published 16 June 2016
Wait, which ‘apps’ are we talking about?
Lately there’s been considerable debate about the future of native apps, ranging from the cooling of downloads to the dubious utility of instant apps and assumptions about progressive web apps as heir apparent to native apps.
It’s anyone’s guess what the next few years will yield, but it brings to mind pg. 91 from a book I wrote in 2007. While most of the book became technologically irrelevant not more than a year after publishing, there’s one argument that has withstood nearly a decade of digital disruption:
The success of the web, as we know it today, is largely due to one piece of software: the browser. I can access nearly any website, application (including email) … with that one browser.
To assume users will be satisfied downloading an app¹ for every site they frequent, or for every content provider they associate themselves with, is to assume users have adequate storage space on their devices and that they are willing to pay the costs, both data and time, to download these apps.
In all likelihood, most users will probably download an app for a couple of their favorite products, but beyond that, a browser will be — or should be — sufficient for interacting with web content.
Proud papa of that prediction, though I don’t dare assume it will withstand another decade of disruption.
Yet I’m very intrigued by the future of progressive web apps (or PWA for short) as a further manifestation of what I predicted. The term was coined by Alex Russell over dinner in June 2015, but only recently has it gained respectable traction in the media.
All signs point to progressive web apps as having some serious potential to eliminate the need for native apps and return the usage throne to browsers.²
Consider Patagonia. They’ve bid farewell to their iPhone app, claiming the Patagonia website is beautiful and functional in all mobile web browsers. “You may delete [our native app] from your device.”
Brash move or rash decision? Either way, native apps are dead to Patagonia.
Less controversial is Snapdrop, a shining example of a progressive web app. It’s like Apple’s AirDrop but through any browser, any device on the same network. Type snapdrop.net in the URL bar of any browser and share files with any other device connected to the service within your network. No app needed.
Unlike AirDrop, Snapdrop seems to work every time.
Over the past couple years I’ve made the rounds at numerous conferences pitching the idea of Unified Design. In a nutshell, Unified Design presents a functionally and aesthetically cohesive product experience across endless screens and platforms, regardless of where the experience starts, continues, and ends. Think of adding a product to your Amazon cart at work with a desktop browser and finishing checkout in bed using the Amazon smartphone app. It just works.
The need for Unified Design has been amplified by the growing disconnect between a product’s native app and its web app (or website) counterpart. Often the two are functionally and aesthetically disparate and, in some cases, dysfunctional.
Progressive web apps are, at least in theory, inherently unified. There is no native app, m-dot URL, or separate database to speak of. It just works. In any browser and on any device. In theory. Of course, browsers often choke on theory, despite their best efforts to be ‘progressive’ in the traditional sense of the word.
Vive la app
In truth, I don’t anticipate native apps will die off anytime soon. But I’m warming to the idea that they may be less relevant to the future of the web, and I reaffirm that “a browser will be — or should be — sufficient for interacting with web content.”
Progressive web apps are poised to be remarkably relevant to the future of the web. Let’s not screw it up.
¹ In 2007 the word “app” didn’t really exist. Instead we had terms like “smart client” and “thin client”. I’ve replaced instances of these terms in the excerpt quoted here with terms more familiar to today’s readers i.e. “app”.
² Let’s be realistic. Is there any chance Candy Crush will be a progressive web app anytime soon? Highly debatable. How about Snapchat as a progressive web app? Also debatable, but far more plausible. In fact, it would be nearly impossible to argue why Snapchat shouldn’t be available within the browser.
- Getting started with Progressive Web Apps (Addy Osmani)
- Progressive Web Apps (Google Developers)
- A wager on the web (Jeremy Keith)
- Progressively less progressive (Andrew Betts)
- Progressive web apps — let’s not repeat the errors from the beginning of responsive web design (Michael Scharnagl)
- Progressive Web Apps isn’t a Google-only thing (Michael Scharnagl)
published 19 May 2016
Originally published on Medium.
Unlike most job ads, Mozilla’s job ad for The Coral Project is one you’ll probably actually read. It’s engaging, concise, and personal—without requiring a heavy dose of casualness.
Having reviewed a few thousand job ads over the course of the past decade, I’ve seen it all. The two-liner. The dissertation. The heavily cheeky. The irreverent-bordering-on-offensive. And the outright offensive.
There is no perfect job ad. Sometimes the most effective ad is the longest and most direct. Other times it’s the shortest and most casual. Mozilla’s job ad is exemplary regardless of industry, title, length, or candor. It was written by Andrew Losowsky, project lead for Mozilla Foundation’s Coral Project and adjunct professor in journalism at The New School, the latter of which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the quality of his writing.
I reached out to Andrew to understand his approach to writing job ads. Some of his remarks accompany my observations below.
1. A compelling intro that cuts to the chase.
“The internet has a people problem.” Boom. Mozilla’s ad skips the banal company intro and immediately dives into the Why, as if to say, “Here’s why we need you. The weight of digital humanity will rest on your shoulders. No pressure.”
Only a couple sentences are needed to describe the people problem which, even if you skip, already has you hooked. A second mention in the closing line and a third mention in the perks underscores the enormous opportunity of helping to solve a problem inherently global in scope.
Andrew’s advice for writing a compelling intro is pretty simple: “Whatever the thing is that you might want to impress people at parties about your job? That’s the start of the ad.”
2. Text that reads aloud as smoothly as it reads written.
One of the best ways to engage readers with nearly any form of copywriting is to write as though you were speaking with them or to them. This doesn’t mean a casual or cheeky tone necessarily, but rather human-to-human communication with a tone appropriate to the circumstances. After all, a jovial notification of failed payment or a sassy job ad for mortician probably won’t go over well with readers.¹
Coincidentally, personalized communication is key to Mozilla’s Coral Project and the work of its employees. “One of the important parts of our work is trying to encourage positive online interactions,” Andrew says. “Language matters, as does how you frame a space, and how you signal what your expectations are for that space. We try to model this in everything we do — including our job ads.”
3. Exhaustive criteria are replaced with simple lists.
A job ad is a invitation to chat. Nothing more. Exhaustive requirement lists may filter out unwanted candidates and lessen the load on your inbox, but they’ll also drive away potential superstars. Error on the side of more applications filling your inbox, not fewer. Besides, there are plenty of applicant tracking systems that make it easy to filter candidates and respond with templates or automated replies when necessary.
And to be clear, lists are a good thing! Candidates often scan job ads until finding a list. After you’ve captured their attention with a list, keep their attention with a list of reasonable length.
4. Commitment to diversity is clearly stated.
Assuming your company values diversity—and I hope it does—diversity pitches are some of the toughest lines to master in job ads. Sure, you can take the easy route and tack on the trite “equal opportunity employer” line at the end. But chances are candidates will treat it just as that—a trite statement that has little meaning. The more challenging route, and the more effective one, is to make it clear that your organization values diversity innately. Mozilla’s ad contains one of the best pitches I’ve seen:
“We are committed to diversity and especially encourage members of underrepresented communities to apply.”
Beautiful. “The diversity of our team is really important — we work hard to write our ads in a way that might appeal to a broad set of candidates,” Andrew says. And there’s no need to state what the underrepresented communities may be, as that may serve to only strengthen assumptions and bias about these communities and individuals. They know who they are. All they might need is a little encouragement to apply.
BUT… and this is important: Diversity is more than just a one-liner. Your entire job ad should support your company values, either directly or indirectly. Every line or bullet is an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to these values. Andrew suggests using Textio “in order to remove unintended bias and cliché.”
High fives, Andrew. You done made Mozilla proud. 🙌
¹ Recommended reading: Design for Real Life to write better copy for these scenarios and others.
published 2 January 2016
(You can also listen to this post as audio.)
“It doesn’t belong on the web.” This assumption has prevailed throughout much of the internet’s history; if your voice isn’t recorded with a broadcast-quality mic and edited flawlessly in post-production, it doesn’t belong on the web.
We created Spoken to challenge this assumption and encourage anyone with a voice to publish it on the web. To us, your poorly recorded voice sounds perfect. With time, we’re confident it will sound perfect to others, too.
Your voice deserves to be heard.
WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE
We’ve seen this sort of evolution before. Prior to YouTube, it was a sacrilege to publish poorly produced videos on the web—to say nothing of the technical challenge of doing so. Prior to Instagram, poorly shot photos were a violation of all things holy on the internet.
We expect voice will follow the same evolutionary path as photos and videos. “The medium is the message,” Marshall McLuhan once remarked in his observations about media.¹ With voice, society has been conditioned to expect a level of quality unattainable by most independent producers. Our vision is to reprioritize story as the crux of the medium and its message, and shift quality into a supporting role. Spoken is poised to facilitate this evolution.
As an example of this shift, I intentionally recorded my account of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake using the built-in mic on my iPhone 5, even though I own two broadcast-quality mics (Electro-Voice RE20, Rode NTG3). It’s the story that matters most. If broadcast-quality is then attainable, more power to us all. But that shouldn’t be a roadblock to finding your voice on the web, nor finding the voices of others.
QUALITY IS STILL NICE
As our tools improve (notably smartphones), quality will converge with convenience. The ultimate goal is message and quality together as one, attainable by all. We’ll get there eventually.
In the meantime, let your voice be heard.
¹ Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964.
This article was originally published on Medium.
published 18 March 2015
I’ve been fascinated by Meerkat the past few days. That is, if I’ve been lucky enough when a live stream actually, you know, streamed. Clearly their servers have been hammered by traffic recently, thanks to the likes of SXSW and Jimmy Fallon among others.
If you’re not in tech or haven’t yet heard, Meerkat allows you to broadcast live video with your phone. Currently only iOS is supported, though at least one unofficial Android app is available for viewing streams only. And if you’re into just viewing and not broadcasting, you might as well skip the app and visit meerkatstreams.com in your browser.
Haters are already rampant, and that’s to be expected with any new social media entrant. Also to be expected is everyone wondering what practical, long-term use this will offer. The first ‘meerkat’ I watched was with my 14-year-old son as I described the app to him, and it was some dude working at his desk. FASCINATING. But a few meerkats later and eventually I was watching Jimmy Fallon do a live rehearsal of his monologue prior to taping. That was pretty remarkable.
I don’t know what to expect of Meerkat’s viability, permanence, or lasting utility. But if the hype is any indication, they’re ripe for acquisition. They’re also ripe for lawsuits and traditional media backlash, e.g. live-broadcasting televised events.
I, for one, welcome Meerkat’s disruptive entrance. I’ll be watching from the sidelines—literally and figuratively—to see how this plays out.
published 9 January 2015
I’ve shared the Authentic Jobs origin story before, but never like this. At Squares Conference 2015 in Grapevine, Texas, I’ll be offering a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like running a startup-like small business—and the challenges that come with it.
Here’s a taste of what I’ll be sharing:
- How one of our employees walked away with $3500 worth of equipment, and how this affected our remote work policy
- Why we went from using very few legal services to engaging three different law firms simultaneously, and the crazy circumstances that led to it
- Why we put our entire team on someone else’s payroll / health insurance
- The incredible opportunities we’ve enjoyed by acting honorably even when the world around you does not
Use code AUTHENTIC20 for 20% off registration. Hope to see you there.
published 9 January 2015
After not speaking at conferences for nearly all of 2014 (with good reason), I’m now accepting invitations for 2015.
My presentation is titled “Cohesive UX”. In a nutshell,
This presentation examines what’s required to deliver a cohesive, consistent user experience regardless of where the digital experience begins, continues, and ends.
The only speaking exception I made last year was for HOW Interactive, and it was to deliver this very presentation. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and you can view the slides on Speaker Deck. (Also, don’t miss “Cohesive UX” on 24 ways, the advent calendar for technorati.)
Please get in touch if interested.
published 2 January 2015
Brush lettering is hard. Clearly this is why we have full-time typographers.
The tl;dr of it all is that we’re running our annual New Year’s 50% off sale over at Authentic Jobs, and I tasked myself with creating the promotional artwork. (By the way, my discount code for the sale is MOLL2015.)
I think I’ll leave future lettering attempts to the pros. At any rate, post a job anytime between now and January 10 and get 50% off with code MOLL2015.
¹ Photograph taken at the Holi Festival of Colors in Spanish Fork, Utah, just minutes from our first home in Springville, Utah.
published 12 November 2014
Oh how disease + being busy resonates with me.
Every technology or product that pitches “do ______ in less time” inevitably creates more busyness than it eliminates. Clearly the industry of efficiency is not calmness, but industriousness. ¹
I wrote in my journal this morning. Wrote. With a pen and paper. It took me 30 minutes to write what would have taken 10 minutes or less to type.² I am okay with this.
Omid Safi has eloquently penned yearnings that I wish were my own and that I intend to make my own if I have any hope of favoring quality of life over quantity:
When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.
I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.
Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list….
Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”
In the end, while technology is regarded often unjustly as culprit rather than scapegoat, unquestionably it has enhanced the pace at which we busy ourselves with tasks, whether mundane or extraordinary. Technology is advancing faster than self-discipline. Mastery of regimen must begin with mastery of self.
Easier said than done.
¹ Noted without comment, antonyms for “industrious” include “lazy”, “indolent”, and “unemployed”.
² Admittedly this was the first time I had written in my paper journal in several months. I write, that is to say type, fairly regularly with Day One.
published 3 July 2014
Craig Mod, who convincingly argues that app development (and their success) is often completely senseless, drops this astounding wisdom on readers about halfway through the article:
The first pass should be ugly, the ugliest. Any brain cycle spent on pretty is self deception. If pretty is the point then please stop. Do not, I repeat, do not spent three months on the radial menu, impressive as it may be. It will not save your company. There is a time for that. That time is not now. Instead, make grand gestures. General gestures. Most importantly, enumerate the unknowns. Make a list. Making known the unknowns you now know will surface the other unknowns, the important unknowns, the truly devastating unknowns — you can’t scrape our content! you can’t monkey park here! a tiny antennae is not for rent! You want to unearth answers as quickly as possible. Nothing else matters if your question marks irrecoverably break you. Do not procrastinate in their excavation.
Craig’s words ring loudly in my ears. You want to unearth answers as quickly as possible. Do not procrastinate in their excavation.
Superb advice for the exploration phase of just about any project, not just app development.
published 27 May 2014
Today the world lost one of the most influential designers of our time, Massimo Vignelli. Michael Bierut, who knew him well, offers a fitting tribute:
Massimo died this morning at the age of 83. Up until the end — I saw him on Thursday — he was still curious, still generous, still excited about design. He leaves his wife, Lella; his children, Luca and Valentina; and generations of designers who, like me, are still learning from his example.
Thank you, Michael. Grazie mille, Massimo.
published 14 May 2014
Today’s a big day. The Brooklyn Bridge letterpress poster is now (officially) available to the public, and on sale to boot. Additionally, a few supporting resources have been published.
Microsite summarizing the project. All HTML/CSS by the incomparable Adam Spooner.
In which I detail the expenses of my Kickstarter project and how I hardly broke even.
As always, I’m extremely appreciative of those who support my work. Thanks a million.
published 28 March 2014
Elon Musk, responding to reports about Model S collisions and car fires:
The odds of fire in a Model S, at roughly 1 in 8,000 vehicles, are five times lower than those of an average gasoline car and, when a fire does occur, the actual combustion potential is comparatively small. However, to improve things further, we provided an over-the-air software update a few months ago to increase the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds, substantially reducing the odds of a severe underbody impact.
Wait, did you catch that? An over-the-air update that alters the vehicle’s suspension system?
I find this fascinating. Nearly all other cars on the road, even 2014 models, are incapable of remote software updates, partly for territorial reasons:
Unlike Tesla, most automakers depend on independent dealers to sell their cars, and dealers have good reason to oppose automatic updates that would take them out of the loop.
In my estimation, over-the-air updates are an inevitable part of our future, and consumer choice will eventually trump dealer opposition. It’s worth debating, however, whether or not it’s healthy for a software developer to remotely update your $70,000 car the same as it would your $300 phone, which is precisely what’s happening in this Hacker News thread (among other debates).
P.S. Equally fascinating to me is Elon’s choice to use Medium to share this kind of news with the world.
published 27 March 2014
A 200+ mile backpacking experience through Yosemite National Park captured by Colin Delehanty and Sheldon Neill. This project was filmed over the course of 10 months. We spent a combined 45 days in the park capturing the images in this video.
Colin and Sheldon employ the same setup as in the first; that is, a Dynamic Perception motion-controlled dolly and time-lapse photography.
(Is it just me, or does the intersection of photography and technology yield astounding results?)
published 24 March 2014
Mike Monteiro, recalling a trip to the car dealership as a teenager:
There are two things I’ll never forget from the following interaction. The first was the look of embarrassment on my father’s face as he realized he needed to tell the salesman he couldn’t afford the car, which, in my father’s eyes was akin to failing as a provider. The second was the salesman’s reply.
‘Why didn’t you tell me what you could afford?’
Not everyone knows what their budget is. And that’s ok. It just means we’ll discuss a few options. Some below your price range, some above. It’ll take a little longer.
But if you know what your budget is; let us know. It’ll save us all from having to look at everything on the lot.
Also applicable: Why didn’t the salesman ask what you could afford?
published 5 February 2014
Short answer: It varies. Pretty widely.
A close friend asked me to share how I generate ideas for new projects, and I thought it’d be worthwhile to repeat my answer here. Below are few examples.
I don’t do print design that often. Not often at all, in fact (outside of my letterpress posters). When I do, I generally prefer to get an understanding of how many pages there will be if more than one, and the general flow of the content.
Above is the page layout for a 24-page booklet documenting my process for the Brooklyn Bridge poster. The booklet was sent to print recently, and this is what one of the completed spreads looks like.
It’s pretty rare that I begin on paper. I don’t know, maybe I’ve been doing it for so long that the most efficient method for me still remains a head-first dive into Photoshop.
For example, on Perks.io I started with a greyscale comp:
For the overhaul of Authentic Jobs we’re currently working on, I started with a high-fidelity comp using components from the existing site:
The design has been iterated many times since and probably will look nothing like this when it’s completed.
I do a decent amount of video, much of it for fun and some of it for work. This is the “comping” I did for the Authentic Jobs ‘Eight’ campaign video:
Notice the two intros I was considering. We went with 'B’. This was the completed video:
For the aforementioned Authentic Jobs 'Eight’ campaign, there were many moving parts—microsite, video, t-shirts, sponsors, etc. Most of this planning began in my trusted Moleskine notebook:
The final campaign was executed fairly close to what you see sketched here.
And that’s a sampling of how I begin a project.