02 March, 2017


This was originally published on Linked In.

Excerpts from the book, The Best Interface is No Interface.

This is UI:
Navigation, subnavigation, menus, drop-downs, buttons, links, windows, rounded corners, shadowing, error messages, alerts, updates, checkboxes, password fields, search fields, text inputs, radio selections, text areas, hover states, selection states, pressed states, tooltips, banner ads, embedded videos, swipe animations, scrolling, clicking, iconography, colors, lists, slideshows, alt text, badges, notifications, gradients, pop-ups, carousels, OK/Cancel, etc. etc. etc.

This is UX:
People, happiness, solving problems, understanding needs, love, efficiency, entertainment, pleasure, delight, smiles, soul, warmth, personality, joy, satisfaction, gratification, elation, exhilaration, bliss, euphoria, convenience, enchantment, magic, productivity, effectiveness, etc. etc. etc.

Somewhere along the way, we confused the two. And instead of pursuing the best, most creative, inventive, and useful ways to solve a problem, we started solving problems with screens because that was our job description. When we saw problems, we slapped an interface on it. UX stopped being about people, and started being about rounded rectangles and parallax animations.

It’s gotten to the point where many of our greatest minds aren’t being pushed into advancing science or taking us into space; they’re working at the new screen-based megacorporations that have surpassed oil companies in profits and political influence. They’re cranking out glorified digital billboards masked as websites and apps that are trying to monetize your eyeballs by pushing creepy ads onto all of your screens.

In the words of Jeff Hammerbacher, a former manager at Facebook and the founder of Cloudera, “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”

"There’s a better path. There’s a better way of thinking. When we separate the two roles, we can start defining new, better experiences."Golden Krishna

Related Post
User Experience Design != Visual Design

16 February, 2017

The Traveler from Stone Soup - The Secret to Design Thinking by Jared M. Spool

This article was originally published by Jared M. Spool as Shh! Don’t Tell Them There’s No Magic In Design Thinking. I am reposting a part of the article - an inspiring story titled, 'The Traveler from Stone Soup' here.

[As written by Jared M. Spool]

The magical powers that people assign to Design Thinking reminds me of an old Eastern European folk tale. The story takes place at a time when walking was the only way to travel from one village to the next (before horses were invented). In that time, it was traditional to offer visitors to your village scraps of food to replenish their hunger after such a long walk.

Source: www.expectmiraculous.com

One traveler, upon arriving at a new town, knocked on the door of the first house he saw. However, despite the tradition, the homeowner didn’t offer any food. She explained that they were experiencing a drought and barely had enough food to feed their own family. They couldn’t spare a scrap.

Every house the traveler visited had the same story. It was a drought and there was no extra food.

When the traveler reached the center of town, he decided he needed to make something for himself. He took out his pots, started a little fire, and set up to cook himself some dinner.

He reached into his bag and pulled out a round stone. He set the stone in the bottom of the pot and started stirring. A crowd of villagers started to form.

“What are you doing?” a curious villager asked.

“I’m making Stone Soup,” the traveler responded.

“You can make a soup out of stone?” asked the villager.

“Yes, but a little water makes it better.”

“I have a little water in my well,” said another villager. He then ran off and fetched the water. The water was added to the pot and the traveler resumed his stirring.

“What will it taste like?” a villager new to the scene asked.

“Well, it would taste better with some carrots.” Upon hearing this another villager ran to his house to grab a few carrots from his garden.

Then another villager offered up some other vegetables he’d salvaged from his garden. And a woman mentioned she had some meat scraps on her pantry.

“All of it would make the soup even better,” said the traveler. Off they all went to grab what they had.

Soon the pot was filled with a lovely large stew. The traveler graciously shared his dinner with the villagers. Everybody had a grand time eating the Stone Soup.

After the festive evening, as the traveler was packing up to head on his way, he thanked everyone for helping.

“As a repayment for your kindness and generosity,” the traveler announced, “I’d like to give your village the gift of this stone. So, you can keep making soup even when you have a drought upon you.” The villagers all cheered with delight.

They thanked the traveler profusely as he made his way out of town. He continued on his way.

When the traveler was a few miles out of the town, he looked down at the road and spotted a lovely round stone. He picked it up and admired it for second. Then he dropped it into his bag and continued on his way with a smile on his face.

What Does the Traveler Think?

Design Thinking is our stone. When we apply Design Thinking, we bring the entire organization together to collaboratively solve big problems.

Yet, to me, that’s not the important lesson from the story. The lesson I take away is that, at no time during the story, do we believe that the traveler thinks the stone makes soup.

Instead, the traveler sees that the villagers need their thinking reframed. They have enough food to eat, if only they worked together. The stone isn’t magical. It’s a device.

Maybe the villagers believe the stone makes soup? Maybe a smart villager or two see what the traveler did? But at no time did the traveler himself ever believe the stone made soup. He’d starve if he did.

As design professionals, we shouldn’t let ourselves think there’s any magic in Design Thinking. Our teams, stakeholders, and executives can believe in it, but we shouldn’t. To do so would be to depend on Design Thinking having magic and such magic doesn’t really exist.

That’s the design professional’s secret. Shh! Don’t tell them!

27 January, 2017

Why Some Best Products Never See the Light of the Day

Many Revolutionary products die over the politics of egomaniacal leaders who neither have the talent to innovate nor the ability to let their teams innovate. While there are great leaders and visionaries who let their teams build great products, more often than not, few such leaders are at the mercy of so called *power people* who make decisions in favor of bank balance rather than real users’ needs. Short sightedness takes over long term investment in users. Let us take a look at 2 great products that died an early death.

The Magic Cart that Never Went Shopping
Few years ago, two Indian students studying in Singapore saw a problem (and an opportunity) with long check-out lines in super markets. They studied the problem for months visiting supermarkets, identified problem patterns and came up with a simple solution: Provide a seamless check-out experience.   These students designed a magic shopping cart that calculates the bill amount automatically, so that users could just pay and leave the billing counter, hence taking away the manual billing time by the operator. Here is how it worked. As soon as a shopper picked an item and put it into the shopping cart, the item would be scanned automatically by a scanner placed in the inside walls of the cart. The cart was designed such that the item could not get inside without passing through the scanner, whilst not making shoppers conscious of the way they put their items into the cart. This was in the year 2001. An auditorium of 1000+ students were floored by the idea, even though the retail revolution was at a nascent stage at the time. 

Fast forward to 2016. Amazon Go has wowed many shoppers. Amazon started actual work on Amazon Go in 2012, 11 years after what two young students had created with magic shopping cart. What is it that those two Indian students did that failed them? What did Amazon do that put them at the center stage of the world with Amazon Go? The easiest answer might be, ‘Amazon has a lot of investor money’, ‘Amazon is  a giant’,  ‘Those two students did not make use of the right ecosystems’ and so forth. In an ideal world, what is it that makes some products sticky and fail others? Oh! I forget that we are not in an ideal world, or so we think.

A Self-Healing Product couldn’t Keep Itself Alive
In 2008, I worked on a self-healing product that could detect different kinds of problems in a computer or a laptop and also fix about 70% of those problems. The only problems the product couldn’t fix is like a defective modem or manually connect LAN cable. The technology used in that product at the time if applied to mobile devices and appliances even today, would turn out revolutionary. Yet, that product got sold to a services conglomerate because the shareholders thought that this product wasn’t making money and they didn’t want to burn anymore on a *dying product*. 

Product Success Depends on Office Politics
So, what makes products successful? Do best products really see the light of the day? As we celebrate the success of products like Amazon Go or Kuri or Pepper, we must remember what Golden Krishna once said: 
“So while we sometimes recall and retell technological history through effortless tales, the reality is that many meaningful technology accomplishments at the most influential companies are the result of successful internal political wins, a slow climb of convincing the right people in the right place at the right time that a good idea is actually good. What you see as a consumer is not truly the latest and greatest, but instead what managed to squeeze through the available channels, and somehow convince enough influencers in the company that they wouldn't get fired for agreeing to approve it.”

Next time, when you see great products come to life, remember it was the work of a courageous bunch of people who stuck to their guns because they dreamt of a better world for themselves and the rest of the world.

This article was originally published on Linked In.

11 January, 2017

Bibliography – Books I read in 2016

This article was originally published on Linked In.
My first encounter with a book apart from school books was in my 9th grade. I think, it was a short story written by Munshi Premchand, well-known for his modern Hindi-Urdu literature. I neither remember the story nor the name of the book, but I remember going to the school library for the first time in my life and picking this book. Years later, I was introduced to Swami Vivekananda’s writings by a friend Preethi in college. Since then, my reading journey has undergone a sea of change.

Books I read in 2016

These books are in roughly the same order in which I read through the year.

User Experience

Change by Design by Tim Brown
Written by the CEO of Ideo, one of the top design companies of the world, this is a moving book on creating a human-centered design framework to build products. This book also includes two interesting case studies from India. My favorite quote from the book is:
“UX Design is not a link in the chain, it’s the hub of a wheel”
Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices (Voices That Matter) by Dan Saffer
This book is a good introduction to Interaction Design and the little things that matter. This is also the first book that set me in the direction of specializing in Interaction Design last year. The quote below is a reflection of how important it is to focus on ‘Now’ in Interaction Design phase.
“What you think of as the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind, of a former Now. When you remember the past, you reactivate a memory trace — and you do so now. The future is an imagined Now, a projection of the mind. When the future comes, it comes as the Now. When you think about the future, you do it Now. Past and future have no reality of their own. Just as the moon has no light of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun, so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power, and reality of the eternal present. Their reality is “borrowed” from the Now”
Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life) by John Maeda
A simple book that promotes simplicity at its best.
“The world’s always been falling apart. So relax.” ~ Anonymous”
Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski
Luke Wroblewski is my mobile hero. I am very grateful to have discovered his deep work in mobile space. Every word he speaks or writes has such depth and brilliance, that it is hard to believe that he is a human. He is a true icon of our times!
“As a general rule, content takes precedence over navigation on mobile. Whether people are checking on frequently updated data like stocks, news, or scores; looking up local information; or finding their way to articles through search or communication tools — they want immediate answers to their needs and not your site map.”
Content Strategy for Mobile by Karen McGrane
Our lives are overloaded with hard to manage content everywhere and all the time. Karen takes us through a sensitive journey on suiting content in mobile application contexts.
“Whether we want to deliver exactly the same content to everyone, or prioritize and feature content differently on different platforms, we have a process that helps us do that without wasted effort. That future is adaptive content. Adaptive content is content that is flexible, so it can adapt to different screen sizes, and can be presented in different formats as appropriate for the device. What’s the secret to this flexibility? Why, it’s having more structure! Adaptive content has structure and metadata attached to it, which helps it figure out what to do when it winds up on all those different platforms and devices.”

Machine Learning

Best Interface is No Interface: The simple path to brilliant technology (Voices That Matter) by Golden Krishna
As a child, Golden Krishna was apparently named ‘Golden’ because astrology suggested that his first name should start with G and have 6 letters in all. His work in User Experience Design is pure gold. He is one of the most accomplished and sound User Experience Designers of our times. I am so proud to walk this earth around the same time as him.
“Let’s change our conversation with computers. Let’s empower computers to observe the world beyond form fields. Let’s give them the ability to sense our needs with sensors and other signals. Let’s replace tedious user input with instantaneous and painless machine input — where the computer system finds the information it needs on its own — whenever and wherever possible”

Deep Work and Passion

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap……And Others Don’t by Jim Collins
There is an old saying, “What got you here, won’t get you there”. This book tells you how to move from being good to great and how much of hard work it can be.
“People are not your most important asset. The Right People are!”
Deep Work — Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
In a world of constant distractions and interruptions, it is hard to focus. This book tells you how you can focus, do deep work and deliver great resulst, the kind that we think only ‘research scholars’ are capable of.
“If you are comfortably going deep, you’ll be comfortable mastering the increasingly complex systems and skills needed to thrive in our economy. If you instead remain one of the many for whom depth is uncomfortable and distraction ubiquitous, you shouldn’t expect these systems and skills to come easily to you”
Together is Better by Simon Sinek
I sense warmth when I listen to Simon Sinek. A great influencer of our times, he comes out with another fabulous book on the power of team work and being together. If you are pressed for time, you should watch this video.
“Leadership is hard work. Not the hard work of doing the job — it’s the hard work of learning to let go. It’s the hard work of training people, coaching people, believing in people and trusting people. Leadership is a human activity. And, unlike the job, leadership lasts beyond whatever happens during the workday”
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter) by Garr Reynolds
One of the three best books on Presentation Skills ever. Period!
“There are four characteristics of a good presenter:
1. He knew his material inside and out, and he knew what he wanted to say
2. He stood front and center and spoke in a real, down-to-earth language that was conversational yet passionate
3. He did not let technical glitches get in his way. When they occurred, he moved forward without missing a beat, never losing his engagement with the audience
4. And he used real, sometimes humorous, anecdotes to illustrate his points, and all his stories were supremely poignant and relevant, supporting his core message”

Non-Fiction Inspiration

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
It is an age-old belief that a dying man can only tell the truth. A moving account of Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 46 is an inspiring tale on how to LIVE LIFE WELL.
“It’s not about how you achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.”
David and Goliath — Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
I am a great follower of Malcolm Gladwell ever since I read his book, ‘Outliers’. I am also a big believer of his 10000-hour rule. This book takes the ancient story of an old shepherd David, fighting a giant Goliath and brings a whole new perspective of why underdogs will always win.
“Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all”
The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure and Bounce Back from Setbacks by Dr. Al Siebert
It is hard to be resilient in today’s competitive world. With life’s suffering, being resilient can often be considered as an act of inability and lack of skill. This book tells you why resilience is powerful and how it can lead you to a state of inner peace with yourself and the world.
“Resilient people don’t wait for others to rescue them; they work through their feelings, set goals, work to reach their goals, and often emerge from the resiliency process with a better life than before. Later, they say they are glad that their difficult situation happened”
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz
We are inundated with too many choices today. Want to buy a pair of clothes? You have at least a thousand websites. Want to buy a smartphone? There are at least 500+ smart phones to choose from. If this leaves you mentally exhausted, this book could be for you.
”Regret less and practice an attitude of Gratitude”
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink
In this book, Daniel Pink outlines the six fundamentally human abilities that are essential for professional success. Pink introduces readers to a new way of thinking about the future.
“Here and now is all we got”
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
A 9 year old who feared darkness, visualized a dream of becoming an astronaut after watching Neil Armstrong landing on the moon in 1969. 21 years later, this little boy was selected to go to space for the first time. A fabulous story of how dreams come true through sheer hard work and will power. A must read book if you have children of any age.
“If you’ve got the time, use it to get ready. What else could you possibly have to do that’s more important? Yes, maybe you’ll learn how to do a few things you’ll never wind up actually needing to do, but that’s a much better problem to have than needing to do something and having no clue where to start. I don’t regret being ready”
“One of the most important lessons I have learned as an astronaut: to value the wisdom of humility, as well as the sense of perspective it gives you. That’s what will help me climb down the ladder. And it won’t hurt if I decide to climb up a new one, either”
“Good people often select themselves”
Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient and the Past-life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives by Brian Weiss
If you believe in Extra Sensory Perceptions, this book is for you. In October 2016, I met a lovely women Uma, at a train station near Nice(France) who shared the same ideas and thoughts as I did about our universe. While chatting with her, I jumped up and down all over the place, telling her that she was my long lost sister who came to guide me in this life. To her, I am forever grateful for introducing me to Dr. Brian Weiss’s work. Without her, my life would be incomplete. As you might understand by now, this book is not for the faint-hearted.
“Patience and timing….. Everything comes when it must come. A life cannot be rushed, cannot be worked on a schedule as so many people want it to be. We must accept what comes to us at a given time, and not ask for more. But life is endless, so we never die; we were never really born. We just pass through different phases. There is no end. Humans have many dimensions. But time is not as we see time, but rather in lessons that are learned. Everything will be clear to you in time. But you must have a chance to digest the knowledge that we have given to you already”
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
We are capable of forming great character and creating happiness for ourselves. James takes us through a simple, yet powerful journey of bringing joy into our lives.
“Spiritual achievements are the consummation of holy aspirations. He who lives constantly in the conception of noble and lofty thoughts, who dwells upon all that is pure and unselfish, will, as surely as the sun reaches its zenith and the moon its full, become wise and noble in character, and rise into a position of influence and blessedness.”
No Limits: The Will to Succeed by Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps, world class swimmer ever known talks about his journey from a 9 year old ADHD diagnosed child to becoming the most decorated Olympian of all times. A mind-blowing account of a great soul and his will to succeed.
“Nothing is impossible. Because nothing is impossible, you have to dream big dreams; the bigger, the better”
Which books would you recommend this year?

30 December, 2016

Lessons Learnt from 2016 — A Year in Review

2016 was a fantabulous year. It came along with its set of hardships, but it brought along many happy surprises too. I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities that came my way.
Herstory asked intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs across India to review lessons learnt in 2016. I was one of them. Here is what I wrote for them. The original article can be found here.

Excerpts from Herstory
As 2016 wraps up and we find ourselves on the threshold of 2017, it is yet again time to look back on the year that was, what we learnt, and what we can (hopefully) carry forward into the year that awaits. As we look forward to 2017, we spoke with some women in business to discover how 2016 went and to understand the changes and developments they hope can become realities in the year to come.

2016 was a great year of fabulous challenges and achievements. Three lessons I learned are:
  1. We have to fight our own battles. Our near and dear ones might walk along and help us cope with our battles, but we still have to walk the talk.
  2. We have to choose which battles to fight, wisely. One comes across several battles in a lifetime — some with ourselves and some with others. One needs to choose wisely which ones to fight and which ones to ignore in order to maintain sanity.
  3. There is enough goodness for everyone in this world (a recurring lesson I learned again this year).
Changes we need to see in 2017
In general, it is best to create ecosystems where men and women come together and solve women’s challenges inclusively rather than setting up purely women-centric groups (some of which end up as gossip groups, with due respect to such groups). Having said that, we need to create secure environments where women can speak about their challenges in open forums without fear of being judged or stereotyped.
There have to be better funding platforms for women entrepreneurs. Government policies for supporting women-led enterprises have to improve. Talent and skill, rather than gender, should be the parameters that matter.

What are your lessons?

28 October, 2016

Microinteractions: Designing the Little Details

Last week, I was in Auckland and Wellington, speaking on User Experience (UX) and teaching UX Design courses at two WeTest Conferences in Auckland and Wellington. I also had a rare opportunity to teach/speak at large corporates like Bank of New Zealand and Assurity Consulting. I am blown away by the lovely interactions I had and the new bridge I created with many in New Zealand. 

Token of Thanks
I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Katrina Clokie for inviting me to WeTest Conference. I never ever imagined that a chance meeting with Katrina at CAST 2013, which was my first self-funded trip to a US conference would bring us together again. I would also like to thank the Conference Organizers Katrina Clokie, Aaron Hodder, Shirley Tricker and Daniel Domnavand for conducting a world-class conference, for taking care of the little details for international speakers and introducing me to a super awesome community in New Zealand which is so passionate, warm, curious, learning-focussed and yet humble. This conference and my interactions will truly remain close to my heart for getting the ‘Conference based Microinteractions’ right! 

Teaching UX
It was a fabulous experience to teach UX Courses at the other end of the planet. At the end of these talks/workshops, many people walked up to me and shared many *pain points* in their daily line of work. For example, one of the workshop organisers, Merridy said, “Pari, I am going to put up a board indicating ‘Toilets’ on the door and avoid frustrating our visitors.” One of the conference organisers Shirley mentioned, “The motion detector lamb in our service apartment doesn’t light up instantly and expects a tribal dance which needs to be fixed.” I was thrilled to see people pick up this concept so quickly and apply it at work. 

Have you ever wondered why you need ‘Ctrl+Alt+Delete’ to lock/unlock windows? Did you ever wonder why we couldn’t have a single key to do the same task? In my early days of school, I was told to believe that 3 keys were given as a security measure (God knows how this could prevent hackers though!). However, Bill Gates confessed that having three keys was a mistake. “It was a mistake,” Gates admits to an audience left laughing at his honesty. “We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t wanna give us our single button.” David Bradley, an engineer who worked on the original IBM PC, invented the combination which was originally designed to reboot a PC. This brings us to microinteractions. 

Microinteractions is a concept introduced by Dan Saffer in his acclaimed book, ‘Microinteractions’. By definition,
A microinteraction is a contained product moment that does one task well.

Every time you change a setting, update a device or post a tweet, you are engaging with a microinteraction. They are everywhere and they just need some *noticing*. Microinteractions are so simple that we don’t notice them until something goes wrong. Yet, they are incredibly important in creating delightful experiences for users. 

Structure of a Microinteraction
A beautifully crafted microinteraction contains four main parts: Trigger, Rules, Feedback and Loops & Modes. 

A trigger initiates a microinteraction. For example, turning ON a lamp needs someone to press the switch. 

The rules determine what can happen, what cannot happen and the sequence of events that might happen. 

For example, what should happen when a user presses the switch in a particular direction (Up/Down), is determined by rules defined for this lamp. 

Feedback lets people know what’s happening. In his book, ‘The Design of Everyday Things’, Don Norman writes,
“Sending back to the user, information about what action has actually been done, what result has been accomplished is a well-known concept in the science of control and information theory. Imagine trying to talk to someone when you cannot even hear your own voice, or trying to draw a picture with a pencil that leaves no mark: there would be no feedback.”

Feedback gives each action an immediate and obvious effect to avoid pain to the user. 

Loops and Modes
Loop is a cycle and mode is a state. Consider ‘Memories’ feature on Facebook. Facebook app constantly loops into your account to check if you have posted something on this day, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years….. X years ago. If the condition turns out to be true, a message pops up to remind you of your memory and your willingness to share your memory. 

If you share the memory, the state of your timeline changes, by showing you a memory in addition to other posts on your timeline. To summarize, loops & modes form the meta-rules of a microinteraction. 

While there are different components that form a good microinteraction, one should remember that each one must be applied based on the context. Putting a hard rule saying, ‘Every microinteraction has to follow the set guidelines may turn out to be painpoints rather than delightful experiences.’ TEST Yvonne Tse, who works at Assurity Consulting in New Zealand attended my talk on ‘Microinteractions’ at WeTest Conference, Wellington. She created a lovely sketch note that is very close to what I covered in my talk. Take a look. 

Show That You Care!
Users today, have scores of options to choose from. All they want in return for their loyalty is that you care. In the words of Dan Saffer,

What microinteractions have made you happy today?