No, you are not the masters of your taste buds

The tastiness of a food is dependent on whether you make it yourself or not, whether you’re up in the air or not, and whether you cook it using heat. Yes it is.

This collection of links was inspired by a fleeting conversation with Andy over a bowl of heart shaped sweets. “They should taste amazing because of their rounded edge form”, he told me.

He’s not wrong. How food tastes is influenced not only but shape, but also by colour and texture.

Finally, something that all good restaurateurs know: how we experience something is based on our beliefs about the history of that something. Why do you think we all care about the origins of our broccoli?

1. How colour, texture and environment influence taste perception

Rounder forms taste sweeter whereas angular forms, more bitter


2. Why sandwiches taste better when someone else makes them

Seeing food made over time and also repeated exposure, makes a food less desirable.

3. Why airplane food tastes so bad

Cabin pressure causes cotton mouth to set in. Nothing but ice cream can taste good. Shame:)

4. Why cooked food tastes better

The eponymous Maillard Reaction, named after Louis-Camille Maillard, occurs every time you heat a mixture of sugars and amino acids. Before Maillard, people just made educated guesses about how cooking works.

5. Paul Bloom’s Ted Talk about the Origins of Pleasure

“Why do we like an original painting better than a forgery? Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that human beings are essentialists – that our beliefs about the history of an object changes how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is.



“But it’s not above the fold!”

A couple of big reasons why content doesn’t have to be above the fold

Users will scroll:
1. To find what they are looking for
2. If what they have seen so far tickles their fancy

1. AB tests with CTA right at the bottom of the page see an increase in conversion IF the content above it is compelling and relevant.

Compelling & relevant content gives users reason to scroll.

2. Touch screens and hardware relay on scrolling behaviour for their interface. Scrolling is natural. All we need to do is to indicate that there is something there (including where page elements end/begin) and that users should scroll – aka The Scroll Bar.

Further more, so ingrained is the scrolling behaviour that users have been seen to ‘sanity scroll’ – double checking pages to the end to see if there is indeed anything else of interest.

Users will scroll if they see they can.

A nice demo:

More detail here:

A. “Higher conversion rates have nothing to do with whether the button is above the fold and everything to do with whether the button is below the right incentive.”

B. “Although there is no fold we still have to consider the hierarchy of a website, placing any important elements of our site within a region that is more likely to appear for all users no matter what the screen size. Think of it like this; would you place a logo somewhere a user would need to scroll to view it?”

C. “Navigation process has drastically changed due to touchscreen interfaces popularized by Apple and adopted by everyone. And if you think of scrolling in the traditional sense with the scroll bar on the right, well Apple threw that concept out two operating systems ago. In Lion they stopped using the visible scroll bars making users rely more on the trackpad and scroll ball in the mouse. And in its latest OSx, it has integrated its popularized finger control technology such as pinch to zoom to view content on its computers. And Microsoft has introduced Windows 8 which now intertwines touch screen technology right into the PC.
So rather than focus on bringing your content up, focus on user interface and designing around making sure your users get to the content they need. Even if it’s below the fold.”

Pebble hackathon, wrist solar power & the top 5 smart watches

1. Pebble kicks off online hackathon to find a winner

2. Kickstarter project, Carbon wants to use your wrist space to solar charge smartphones

3. Top 5 smart watches, in 2014 so far, in the very aptly named – Smart Watch News

Get your print programming on: Little Printer, Geek Gurl Diaries, Raspberry Pi, Codecademy and MakieLab

1. With a mission to humanise printing in a till receipt kinda way, Little Printer is ready for its next shipment in April. My friend Eduardo would argue that it’s just adding to all the noise and creates a mess, but we’re in the mood for love, so we’ll let it slide.

Over a hearty but healthy luncheon at look mum no hands, Stanley (loves his bike), El (loves running in little shorts) and I (love soup) wondered what would happen if the Little Printer sneezed.

We love the idea of the Little Printer sneezing at random times (without it being triggered by the user) and producing random content – games, twitter post, happy news, images, all interspersed with a random lovely happy sneeze virus.

Happy sneezing? Isn’t sneezing normally associated with catching a cold? True that, but the feeling just before you sneeze – that build up – the way it makes your face screw up – a-m-a-z-i-n-g!

2. Then there’s this lady – secondary school ICT teacher Miss Philbin who writes the Geek Gurl Diaries. Wanting to unite teenagers (girls especially) with technology, she posts amazing how-to videos like this Make your own till receipt stylee thermal printer using RaspberryPi.

Raspberry Pi “want to see cheap, programmable computers everywhere” and “want owning a truly personal computer to be normal for children”.

3. And even more teaching goodies for the world! Codecademy – choose from JS, html, python & ruby and be lovingly hugged by coders who want to reach the world to code!

4. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, but still want to play, then custom design and print yourself a 3D Makie doll. They’re kinda a cross between anime and screen avatars – kind freaky but also freaky cool brought to you by MakieLab.

5. I’m sure that one day, these 3D dolls will be able to spawn 3D off spring, but whilst that happens, we can continue to watch the self-replicating wars of 3D printers – RepRap vs MakerBot.

Update: 4D printing? From TED: “TED Fellow Skylar Tibbits is shaping the next development, which he calls 4D printing, where the fourth dimension is time. This emerging technology will allow us to print objects that then reshape themselves or self-assemble over time. Think: a printed cube that folds before your eyes, or a printed pipe able to sense the need to expand or contract.”

In a month of fashionable May: Fashion Flipboard apps, Barneys got a makeover and 5 Start-ups making waves

Only 4 months late, I found these bad boys back in May. They’re so bad (in an MJ way not an over ripe pear way) that I wanted to share them with you anyway.

1. Personalised Fashion

Betakit have honed in on Shopmox, Stylmee and Monogram as doing it personally for the ipads.
Shopmox lets you browse all your favourite stores from one place and creates a daily boutique for you.
Stylmee is the FarmVille darling of the fashion world and is also available as an html5 web version. Users can create their own boutiques and earn rewards when others like their real life inventory. Retail Pinterest may have thrown a curve ball but they may have overcome by simply joining in the Pinterest fun.
Monogram is supposed to be truly focussed on the UX and presents users with dashboards curated by algorithms and human beings.

2. Barneys New York

Lady Lux let us know about the make over. It has all the features and functionality that we would expect social shopping sites to have but all wrapped up in soft cashmere labels: ‘Most popular’ becomes ‘Most Loved’, ‘Exclusives’ becomes ‘Exclusively Ours’ and ‘The Window’ is their blog-esq editorial content. The best bit? Lovely big product images. Just feel Barneys’ love!

3. Fashion start-ups

TNW collated these 5 beauties:
a. Osmoda
Allows up and coming luxury boutiques who don’t want to get left out of the search and buy race to have a presence by taking care of the inventory, photography, payment and logistics.
b. Lyst
Kinda like Polyvore minus the moodboard element (soon to come?:)) where the fashion community, users and brands alike come together to create, share, follow and buy from each others Lysts.
c. StylistPick is not so new, so I won’t go into it.
d. Covetique
Facilitates the selling and buying of preloved lux. They make consumers feel safe by helping to authenticate items and ensure that they are of good quality and make sellers feel safe by taking care of the transaction and logistics.
Finally one for the brands, retailers and suppliers! Editd features trend science, runway reports, social monitoring, product, trend and competitor tracking tools, and visual merchandising libraries to help with those merchandising and buying decisions.

Incidental Business Re-engineering

User Experience trying it on with the business

When designing interfaces for my clients, I sometimes find myself bound to the legacy systems and processes that come part and parcel with the brief. Often these legacy set-ups go unquestioned as people are simply used to them and ‘It’s just the way we do things’. After all we are creatures of habit so why rock the boat?

I’ll tell you why, sometimes we need to break out of these legacy set-ups to deliver kick ass user experiences.

Now I’m sure you’ve heard of the ‘5 Whys’ where by repeatedly asking the question ‘Why’ helps to determine a root cause of a situation, but have you tried asking ‘Why not?’?

As a User Experience (UX) Specialist, I am in a very privileged position where I am able to hold up a mirror to my clients business, and ask of it to justify decisions that it has made along the way that affect the user. I could keep asking ‘Why’ things are the way the are, but I have found over the years, that when I ask my clients ‘Why not try this?’ exciting things happen!

By giving the client a solution, we don’t give them a problem and it often turns out that with a bit of tweaking, turning and re-jigging later, we probably should!

With a Why Not, the users get the experiences of a lifetime AND we’ve just incidentally triggered the client into making a change in the way they do things internally that will help their business. We’ve helped our client re-engineer a part of their business. This is more traditionally known in the trade as doing a bit of Business Process Re-engineering (BPR).

BPR*, also called Business Process Redesign or Transformation is the analysis, restructure and re-design of workflows within an organisation to improve customer service or to cut operational costs. BPR consultants can be brought in from the outside to help do just this and coincidentally enough, just as we begin our work by understanding the client’s business strategy and user needs and objectives, BPR consultants also begin with the same.

Already in bed with Service design

When looking to BPR to improve Customer Service, businesses have sought out the services of the Service Design craft to help them rethink how their business could work by looking at the experience from the point of view of the customer. Putting the consumer at the centre of the approach is also what UX and User Centered Design (UCD) do.

The relationship between Service Design and UX has been growing ever more serious from the first day that Customer Service jumped into bed with Digital. Digital has been used not only to service customers but also to be accessible and there whenever and however the user wants, to create experiences with brands for the elusive brand engagement, to become advocates and ambassadors, to get rewarded for loyalty, to connect them with friends or other people ‘like them’ and to personalise, customise and socialise for them.

Lets face it, based on their very definitions, Service Design* – the planning and organisation of people, infrastructure, communication and material to improve quality and interaction between customer and service provider – and UX – the overall experience a user has using the game/app/site/system that we design and build – were always going to get it on.

Now don’t forget Product Design* – the generation and development of new consumer products – who becomes the final member of the threesome. Now we see a next generation of mashed up design approaches and techniques that are borne of all three disciplines. Consumer Journey Mapping, touch points, Moments of Truth, devices, cognitive load and emotion indicators, all romping together to create customer service flows and interactions that impact not only the external customer but that require a shift, a change, or a restructure from the internal business.

Size doesn’t matter. Honestly.

All clients,big and small, and all projects, big and small, are susceptible to this unintentional BPR-ing. There is no holding back the value of considered, thoughtful design that asks Why Not, however smaller businesses may be more able to act on these since they tend to be more lean, and less tethered to historical or political processes that are symptomatic of larger businesses.

A relationship with benefits

Whilst some companies bring in specialist BPR consultants to explicitly help the business improve its customer service and to cut operational costs, we, working on digital and user experience constantly do it in the background. It’s more noticeable now that channels have converged, different touch points are all part of the same experience and the consumer lives in a constant state of incipient conversation and interaction. Everything is tied together more than ever before and not just from a technological convergence point of view but also from a consumer relationship or lifecycle management point of view.

So why am I banging on about this BPR that we seem to generate as we go about designing experiences for our clients? It’s because I think it’s a great relationship!

We’re doing something that can add value when we didn’t mean to. We have relationships with our clients that offer them benefits – Incidental Business Re-engineering.

For our clients out there, look forward to this possibly happening and be open and ready to catch those Why Nots and to harness and act on them to turn them into value for your business.

For our fellow UCD agencies out there, recognise that as we go about designing a digital solution and asking Why Not along the way, we are able to show how all the sum of the parts of their business fit together. It’s special to be able to make a difference to our clients internally as well as externally.

Finally, for the ruthless agencies out there, you could consider charging for BPR in the background whilst you go about your day job. You could charge for a whole bunch of people to go around asking Why Not to increase the wisdom of the crowds. But don’t because it won’t work.

It is not a substitute for good quality UX design.

*Thanks to good old Wikipedia for help with definitions