Justin Duke

So good it makes you angry

Sometimes there are things that are so good it actively makes me angry, because it presents a version of the form that seems unimpeachable.

Money Things is like that — it is such a good newsletter, so dense and interesting and funny that it makes me mad, because having to read, like, Hot Pod or Pro Rata or other industry newsletters after it is just an exercise in dwindling returns.

Lincoln in the Bardo was like that — it was such an interesting and beautiful and novel piece of work that it retroactively invalidated so much of what I had consumed beforehand. It was my first audiobook, too, and it basically ruined audiobooks for me, because how do you top that?

And now, this. This product page for Transmit 5.

Let’s run through all the things it does well:

  • There’s a really dope spinning truck on the top. You can move it with your cursor. It captures the eyes, it is pretty, it is neat. It is a great truck.
  • The copy is clear, concise, and large.
  • There are screenshots of the product front and center, because obviously there should be.
  • It’s got those nice little infographics about why you should upgrade (answering probably the third most important question this page has to answer, which is Why should I upgrade?)
  • The page flows nicely, with the little arrows between each content block that lends a little flow.
  • All of those features! And the nice snippet screenshots for the keynote features (but the nice little icons for all the features.)

And the subtler things, too:

  • It is dynamic, but not busy. There is only ever one thing to look at at once.
  • Super responsive, and not in a “uh, I guess everything is gonna be in a smaller font now” kind of responsive way.
  • The way it repositions the entire product from most folks’ perception of it:

Now, long ago we’d call Transmit an “FTP client”, but today, with Transmit 5, we connect to lots of different server types and cloud services. For example, Amazon S3 dramatically changed the way files are served on the internet, and Transmit is a great way to manage your Amazon S3 buckets.

  • Seriously, that truck is so cool!

Like, ugh.

This is like a heat check of a product page. I have bookmarked it and will revisit it every week or so when I need reminding that these types of things can be so much better than they usually are.


Response Times

Jakob Nielsen wrote in 1993 about the three important demarcations in response time. This is a terrific article that I come back to every year or so and see how my interpretation of it has evolved, like reading an old book to see how your perspective of the narrative changes over time.

0.1 second is about the limit for having the user feel that the system is reacting instantaneously, meaning that no special feedback is necessary except to display the result.

1.0 second is about the limit for the user’s flow of thought to stay uninterrupted, even though the user will notice the delay. Normally, no special feedback is necessary during delays of more than 0.1 but less than 1.0 second, but the user does lose the feeling of operating directly on the data.

10 seconds is about the limit for keeping the user’s attention focused on the dialogue. For longer delays, users will want to perform other tasks while waiting for the computer to finish, so they should be given feedback indicating when the computer expects to be done. Feedback during the delay is especially important if the response time is likely to be highly variable, since users will then not know what to expect.

Those three benchmarks were set in 1968; Nielsen was commenting on how remarkable it was that 25 years later they still held mostly true.

Now it’s a bit more than 25 years after 1993, and even now these seem pretty accurate, right?

You can argue that web applications (and, even more so, native apps) demand a certain level of vivacity that you can’t achieve with a full second or even a tenth of a second, but I think Jakob precisely nails the important way to look at “sluggishness” in his 2014 update to the piece:

0.1 second: Limit for users feeling that they are directly manipulating objects in the UI. For example, this is the limit from the time the user selects a column in a table until that column should highlight or otherwise give feedback that it’s selected. Ideally, this would also be the response time for sorting the column — if so, users would feel that they are sorting the table. (As opposed to feeling that they are ordering the computer to do the sorting for them.)

Sorting the table, as opposed to ordering the computer to sort the table.

It’s not about the speed: it’s about the directness — about the frictionlessness — about the sensation that there are no layers or conduits between you and your task.


Shooting the Messenger

When Facebook launched Messenger for iOS in 2011, I was a little skeptical – this was before the brief and mighty wave of unbundling – but grew to be cautiously optimistic, because Messenger was a good and simple app that removed most of the cruft from Facebook and focused on what I cared (and care) about most: talking with people.

Here’s Messenger in 2011:

Here’s Messenger in 2017:

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Voice interaction and muscle memory

Little by little, I’ve been letting voice interaction (Echo and Siri) into my life. What started as a trinket and novelty (“*Hey Siri, where do I hide a body?*”, “*Alexa, tell me a joke.*”) has evolved into a habitual interaction: I ask Alexa to turn on the lights (via Hue) and tell me the news (via NPR) whenever I get home from work; I ask Siri to give me the box scores.
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UX Slang

slang (n.) — a type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people. The Human Interface Guidelines are the Elements of Style — largely prescriptive, focusing on the rules of usage and form and composition that feel less like style and more like structure.
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You don't need push notifications

Facebook came out with an app that’s basically “push notifications as a service”. A meager wrapper around an RSS feed. Its tagline is: Notifications that matter from sources you love. Here’s the thing — these notifications don’t matter. You don’t need your phone buzzing every time Entertainment Weekly has a new TV recap. You don’t need your phone buzzing every time an NBA game finishes. Vogue’s weekly digest of the ten best dressed celebrities should not take your attention from anything.
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In defense of keys

I’ve been going through The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman over the past couple days, which has been an absolute revelation and transformed the way I’ve been looking at technology. 1 Some great highlights, though if you define your career in any proximity to technology you owe it to yourself to read the entire book. On who we blame when we can’t get things to work: It is the duty of machines and those who design them to understand people.
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Dieter Rams’ 15 questions

Disciples of the Rams I am not a designer. There was a time where I applied that noun to myself – back when web designer was the seeming parlance, rather than web developer or front-end engineer. But even then, my ability to design stopped and ended at only knowing what not to do: not to use gradients, not to use <marquee> tags, and generally not to assault any senses of the user.
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Coach marks and onboarding

img { width: 50%; } According to my iTunes history, I’ve downloaded 312 apps. 44 of those have been purchases, with an average purchase price of just under two dollars. 27 of them 1 are cocktail/recipe apps to help with my initial (and post-initial) design of Barback. That’s a fair enough amount to start developing some pattern recognition and identifying some app smells. To understand what an app smell is 2, you should know what a code smell is:
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