you X.com slash podcast. You'll also find links to more US resources on the web and social media along with ways to contact me if you're interested in sharing your own story here. Until next time this is Joe Anatoliy reminding you that it's people like you who make us work.