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

A Change Is Gonna Come

Nebraska, USA 2017 (photo credit: Christian Espinoza)

We live in an age of analysis and measurement. Our devices track our sleep, how many steps we take, how many calories we consume, how often we use social media, our heart rate, our screen time, and so much more. GPS can track our every movement, Tinder can find us a mating partner based on geographical location, and if you want to track your period, menstruation, menopause, ovulation calendar, and monitor your pregnancy within a single mobile application – you can (it’s called Flo).

You may be wondering to yourself why we need to live a life so heavily analyzed and measured. Our lives are becoming quantified but for what? The app Exist boasts that ‘by combining data from services you already use, [they] can help you understand what makes you more happy, productive, and active.’ But why do you need an app to tell you that, I mean, shouldn’t you already know yourself well enough to figure it out? Maybe not, it seems.

Data is the gold. Specifically, your data.

I can imagine a future where data mining and analytics will render many jobs and/ or industries redundant, whilst at the same time create new opportunities and possible pathways that we can’t even imagine yet. We can’t fully predict what the next technological revolution will bring, but we can assume it will be extremely disruptive.

At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only thirteen people.

– Jaron Lanier, from ‘Who Owns the Future?


Colca Canyon, Peru 2008 (photo credit: Christian Espinoza)

English poet, Alexander Pope once said, ‘To err is human; to forgive, divine’. I would add a new and less eloquent version of my own, ‘To compare is human’.

The topic of comparing oneself came up in conversation over coffee with a friend yesterday. We agreed that whilst this is not an uncommon impulse, it can quite easily become a trap. Much like the rabbit hole except with murky, swampy waters and a stench of envy.

We are all flawed in this life, that is just a fact of the human condition, however in the glow of Instagram and its various filters, you would not be remiss to think that we all live perfectly wonderful lives and are surrounded by the glow of the sun always. And by we, I mean everyone else but you.

They may be more attractive, have more wealth, more intelligence, and more success than you. You feel that you just don’t measure up to them, and as the feelings of inferiority fester, you fall down the trap and you sink deeper into a state you can’t get out of easily. This is the trap.

In reality, the only person you need to compare yourself to is: yourself.

As a photographer, I look at the work I did ten years ago versus the work I did last week, and that’s the only comparison I make. In fact, these days I am immersed in scanning my own film from the last 15 years of shoots, I have no time to even look at other people’s work (plus, I don’t have Instagram).

If you find Instagram or any other visual social media platform is causing you to feel this way, maybe take a break from it and surround yourself with real people and actual hobbies. Write down what you’re grateful for every morning, my wife just started doing this and it has turned everything from night into day.

Celebrate yourself vs envy someone else.

To compare is human; to choose not to compare is also human.