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Pat Dryburgh

Here’s me: when I download an app with a first-run tutorial, I try to find a way to short-circuit it and get to the actual app. If I can’t, I just race through it, knowing I wouldn’t have remembered any of it anyway.

Either I can figure out the app later or I can’t.

I’m with Brent. If a user interface requires a first-run tutorial to use, it’s broken. Good documentation can absolutely enhance a user’s knowledge and experience of an app, but the primary actions a user can take to achieve their desired outcome need to be discoverable and understandable without requiring additional written instruction.

A few times in my career, a product manager has put forward, during a review of my design work, the idea of using a tutorial to explain the interface I’ve designed. I think they were trying to do two things with this idea:

  1. Soften the blow to my ego (this tends to happen early in my relationship with a product manager, at which point I make sure that it’s clear I don’t take criticism of my design work personally), and
  2. Find a way to still meet a deadline by avoiding the time it would take to solve the design problems.

My response has been that if the design can’t be understood without a tutorial, then it needs to be redone. (That, and the wisdom an angel investor once told me, “deadlines aren’t promises.”) User testing is tremendously helpful in this regard. It’s an opportunity to hear out loud the questions your users are thinking when they first open your app and, most importantly, to then respond with changes to the interface before that’s the impression all future users have of your app’s design.

It’s like how a joke sucks if it’s only funny after you explain it. A good design allows a user to discover on their own the wonderful magic a great app can bring into their life.

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I wanted to get an understanding of what opening meant to businesses around Dallas. Were they opening? What precautions were they taking? Were employees in safe environments? And bigger picture, I wanted to know if these are places that I would feel safe taking my family to.

The numbers reported by Mark’s research are as fascinating as they are hair curling. Of the roughly 1,000 businesses surveyed, “only 36% of businesses chose to open on the opening weekend,” which I found encouraging. “Wow, Dallas really approached this responsibly and only a little over a third of businesses felt they could manage opening safely,” I thought. I continued reading.

Of those who chose to open “96% of businesses were non-compliant across all mandatory protocols and all locations.” Mark breaks this down further by explaining that only ~1/3 businesses were 50% compliant and of the protocols, “~60% of mandatory protocols were followed and ~54% of all suggested protocols were followed.”

I was encouraged when I read the first stat that only 36% of businesses opened as I assumed that meant only businesses who planned to comply with the mandatory protocols would be willing to risk opening and the remaining 64% were simply unable to open safely. However the stats pertaining to compliance suggest that when businesses in Canada open up, we cannot be assured that they are doing so because they are ready to implement protocols to protect their customers. It remains our individual responsibility to observe the appropriate protocols when participating in public commerce.

All of this said, I do not think Dallas or any other area was wrong to open. Businesses who failed to comply with protocols during opening weekend will surely improve now that we have the data. For the sake of employees and customers, I hope they are able to make those improvements quickly.

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As I was listening to Lions Gate this week, the lyrics have struck me pretty deep.

somehow you just got anchored to this bay
here I am holding onto waves

I recorded a cover of the song both as a tribute to my friend Carly and to commemorate a major life decision I made this past week. Time to lift the anchor.

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Two new Carly Thomas songs are available to download on bandcamp today. I first heard Lions Gate when Carly crashed at my apartment when her cross-country tour-by-train made its way to British Columbia. Framed and hanging on my wall is a scrap piece of cardboard Carly used to refresh her memory of the song’s lyrics. I got to play this song with her on the BC leg of the tour which was a hoot and a half (ask me about the goat farm we played at).

Into the Rain was first released as a video for the CBC Searchlight competition. I love the muted trumpets in this one.

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I recorded a cover of Shapes by The Long Winters. I’m a big fan of the band’s singer and songwriter, John Roderick, who not only sings the coda to my favourite song of all time, Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie, but also happens to be one half of my favourite podcast, Roderick on the Line.

Anyway, this acoustic rendition of Shapes I first heard on a bootleg recording of a show he played with Jonathan Coulton dubbed Live at the Double Door. In it, John takes a guitar lick from the original studio recording’s intro that requires picking, hammer-ons, and pull-offs to achieve and uses it as a melodic rhythm over which he sings. It took me 3 days of practice to finally nail signing over this intricate guitar pattern and I’m really proud of the outcome.

I’m planning to do some more of this. Follow me on Instagram to be notified of new recordings right away.

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I’ve pushed a few minor updates to my site this week.

  1. I played around with the inertia of the scrolling animation on the homepage to behave better on larger screens.
  2. I’ve worked out how to group posts by day and to sort posts within a day from oldest-to-newest (while days continue to be presented newest-to-oldest). The intention with this change is to make reading through a day’s posts feel more natural, as often on days when I do publish more than one post, they are often connected in some way. If there’s interest, I might write up a post about how I accomplished this.
  3. I’ve refined how I’m handling dark mode on the site. Instead of creating separate style sheets for each theme and swapping out the link rel="stylesheet" tag for each theme, I’m now using CSS Variables and setting a data-theme attribute on the HTML element. Switching between themes now feels instantaneous.
  4. I’ve removed the lazy loading for images. While lazy loading makes for faster loading speeds, it also means that people who don’t have JavaScript enabled can’t see any images. I decided the minor cost of speed is worth the improvement to accessibility.
  5. Less important to you than me, I cut the time it takes for this site to build by more than 50%. I did this by removing some unused code and reducing the number of include tags in the default.html template that is used to generate every single page of this site. What once took anywhere from 20–30 seconds to build is now taking 8–9 seconds which makes iterating and publishing new changes so much more enjoyable.

On an unrelated note, this post and the post from earlier today were both scheduled using Alex Johnson’s excellent Heroku Scheduler job for scheduling Jekyll posts. Unfortunately, I’m still using my multi-app setup for publishing posts from my phone though I do intend to dig into IndieKit by Paul Robert Loyd which I was introduced to by Boris as a way of setting up a Micropub endpoint on Heroku. Still have to work my way through some configuration before that’s ready to go.

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If you’re into fantasy and/or music and haven’t watched the visual experience for Mappe Of’s The Isle of Ailynn, I recommend you do so. Once you have, go watch this video of Tom, Edward, and Kristyn discussing the painstaking process and the technical limitations they faced during the creation and filming of the production. There are some technical difficulties at the beginning of this video, so the link should take you to where the action begins.

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I’m glad I deactivated my Twitter and Facebook accounts back in early March. According to the Hedometer which tracks emotional sentiment across Twitter, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought Twitter’s happiness to an all-time low. As Jason Kottke writes:

The day they identify as the unhappiest is March 12, 2020, which is the day after Americans finally took Covid-19 seriously. Within the space of a few hours on March 11, the NBA announced it was suspending its season, Tom Hanks revealed that he and his wife Rita Wilson had Covid-19, the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, Donald Trump went on primetime TV to address the nation, and the DJIA closed down 1400 points (it would drop another 2350 points on Mar 12).

March 12 was a day or two after I deactivated my accounts, and yet I remained informed of all of this news through national, international, and local media sources via the Apple News app on my phone. I’ve kept in touch with my family and friends through various messaging apps. I’ve maintained my Instagram account and my Reddit account and am obviously still posting to my blog. For the most part, no one but me has noticed the change.

While I’m deeply concerned about how this virus affects the world, I am feeling less anxious than I expected when the words coronavirus and COVID-19 first entered public consciousness. I suspect this is because unlike the apps I continue to use, Twitter and Facebook are optimized to reward constant interaction and attention with all those tiny hits of dopamine, which in a time like this can open you up to repeated exposure to a steady stream of unfiltered negativity.

Not to say that I feel awesome. Just a little less anxious than I could be.

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