User Experience

Auckland, NZ 2012 (photo credit: Christian Espinoza)

It never leaves your side, it is the single most used item in your life right now, and you take it absolutely everywhere you go. You rely on it for almost everything, and it has the power to cause you major stress when you can’t locate it.

Welcome to your mobile phone.

Of course not everyone will fit into this category, but for the majority of the western world, our phones have become ubiquitous, and we seldom use them for actually talking to people.

Now let’s talk about you for a minute: the user.

You’re either in your teens, living on Instagram, Snapchat, and Spotify. Or maybe your twenties, also living on Instagram, Snapchat, and Spotify (though you may have discovered Podcasts too). Perhaps you are a fifty two year old sales rep for a pharmaceutical start up and you need some big and bold TEXT and long lasting battery life. So, as the product manager for [insert your phone brand of choice here] you need to cater for the needs of many. How on earth do you tackle such a monumental endeavor?

You could start with why.

Why are you creating this thing? There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of creating amazing products that people fall in love with, and usually the user won’t know what hit them – and they probably never realized they wanted it in the first place!

At its core, products are made with people in mind. How will people interact with it? What feelings will it bring them? Will it be a thing of beauty as well as function? Last but not least, can you ship it? Because a beautiful product that is not ready to ship is a ghost.

Empathize with the user, and put yourself in their minds and hearts. Design the things that you would want to have for yourself. Design with passion and love.

If something is not good enough, stop doing it.”

– Jonathan Ive

Source of Truth

New York 2017 (photo credit: Christian Espinoza)

Ask any teenager what they learned in Mathematics this week and you might receive a look of deep pensiveness followed by some slow head scratching. Now ask that same teenager to name their top five mobile apps, and they will spit them out in less time than it takes you to unlock your phone.

We’re living in a new frontier, a digital landscape that is ever changing, growing exponentially and shaping more than just our technology. Cars, Kitchens, Watches, Security, are just some of the ‘Internet of Things’, and this will evolve rapidly over the next 5 years. Disruption isn’t simply a buzzword that employers and entrepreneurs like to toss around, it is real now in every sense of the word. From innovation to job losses, is disruption becoming the new norm?

How many teenagers are growing up believing that YouTube is the center of all information? There is a part of me that worries about the future landscape from a quality perspective. Some major leaps we’ve made in AI engineering and automation have resulted in quite terrifying results (again I link to Cathy O’Neil’s book ‘Weapons of Math Destruction‘), and I hope that we can regain our humanity in some way, amid such a fast paced revolution.

In order to determine how the world will look like five years, simply observe any teenager right now. How they treat others, how they treat themselves, and how much of their time is spent interacting with their mobile device/ console/ computer, blissfully unaware of the real world around them.

“Whereas before, if I watch this video from a comedian, our recommendations were pretty good at saying, here’s another one just like it. But the Google Brain model figures out other comedians who are similar but not exactly the same — even more adjacent relationships. It’s able to see patterns that are less obvious.”

– Jim McFadden, the Technical Lead for YouTube recommendations

Art of Deception

Auckland City, NZ 2019 (Photo Credit: Christian Espinoza)

We are all storytellers, every single one of us. Our method however, is largely non verbal.

I always used to tell my son that he has no poker face, because he simply couldn’t lie to save himself. But like him, not all of us are experts at lying, in fact we rarely are. Our body language gives us away.

Incongruity is prevalent when we’re really trying to deceive, we can’t hold the lie for too long before slipping up somehow. My son’s friend is a classic case. For a thirteen year old he’s surprisingly good, but as soon as I suspect he’s pulling a fast one on me, I hit him with some incredibly specific questions. It forces him to think about the story of the lie (whilst ultimately knowing the truth) and that’s when it becomes apparent. I notice his eyes drift upward to the ceiling as he processes the lie in his head. His hands start rubbing against his neck as a means of self soothing, and the main the main giveaway is the lack of eye contact.

Just for fun, next time you meet someone for the first time, notice their non verbal language. For example, how far away they stand from you, if they make eye contact, where they position their hands, what their feet do, whether or not they’re well groomed.

People are always talking, but we should learn to listen more with our eyes.

Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details.

– Arthur Conan Doyle, author of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Go Forward, Move Ahead

Munich Airport, Germany 2018 (Photo Credit: Christian Espinoza)

If the world was one long moving walkway, it would seem very clear which way to go.

You could hop on, enjoy the sights around you, and head to where you need to go automatically. No stress, minimal effort, and in the right directions: forward.

If the moving walkway represented time, you would assume it was linear, that is, a straight line from A to B.

What if, instead of a moving walkway, you were presented with a carousel that went around and around, and up and down? Or a roller coaster that inched slowly upward and picked up speed and momentum on its way to the bottom? Maybe it’s a lake whose waves rippled out in all directions.

Whichever way you go, it’s important to pay attention. The journey is the experience of moving through time and space, without it we only have point A and point B.

Time is an illusion.

– Albert Einstein

Kamasi Washington

Kamasi Washington (Photo Credit: Steven Pisano, used under Creative Commons license)

Desire

Humility

Knowledge

Perspective

Integrity

Truth

Diversity is not something to be tolerated, it’s something to be celebrated

– Kamasi Washington, 2019 live at The Powerstation, Auckland NZ

Hidden Places

Avondale, Auckland NZ 2012 (photo credit: Christian Espinoza)

Explore in your own backyard.

Or go walkabouts to places unknown, get lost and figure out your way back. Venture out for a surprise like I do (usually with my camera in hand and a stash of film).

I was on assignment by Metro Magazine to get images from several markets in Auckland City, including the pic shown here taken in Avondale Sunday market. More of a flea market, there were hidden gems everywhere. Finding people of all shapes and sizes, looking for knick-knacks, fresh vegetables, and some clown heads to toss balls at in exchange of prizes.

I have a genuine love of people, and when I am behind the camera I feel I create a sense of closeness. Maybe it’s more of a desire for something raw. When I don’t have a camera I notice I keep my distance and am considerably more reserved.

Wherever you find yourself, notice your instinctual responses. This self discovery can happen daily, it needn’t wait or become monumental. This daily reflection process has helped develop my work and the way I approach my practice.

No one moment is most important. Any moment can be something.”

– Garry Winogrand

Vulnerability

Kaitaia, New Zealand 2010 (photo credit: Christian Espinoza)

While sitting on a park bench earlier today, enjoying conversation with a dear friend, a man approached us and sat down for a conversation. The man appeared to be a rough sleeper, his clothes were unclean, his face had cuts on it, and he was in need of a wash.

Amid some ramblings, he asked us what we thought the meaning of life was. We threw out a few answers to carry the dialogue, but he had an answer already prepared. The man then pulled out his smartphone from his coat pocket, pointed to a picture of him holding his baby daughter and said “that’s the meaning of life, when I hold her in my arms”. He told us her first birthday was coming up next week, and he asked our advice on what gift he should get for her. We agreed that his presence might be enough. Although he agreed, I have to assume from what he implied, that his baby’s Mother may not appreciate him turning up empty handed (if at all).

My wife said to me recently that most of us are only one paycheck away from living on the street. She’s not wrong. I thought about the possible circumstances that led this man into his situation – Addiction? Mental health? Redundancy? Perhaps a mixture of all of these.

Every one of us is vulnerable, so we each have to keep going.

I think I will slowly develop Alzheimer’s disease, but at least then everyday will be a brand new day”.

– Man we met today on the street