Learning From Live Systems @ Interaction ’16

What does it look like to do interaction design today? How do designers engage with systems, not simply screens, pixels, and other artifacts?

This recent talk, a keynote at Interaction ’16 in Helsinki, is my reflection on that question. I start the talk by comparing interaction design to urban planning—because of course that’s what we interaction designers do when we talk about our work. My argument though is that, just as street furniture doesn’t make for a successful urban plaza, interfaces are not enough to create a successful product or service. You need to cultivate and curate those services.

Most of the talk are case studies that show what that cultivation and curation looks like. This is very much a Lean UX + Service Design kind of approach.

Joshua Seiden – Learning From Live Systems: A Design Approach for Behavior from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.

Sketching Business Models

At the start of a project, we like to make sketches to help us understand the business we are trying to create. Who is the user? What is the product or service? And what is the business model? This helps us quickly identify the big risks on a project and then start targeting those risks in our work.

Spreadsheets + The Business Model Canvas

Until recently, the business model sketches have not been very satisfying. Read more →

Does Agile Have to Hurt?

Agile was born of good intentions. The framers of the Agile Manifesto were seeking better ways to make software–and they declared their highest priority was to create value for their customers. And yet, it’s brought … Read more →

Lead With Vision. Test Ruthlessly in the Market.

One day a couple of years ago, my colleague Jono Mallanyk was working on decorating the walls of Neo’s first studio space in NYC. He was hanging a set of posters he had designed and … Read more →

Idea-Finding for Innovation

You’re a product manager, a designer, and entrepreneur. Your job is to make something new–innovation–a change that creates new value. So where do you start? When you are working on a legacy product, it is … Read more →

Inner Loop / Outer Loop

In “The Second Machine Age“, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee relate a fascinating finding, based on the research of economist Paul David. In the last century, when American factories were undergoing electrification, the first factories … Read more →

Sense and Respond

I’m a big advocate of talking to your customers. I ran my first user-research sessions more than 20 years ago, and I build first-person research into every project I do. Here’s a great example of … Read more →

You’re Not Building an App. You’re Going Into the Software Business

Last year, I was discussing a software development project with a senior manager at a major corporation here in NY. He had a $2M budget for software development to be spent over about 12 months. I asked him what kind of software team he was planning to build. “None,” he said. “I’m not starting a software business. I’m just building an app.”

How_Much_Would_it_Cost_QuoraThis is a really common attitude—on display in questions like this one on Quora: “How much does it cost to build a web-site like Etsy?” And you can laugh at the naiveté of the question, but the fundamental idea is really common: people still think that web-based products and apps are just big versions of shrink-wrapped software—like their own personal version of Microsoft Word.

It’s easy to fall into this way of thinking: we understand how to buy products like Microsoft Word. It’s not that different from buying a box of Cheerios. It sits on the shelf in the store. It has a fixed price. You pick it up, take it to the cashier, take it home, and you use it immediately and easily.

But building a web-based product or app for your business isn’t really like that. It’s like bringing home a puppy. Sure you only bring it home once, but you’ve signed up for a dog’s-life of obligation.

What obligations? My business partner Giff Constable just posted this on his blog:

“ The product lies at the center of a suite of capabilities that together form a total experience for customers (and often partners too). For customers, these capabilities include how you market to and acquire them, how you support and continually engage them, and how you charge them.”


Exactly. And it’s in the “suite of capabilities” that the obligation lies. This suite of capabilities… From software developers and operations people to all of the business operations that go into fulfilling the capabilities that the software enables—this suite of capabilities? Well… you’re not building an app. You’re in the software business.

Not a Metaphor: Getting Out of The Deliverables Business

I’ve been thinking about contracts recently. That’s not surprising, given the amount of time I’ve been spending in contract negotiations with a very large new client. I’m excited to get started working with them, and … Read more →

User Experience in a Rapidly Changing World

User Experience in a Rapidly Changing World is a talk I gave a few years ago about how designers work in software today. (I just discovered the video this week.) Today’s world is agile and continuous. Teams design, build, and release new software to the market in an ongoing way, faster than most of us can imagine. What does this mean for the way we do our jobs?

In this talk, I argue for 6 key tactics:

  1. Continous Learning
  2. Assumptions and Hypotheses
  3. Small, Cross-functional Teams
  4. Enable Making
  5. Manage Outcomes
  6. A New Organization

I didn’t think there was video from this conference, but I was happy to discover a video of my talk at Interaction South America in Recife Brazil in 2013. This was one of the best design conferences I’ve been to. Alas, not the best video, but good enough for documentary purposes.