Last week we spent some time in Dublin Print Studio. Such a nice place to hang out. I managed to print a load of envelopes for my wife's company. Not sure they were expecting quite such a frenzy of activity!

Dining table

I got the opportunity to photograph a table I built many years ago. Still one of my favourite pieces. If I remember correctly I was exploring Japanese joints at the time—I particularly like the exposed joints in the table legs. Apologies for the crappy photos.

Invisible portfolios


In college we were taught that a plinth should be one of two things. Either it's invisible or it's part of the sculpture. Making a plinth invisible is easy; it has to be flawlessly made and painted white. Any deviation from this will distract the viewer.


It's a long time since I made a plinth but, to me, portfolio sites should follow the same principles. They should either be invisible or part of your work. When you're deciding which route to take ask your self one question: Am I a web designer?


Option 1 – Yes I am

If you are, then really it's a no-brainer—you should want to make your own. If you're applying for a web design position,  communicating your love of web design is your highest priority. Your portfolio should be an opportunity to demonstrate this love without constraint. Take the time to build something that shows your abilities whether they're coding, design or animation. Don't go too mad though. If it's hard to navigate you'll quickly piss prospective employers off. Once you're proud of it, place a small sig at the bottom to let people know. There's no point going to that effort without getting the credit.


Option 2 – No I'm not

If your abilities lie elsewhere (such as research, testing, prototyping), then you should consider the invisible route. Choose a simple, minimal theme that allows the work to be seen without interference. The goal is to have a site that takes a back seat to the work your presenting. Consider using templates from Squarespace or Behance. There's no shame in admitting you don't have capacity or the requisite skills to produce a whole site from scratch.


Most importantly: BE HONEST. If you're using templates then don't hide it. Leave the logo or watermark on the site. Nothing rings more alarm bells than a website that looks ten times better than the work it's showcasing. Trust me, we always look!

Useless App idea #1 – Spooky torch

UPDATE: Since posting, this app has begun development! Guess I'll have to change the title at some stage.

NOTE: Every now and then I set myself the task of inventing a useless app—something that defeats the purpose of it's own intention. It's always fun to do and occasionally leads to something interesting. 

A torch app for your phones that gets gradually scarier the longer you use it. Combine flickering, vibration and scary noises to make a terrifying experience. 

The usage could be timed to see who can bare it the longest. Start the app with some slight flickering, then build on it with sounds and longer outages. People should be encouraged to play it in the dark. 

Suggested sounds:

  • Whispering
  • Ghostly wails
  • Babies crying
  • Siren from Silent Hill
  • Radio feedback
  • People talking
  • Shouts "Look out!" etc…

UX Lisbon - highlights

Last week a number of us attended UX Lisbon 2015. Beautiful weather and great company made for a very enjoyable week. Here are some of my highlights.

Day One

Humans, consumers, customers and users

Workshop focused on creating User Journeys from a wider scope than normal. Take a service design issue, starting from a User Lifestage then zoom in on Life Situation then Customer Service and finally on User task.

The intention is to give the designer a more holistic understanding of the user’s experience.


Designing Content for the modern web

A very interesting topic that wasn’t delivered with great skill. Also another topic that wasn’t particularly relevant to work at GF. The focus was on not designing web pages but designing individual elements that would be composed into pages by the backend. The presentation focused on recent work done by BBC to streamline their website and remove huge amounts of repetition.

Day Two



A large range of topics covered. Interesting topics included the Internet of Things, Words as Materials and Atomic Design. The highlight for me was the UsTwo presentation on their new way-finding app for blind people traveling the London Underground. They discussed how they assign 6-8 weeks to innovative projects during which they build and test ideas to see if they’re viable.

Day Three


Hypothesis Writing for Lean UX

Very interesting workshop that set out a process for establishing the importance of features when thinking about new products/features.

The workshop focused on exposing assumptions during the ideation process then identifying the biggest risks and then creating experiments to try and overcome those risks.

The facilitator also had good advice on how and when to run experiments and he appeared to have a lot of experience in this area.


User Story Mapping

Another very interesting workshop focused on using the user experience as the starting point for creating User Stories. Starting by mapping out the complete User journey and then breaking out the MVP and then prioritising the remainder of the value offerings.

The goal is to retain the whole user journey as the barometer for all the decisions.


Outcome: I felt this is process would be very useful not just the for UX teams but also for BAs and Scrum Masters. I’ve already discussed with some colleagues the possibility of running the workshop for them in the coming weeks.

Dolphin tails

This year I started to explore the idea of small three dimensional graffiti. I like the idea of something that can be iconic on its own but that can become something else in a collection. Initially I looked at a tree that becomes a forest, but settled on a dolphin that can become a school. Best part was reliving my youth casting them up.

Chrome Plugin

Twice a year at Globoforce we have a GloboInnovation day. Everyone in the company is invited to contribute an idea. These are then shortlisted to ten and each innovator is tasked with forming a four-person team to realise their idea during one day. Two days later they have to present their ideas to the whole company. A team of judges then decide on the three winning teams.

For the first Innovation Day I came up with the idea of building a plugin for Google Chrome that would allow people to see their company's recognition activity without having to log in to our site. After discussing the idea with a few colleagues, it seemed that we'd be able to engineer some existing code which would enable us to build a working prototype within one day.

We spent a lot of time on subtle animations that were lost in the final Webex presentation.


I chose a range of skills for the team. Myself on UX, a developer, architect and front-end developer. The architect planned out what we all needed to do and on the day we all got straight into our tasks.

My goal for the day was to have something working with static content just to prove out the concept. The guys had this working by 10:00! By 11:00 they had it working with real data. Amazing. I couldn't believe how much we had achieved so quickly. The rest of the day was spent finalising the UI and working on the security.

By the end we had a fully working prototype that not only proved out the concept but was also fully usable. The day was really enjoyable. It was hectic but being able to see things taking shape before your eyes; being able to make quick decisions and see those decisions bear fruit within minutes was incredibly gratifying.

The two lessons I learned from the day were: 1. When selecting your team, make sure each person is available on the day. Unfortunately, a number of my team weren't, which meant our productivity wasn't all it could have been. 2. Prepare a presentation that's appropriate to the audience. We spent a lot of time on subtle animations that were lost in the final Webex presentation. We'd have been better off putting more energy into the security.

Unfortunately we didn't win. The judges loved the idea, but were concerned with some of the security issues it presented. To be honest we didn't really mind. Everyone involved on the team had a great time and it remains one of the highlights of my time at GF.

Where them buttons at?

Last night, my wife made an interesting observation about iOS7: "It's very pretty." She said. "But If I'd never used an iPhone before I wouldn't have a clue what to do. All the buttons have gone."

It's true. In the rush to be more sophisticated than everyone else, have Apple lost site of making life easy for new users? But, with over 1 billion people worldwide already familiar with smart phones, should they even care?