If he started it, but you kept it going, you also started it.

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ToneCheck subverts the ‘cycle of amplification and reaction’, a known occurrence in communication psychology (third axiom, in case you’re interested) where we tend to believe our behaviour is simply a reaction to the other person’s behaviour (“he started it”). By limiting aggressive phrasing in emails, this software limits the chance of conversations escalating into a flame war.

Tone is a balancing act on our our websites – making our copy sit well between technical jargon and marketing-speak. If we sound too serious, we’d alienate people who aren’t familiar with the topic. If we’re too casual, we sound like we don’t care about our customers’ problems. If we’re too witty, we may come across as being insulting to someone’s intelligence. And SEO can go eat a poo.

We don’t always get this right, but it’s certainly front of mind – all we can do is keep trying. 🙂


On good copywriting

One of the worst mistakes copywriters make is to assume their job is about writing. It’s not.

When you write a novel or a poem, readers wants great words. People expect this kind of writing to deliver a certain art and beauty. When you write websites, ads, white papers, or other business materials, readers simply want information. They just want to find out how to solve a problem or meet a need.

This isn’t to say that copywriting can’t be well-crafted. But it should be crafted in such a way that the words disappear and the meaning shows through. I like to think of good copywriting as if it’s a toy store window: clean, polished, and invisible, providing a clear view of the wondrous goodies inside.

Source: Why Good Copywriting Goes Bad: You’re Not Stupid. You’re Just Ignorant.

And some funnies…

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Pic sauces: http://www.happyplace.com/3907/unintentionally-inappropriate-test-responses-from-children

When kerning goes bad

Recap: Kerning is the space between letters.

Bad kerning is not enough and/or too much space between letters.

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Img sauces:

5 things every presenter needs to know about people


From the description:

Great presenters understand how people think, learn, and react. In this video Dr. Weinschenk shares 5 Things from her book, “100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People.


You’re not a jerk, you just haven’t had your coffee yet

The fundamental attribution error describes the tendency to explain someone’s behaviour based on their disposition or personality, while not considering the situation affecting them.

For example:

Observation Explain by disposition Explain by situation
Mark jiggles his double chin. Mark is letting himself go. Mark looks fat because he’s pregnant.
David trips over. David is clumsy. Warren was sleeping behind David’s chair.
Josh has big hair today. Josh is a crazy man. Josh’s hairdryer is a jet engine.
Nick is rude to someone. Nick is a jerk. Nick is jaded, has been here 12 years and is trying to give up coffee.

Naturally, this challenges some of our assumptions about web users and the way we as website-makers appeal to them. Are users actually stupid and/or lazy – or do poor design, copy and workflow put them in a position to respond this way?

By the way, the Curse of Knowledge phenomenon makes this entirely plausible.

So – what other observations could we reconsider, in light of the attribution error, during our design process?

The ridiculous pocket knife


The Guinness world record for “most multifunctional” pocket knife belongs to Wenger, the company behind the storied Swiss Army knife. The company says the knife’s 87 gadgets (including a laser pointer, cigar cutter, and golf reamer) can be used for no fewer than141 functions.

Alas, weighed down by its three pounds of gizmos, this “most multifunctional” knife has no practical function at all, a pocket knife that doesn’t fit in your pocket. This slice-n-dice Goliath was, of course, never really designed to be used. It was a novelty created for the company’s 100th anniversary, a whimsical project to bring together every gadget the company ever included in its knives.

While the knife is obviously (and intentionally) ridiculous, it’s a winking reminder that somewhere in the reptile part of our brains, a misguided instinct tells us that more is always better.

In the end, of course, the best gizmo is the thing that lets us do what we need to do with the greatest ease.

Be ruthless when you consider every button and icon: Does this element invite attention? Is it clear what it does? Does it deliver something meaningful?

Lifted & abridged from Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps by Josh Clark (O’Reilly)

The difference between UX and UI

The subtle difference between UX and UI – via @m4rkmc


I’d like to suggest too that the table you eat on would be the user’s computer. This of course, is beyond our control as developers, but if the table is wobbly, it can contribute to a crap user experience.

What kinds of things could we do to help users help themselves when their equipment is sub-par?

Text tricks for when you cbf with design

The title is sort of misleading.

Making a site look good with just text is a form of design. And there are simple enough guidelines out there that we can easily take ‘programmer design’ to the next level.



  • Maintain strong colour contrast that’s easy on the eyes
  • Consider text size for readability
  • Use text size, alignment, colour and style to show content hierarchy
  • Include whitespace and negative space to draw attention to your text

How many test users in a usability study?

Fresh in from our favourite usability guy:


Tl;dr – 5 is the optimal. As you add more users, you spend more time observing same findings per new insight gained. If you just want stats, test at least 20 so the maths look good. For card sorting, test 15 or more. When eyetracking, test 39 to account for individual variations.