User Unfriendly Notes Towards a Queer Web

Miriam Suzanne | @mirisuzanne | @oddbird


User Unfriendly Notes Towards a Queer Web

Agile Denver — March 18, 2019

OddBird Faces

2008: OddBird

Application Design & Development

Dark Raspberry

anywhere between maroon and magenta…

User Experience > Software Design

Theater > One Medium

writing, acting, choreography, architecture, music, lights…

Web > One Medium

writing, architecture, code, design, interaction…

CERN first website, with line-mode browser simulation

Web for all. Web on everything.

World Wide Web Consortium, 1989

The Web is User-Centered by Design

! 👨

The fact we can control a paper page is really a limitation of that medium.

—John Allsopp, A Dao of Web Design (April 07, 2000)

What’s the Print Vision?

What are the Tradeoffs?

The ‘collectible’ is because sometimes you want to treasure the book and touch the book and know that you have a special one.

—Seth Godin, Transforming the Book Industry

Performative Turn

One text becomes a novel, a web app, an album, and a theater production…

miriamsuzanne.com (now with a whole new look)

Looks pretty cool, but having the menu and the text rotated like that just makes them super difficult to read

—Dude, Online


What is User Friendly?

Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your website to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.

Jakob Nielsen

Intuitive” or “Invisible”?

Open” or “Adaptable”?

It Always Depends

A Queer Theory Primer

[the oversimplified version]

Strange” or “Peculiar

1800’s: becomes a (sexual) insult

1980’s/90’s: Reclaimed

A big tent movement

“We’re all the same

We’re All Different

…but our struggles & identities intersect…

“We’re normal too”

“Normal” is Suspect

Who Defines it? Who Benefits?

“Normal” points to a power-imbalance…

Do We Enforce Sameness?

Under an increasing pressure to monetize the data they store, Facebook looks for ways to limit difference across the site.

—Ben Grosser, How the Technological Design of Facebook Homogenizes Identity and Limits Personal Representation

Do I want to create work in which everyone feels the same, or everyone feels differently?

—Anne Bogart, A Director Prepares

Bootstrapping vs Plug-and-play


Augmenting Human Intellect

Providing the means for users to create better tools.

Layers of Abstraction

Douglas Engelbart, The Mother of All Demos (1968) | the mouse, hypertext, view switching, networked computers, early GUI

You cannot create results. You can only create conditions in which something might happen.

—Ann Bogart, A Director Prepares


It Just Works

Steve Jobs, Apple II (1993)

Identical, Easy-to-Use, Low-Cost Appliance

What Are the Tradeoffs?

Know Your Innovation Budget

Know Your Goals

click-through rates are not universal success

Start with Users

Every User is an Expert

They know more about their needs than you do.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Henry Ford John McNeece (kinda)

User Expertise:

  1. End Goals
  2. Existing Solutions
  3. Points of Failure

User Blind Spots:

  1. Interface Design

Ask about Problems, not Solutions

works with art feedback as well…

When the Problem is in Act V, The Solution is Often in Act I

Always Ask Why

look for the root causes

Analyze Patterns

common pain-points, related issues, etc…

Recognize Personal Bias

Dark Raspberry

Empathy is Awesome


Also Need Diversity & Inclusion

More perspectives, with the power to make change

Communicate with Clients

Present Context & Tradeoffs

establish yourself as a teammate

Only Show Good Options

Mind games always backfire

Ugly Helps

Use sketches & wireframes to focus on what’s important

Less Theory, More Practice

put options in front of users

Fewer Mockups, More Prototypes

Experiment Often

hypothesis » test » adjust

“Experimental” is a Process

Not a reason to make your friends sit through shitty performance art

Tight Feedback Loop

Test, Test, Test

Look at Different Angles

Elements of Design

  1. Color
  2. Form
  3. Line
  4. Shape
  5. Space
  6. Texture
  7. Value

Viewpoints of Theater

  1. Spatial Relationship
  2. Kinesthetic Response
  3. Shape
  4. Gesture
  5. Repetition
  6. Architecture
  7. Tempo
  8. Duration
  9. Topography

Aspects of the Web?

  1. Size
  2. Browser
  3. Operating System
  4. Language
  5. Access Type (visual, audio, etc…)
  6. Interaction Type (mouse, touch, etc…)
  7. … ?

Question Your Assumptions

Use All The Tools

Unison, Harmony, & Dissonance

Know Where You Are

  1. Define the Seed: What’s the idea, question, or hypothesis?
  2. Explore: Research, gather, and create the materials…
  3. Organize: Outline the structure, or impose one…
  4. Draft: Make something that flows…
  5. Revise: Consider, critique, and edit as needed…

Encourage Playfulness

Spark & Slip

Remix Everything

copy, transform, combine

Creativity isn’t magic. It happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials.

—Kirby Ferguson, Everything is a Remix

[Agile] Cycles

We need to be in the open mode when we’re pondering a problem, but once we come up with a solution, we must then switch to the closed mode to implement it.

—John Cleese

Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

Stay in touch…