In light of the uproar over Twitter's apparent plans to "curate" our feed using really awesome algorithms just like Facebook. I thought I would finish a little post that was sitting in my drafts for a while.  

I've been designing user experiences for over 10 years now and since the very beginning I've struggled with balancing the ever increasing trends of simplifying (removing functionality) and personalizing our digital environments, with my desire to empower people and put them in control.

In an of themselves simplifying and personalization can be great methods for solving specific design problems but their rise to cultish like status within the digital design world has me concerned. The uproar of the possible Twitter stream changes is a perfect example of the issue.  Farhad Manjoo in Fast Company explains some of the issues very well in this article and I love this quote.

"There is still too much presuming that we 
want a steady diet of what we just consumed. "

I will piggy back on that quote and say these trends (business practices) bug me for another reason we are creating a culture of ignorance. Each time these magic little algorithms are applied and each time we strip down our experiences to their most basic features we are removing opportunities for people to participate fully in their own digital lives. Correction: Lives.

We are not singular. 

We are not the same.

Our needs change (often). 

Interface should reflect this.

We need to ask more of users.

They need to learn and grow so they can have more control.

Designers have a responsibility to make better ways to do more and get better at providing innovative filters that we control. 

It's important to foster an environment of learning and achievement in service of a technology intelligent world.  Interestingly video games don't dumb everything down. They seem to understand that people can learn. 

Doing it for them is creating an ignorant populous, out of control of basic human activities - Consuming information. Learning. Sharing. Transacting.


Do we only get to learn what is put before us.


Just some thoughts and obviously business needs and specific use cases play a huge role in how to apply this type of thinking but it's always a good idea to put your decisions up to a test. Think about it next time. 


Old LinkedIn email notification for new invitation to connect:


Includes option to view the person's profile before accepting. Smart. Especially since the integrity of the site is based on people have real and meaningful connections.  


New LinkedIn email notification for new invitation to connect:


One button/link.

You either accept it or do nothing. This is dark man.

We know it's best to give users the options they would naturally look for even if we as the business really want them to do what we want.

Sometimes the business desires prevail but with this case I just can't see doing this. As a user of this service I really need to visit a person's profile before I decide to connect and I image most people would feel the same way. 


But wait!  Just a week or so later they are went back to the old way.  

I bet they got a lot of accepts for that short time they messed with us. So curious why they changed back but I'm glad they did.  

Happy ending. 


PS: Hope you ladies don't mind me not masking your sweet faces. If you do let me know. Go connect with these ladies ya'll! 


AuthorTyesha Snow

Facebook just launched and updated header and it's raises an issue we designers should be aware of.  If your users habitually use your product, like many Facebook users do they develop muscle memory for the tasks they complete most often. Before you decide to move an access point to a feature or play with the flow give some really good thought to how this will effect your most faithful users.   

This is the old header:


Notifications and access to friends, messages and activity are on the left.


Here is the new one:


They've moved the notifications and access points to the right! Very annoying for a user that has been using the site for a long time. I see lots of wasted mousing and tapping motions going on over the next while. 

I wonder why they thought this was an important redesign? 

One other point. Re: this new gigantic search box - isn't it form design 101 to make the size of the text box relate to the number of characters the user might enter?  Maybe that's old school but one of my pet peeves. 



AuthorTyesha Snow

Hey Big Fish is our gift to the SXSW community.It helps you engage in a more meaningful way during and after the event. It creates a record of  SXSW 2013 that represents what happened and what the community valued.

The Story

Our team came together with the goal of designing a product to launch as SXSW. The idea was to create a little gift for our peers and bring some attention to the great work our organizations are doing.

The first step was to find a technology partner and fellow Portland, Or company Little Bird was an obvious choice.  Their product quickly became the spark of inspiration we needed - We could use Little Bird’s technology to add a layer of smarts to whatever we come up with.


This article by Saha Pasulka is an awesome, well informed, educational rant about the need for startups to use marketers and implement smart marketing strategies if they want to succeed as a business.  It has some similarities to my rant this morning about the role of design in tech startups. Are we (non-developers/engineer types) bitter or do we  just want to help?

For me it's about only putting good stuff out as a baseline then there is our legacy. I'm invested and passionate about the legacy and impact of this time in history. I want us as a tech/creative community to get together and do the best work possible and not be remembered as the generation that didn't quite do it.

Know what I mean?


So Instagram came out with new policies that are making everyone freak out. Some people are leaving the platform and news outlets are making statements like this.

.. the only way to stop Instagram from using your pics is by killing off your account. However, for those who enjoy a world of filtered mobile pics, there are several alternatives including Hipstamatic and Twitter. -

This statement highlights something that is really really bugging me. Our online communities seem to hold zero acknowledged value within society and there for are continually falling victim to both the unregulated policy shifts of platform owners and the flippant disregard of the media.

bud facebook ad

Here's how it goes. You decide to be a Budweiser bottle for Halloween. You think, "I should really get into the head of Budweiser. Really study up on the brand voice, observe it's customers, dive deep into the underworld of Bud."

So you "Like" Budweiser on Facebook.

Bud Like

Bud Like

Fast forward to mid-November. Your costume was a success.You were even able to keep perfect beads of condensation flowing down your neck all night and still get a few phone numbers from girls that "don't really drink beer" but might make an exception for you. That was fun.

Continuing to get marketing messaging for a beer you don't even drink in your Facebook stream, not so fun.

So you bop over to the page and look for the "Unlike" button.

Bud Unlike

Bud Unlike

It takes you 5 mins of looking around. You didn't find it where it was when you "Liked" it. You look on your profile. You look in your settings. Nothing! You go back to the page and carefully walk your eyes down every piece of text on the page and finally there it is, right next to "Create a Page for My Business" What?!? Why?

You've just been victim of a Dark Pattern.

Site designers place the functionality or information they want you to find front and center, then move it once you have completed the desirable behavior so you are less likely to undo said desirable behavior or re-find  information that does not support  the business's plans for you.

So slimy

Now I get that it would be unsavory to have a big "Unlike" button at the top of the page but may I suggest a couple palatable solutions.

1. Provide an "Unlike" button for each item in my Like list.  As you can see the one place where you can find a full list of your Likes has no management capabilities.

Like List

Like List

2.  Add the Unlike button or link to the group of other functions available on the page. This just makes sense.

Other Facebook functions

Other Facebook functions

I could be wrong maybe this was just an oversight, but I don't think so.

What really bothers me is every time a site does something like this....

1. Users  lose confidence in themselves. Most people will blame themselves for the inability to complete a task on-line. When people feel less confident, they stop trying to learn and we need users to grow with us so we can continue to grow the web.

2. We lose the trust of users. If users consistently feel they are being tricked and don't understand, they will become more selective about what they do and how quickly they will do it. This makes our jobs a lot harder.

3. The site metrics are skewed. Good data is only as good as the data its self. If I've got 2k people that "Like" me only because they can't figure out how to not "Like" me, the metrics of the entire program are thrown off.

If you haven't checked out the Dark Patterns wiki be sure you do. I'm sure none of you are doing these things but just in-case ;)

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Work at Play home page

Work at Play_Twitter business account 2 I haven't done much thinking about Twitter lists yet, but I did stumble upon this very elegant and smart way to use them.   I like that the lists are completely relevant to the profile and answer questions you would like the answer to.

While we are highlighting the smartness of Work [at] must check out their site.

I love how the background (image of them working) is supporting and standing behind the work (it pops over the background)  nice little metaphor.  I'm also really into the horizontal movement when you navigate.



User Generated Opinion ButtonsThere are many ways to engage your users, one of these ways is to allow them to register their opinion in a quick and simple way.  This trend is a nice way to engage the majority of people will never actually construct a written comment or craft any other type of content.  It's the "low barrier to entry" User Generated Content (UGC). You often see this done with a nice set of buttons that range from approval to disapproval depending on the social environment of the application. Facebook for example only allows you to "Like" something, which is perfectly appropriate, as there is  no sense in giving people tools to be mean spirited with. A person can do plenty of damage with the current set of features.  Although, it would be nice to have a range of "nice" or constructive" opinions you could register via a simple button.

One thing to remember when designing this type of User Generated Opinion (UGO) functionality is that you must have a scalable plan.

The plan needs to consider the effect of these opinions at project launch and a year later. It needs to envision how will they impact the experience when you have 100 participates, 1000 participates or tens of thousands.

How can these ratings establish and maintain value, usefulness and creditability over time?


TIME: Are the responses permanently attached to the content or only available for a limited amount of time? REACH: Where are they visible? Who will be able to see them and is this a good thing? INTENDED INFLUENCE: Are they meant to influence a user's decision making process or just promote conversation between a small group of people?

The effect of this UGO can be quite ugly if you fail develop rules for displaying it. Take . It just launched and on my visit to the site this morning I found an unfortunate display of UGO right on the home page

honk_ dislike 2

honk_ dislike 1.

It maybe true that Matt Hermann dislikes many cars but is this The Matt Hermann Personal Rant website?  Is this the brand experience Honk would like to project in the first months of the project being live?

It's ok to manage and curate your site

Just because you ask users to participate doesn't mean you have to allow this participation to rule your site.  It's also more than likely that your users are trusting you to manage the participation in a way that is benifitcial for everyone. I doubt Matt realize he was going to be presented in such a way on the site. He is an early participate and was "rewarded" for this by being plastered on the front page in all his critical glory. He'll probalby think twice about participating again.  I know I would.

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cupcake party Just as for-profit companies are trying to figure out how to exist, persist and grow in this world of new communication so are the not-for-profit organizations. It's time to use our power for good and put some creative energy around this. Many have started and there is room for more.

I've worked with a hand full of non-profits over the past few years that I've noticed that there are some things that are the same across the board. The biggest "same" is the need to raise funds.  Each time I engage with a nonprofit client the bulk of the discussions and energy are spent working on ways to optimize the effectiveness of  the "support us message" and the process of making a donation.  But you know what? Optimization can only go so far.  At some point we need to design new ways to draw people into donate.  We need to design ways to cultivate the donor/organization relationship and take it to the next level.

My best ideas have revolved around the idea of creating an army of evangelists and giving them the tools to go out and raise the money for you. I believe this is the the most powerful way an organization can raise their participation level. I also believe that for-profit companies have known this for years and continue to use the tactic no matter how distasteful it feels coming from a corporation, so it's bound to work for the for-good organizations of the world.

So here are my top 5 things to consider when thinking about redefining and revitalizing the ways you raise funds.

The 5 rules for succeeding in the new world of fundraising:

1. Harness the energy of current supporters, this isn't about acquisition of new supporters (at least not right away). 2. Put your old rules and goals away. People will give money more freely if the cause is endorsed by their peers. So put the old rules away and see how you can redefine your expectations and set a plan to support them. 4.  Let us tell the story in our own words.  You can't and shouldn't want to control the message. Let your supporters talk to their people in their own words. You will learn something and maybe even see your organization in a whole new light. 5. Let us have fun. It's nice to be serious and there will always be the set that wants a straightedge giving experience, but there's a whole crop of people who will be attracted to a good time, especially if this good time results in something good.

There are a few companies working in this space, designing products for individuals and organizations to use for fund raising. I recently came across BeExtraodinary, they are right in there with what I'm talking about.

There's a lot of room for good thinking, design and problem solving in this arena. I would challenge you to think about it a bit. I'd love to hear your ideas.


Hey NIKE!  I would like to talk with you about using NIKE+ as a fundraising tool.  Call me.

photo credit: group cookery


social pharam graph I read Josh Bernoff's article How to create a social application for life sciences without getting fired a while back and I found myself thinking about it again this weekend. I think the above chart is excellent and the perfect tool for illustrating how social media tools may or may not be appropriate, beneficial or wanted by different users.

You know that point in a project where you have the big list of ideas and have to start slimming them down.  I think this chart is an excellent piece to start the meeting with, it kinda greases the mind into thinking in a critical way about real people, their needs and current habits.

Yes, those with Cancer have a lot to gain by connecting with other Cancer suffers but it's easy to see why they don't currently spend a lot of time online in these communities.  Cancer treatments take a lot out of you and many people still have to continue their normal lives while under treatment.  So, if we wanted to give them social tools, they would have to have high, immediate value and would need to be embedded into a process they already participate in or really really easy with a low barrier of entry.

Josh actually created this chart to help understand whether the risks involved with implementing social tools in the health care industry had strong enough value to the users to pursue. He says, "I decided to focus on who has the most to gain from social applications. Because if you don't have a lot to gain, the regulatory issues mean you may have a lot at risk, and it's not worth it"

He's right on and really asking the right questions that will ultimately protect his clients.  There is also a much broader lesson in this statement that we can and should apply when working on our own projects. What risks will your brand or campaign be taking by implementing particular social tools? There may not be a large regulatory body like the FDA watching you but there is risk involved with implementing these tools.

Is this something your target users even want, will use or, find benefit in?  If no, why would you expose the company to the obvious complications, risks, and at very least management responsibliites of emplimenting a social media tool? How will your users react to the new functionality?  Will they backlash and decided to go somewhere else? Will they be irritated and loose trust in the brand? or will you fullfill all thier dreams?   I will hope it's the later but I know doing research and analisys such as this will get you a lot closer than you might have been.


I tweeted about this new project a few weeks back but wanted to mention it here.  One because it's a wonderful idea and I'm really excited to follow it's progress and two because one of the organizations you can volunteer for is the Brooklyn Museum. I wrote about their innovative community tagging program and it seems they are taking it further by soliciting tags from The Exraordinaries volunteers.  Love it.

As for this whole idea of getting people to use their phones and little free time to do something good.....I also love it.   I think if they can capture the spirit of playing a game it will really take off. Tons of people spend tons of hours playing little games on their phones, if you could play a "game" and do good, wouldn't that be great. It isn't really into the game realm yet but the potential is there.

Few screenshots:

There are quit a few community tagging/cataloging projects. What do you librarians think of this?


This one is pretty neat. Building a catalog of places for kids to play.

Extra_Screenshot KaboomExtra_Screenshot-Photo

CategoriesSocial Media