Conversations with Architects & Alternative Uses for Drafting Pencils

I hate meeting architects. I have hated meeting architects for years. It’s a shame, because I used to love speaking to them.

As soon as an architect hears that I work in technology, I have to hear how much they hate that my industry has stolen their name: “Software Architect, Systems Architect, Information Architect… I can’t look for jobs anymore because they are all tech jobs. To be a *real* architect you need a license… you need this… you need that.”

As a user experience designer for web connected stuff, I find the scale and process that architects of physical buildings undergo incredibly interesting. If given the opportunity I could talk to them for hours about the similarities and differences of our work, because they really are interrelated. And in the not-so-distant future, they will overlap more.

Engineers & Designers Don’t Do This

I have never had this type of conversation with engineers or designers who operate in the physical world; those names have been just as coopted by the digital world, possibly to an even greater extent.

I’m not sure what the reason is, but I’m tired of it.

Architects: Next time you’re sitting next to a techie, how about swallowing your pride and having an actual conversation?

The Geek Whisperer’s 2015 Tech Predictions

I’ve been at this for a long time, this is the first time I’m taking a stab at industry predictions. Let’s see how I do in 12 months.

Security Breaches Everywhere

Information security is going to continue to grow as both a problem, and a political issue.

There will be more point-of-sale breaches at major retailers and large-scale corporate leaks like Sony (they will largely be inside jobs).

This will continue because companies won’t:

  • update their systems
  • implement proper password standards and management
  • hire and empower skilled information security specialists

Security Politicization

All of the breaches are going to grow into larger political issues as legislators try to regulate security.

The proposed laws will be terrible.

Most of our leaders will try their hardest to avoid discussing the fact that the Department of Justice has been actively working to hobble corporate and individual information security for years.

Apple Watch

At launch, there will be a mix of sneering and praise for the Apple Watch, but it will be a runaway success. Their stock price will drop initially.

Why will it be a success?

  • Because Apple
  • Minimally functional wrist-based wearables have already caught-on
  • We use our phones too much, and don’t want to take them out all of the time
  • It’s even more difficult to get your phone in and out of tight pants (watch people when you’re out; this is actually something people struggle with)

User Interfaces Go Vertical

The Apple Watch is going to bring new web and app design trends with it.

I’m in the middle of designing my first Apple Watch app, and I have discovered that because of the “crown,” everything shifts to a vertical interface. I suspect that many iPhone apps will shift to a more vertical experience to create similarities between their iPhone and Apple Watch apps. This will find its way into web design as well.

Apple Watch Theft

(This is the last Apple-related prediction)

Apple Watch theft is going to be a really big thing; especially in the warm months when crime rises and people aren’t covering their wrists with sleeves.

Even if Apple comes up with a very clever theft deterrence system, stolen Apple Watch bands will fetch good money.

"That Milanese Loop will look so great on me... Give it to me or I'll cut you!"
“That Milanese Loop will look so great on me… Give it to me or I’ll cut you!”

Net Neutrality = Giant Mess

The FCC will try to split the proverbial baby on net neutrality, and it’s going to be a mess.

I predict lawsuits from both sides of the issue. No one will be happy, and the ISPs will continue to suck… But lawyers and lobbyists will make money, and that’s all that really matters isn’t it?

Innovations Mobile Gaming

Mobile video games are going to get better, and more interesting.

The comparatively low cost of iOS and Android development vs console gaming, as well as the ubiquity of iOS and Android devices will spur a renascence in mobile video games. We’re going to see more of the quirky, interesting, and unusual indie games that have been priced out of the console market, or lost in the ether.

HTTPS Everywhere(ish)

2015 will be year that one of the browsers will label unencrypted websites as insecure. Many website owners will finally make the leap to HTTPS for everything.

It won’t be perfect, but it will be far better than the current situation.

Backend / Frontend Decoupling

There aren’t many content management systems that are great on both the back and front end.

While not a new concept, more websites will be built with a decoupled front and backend. Look for lots of Drupal backend, and AngularJS frontend sites. The web will be better for it.

API All the Things!

APIs are going to continue to become a necessary business tool for both internal and external purposes.

The non-profit and government worlds will need them to open up and share data.

Companies will want them to power their growing array of external websites and applications.

Really smart organizations will find that internal APIs for cross-department data sharing are more important than an intranet.

[Image via Apple]

Carts Before Horses & Digital Strategists’ Love of Platforms

Filmmaker James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame posted on Facebook:

CARTS BEFORE HORSES & HOLLYWOOD’S NEW LOVE OF SHARED UNIVERSES

Listen, I love big ass shared universes in movies, as well as huge franchises. But I’m a little worried about the numerous shared universes being planned by the studios, without having a strong base film to grow from – or in some cases, NO base film to grow from. Star Wars had the original Star Wars, the Marvel Universe had the original Iron Man, the Dark Knight series had Batman Begins, even movies like Transformers and Twilight – these were movies audiences loved, and the audiences demanded more from these characters. But these days studios are trying to grow trees without a strong seed. Execs and producers and sometimes even directors are focused on the big picture, without perfecting the task directly in front of them – making a great movie. And studios are trying to grow franchises from non-existent films or middling successes. It’s like they aren’t taking audiences into account at all anymore.

I know George Lucas, Kevin Feige, John Favreau, etc, had ideas where their films would potentially lead in the face of success. But I don’t think it ever got in the way of making that first movie count as if it was the last, of making it something wonderful that people would love whether it led to other films or not.

In short, I think this new business model is flawed. I think filmmakers and studios should be prepared for the big picture, but never, ever let it get in the way of making a single great film. Be a little more experimental and see what works as opposed to trying to force success. And mostly, remember that we as an industry exist to serve the audiences, to communicate with them – they have a voice in what we create as well. We are not here to dictate what they want to see, mostly because that’s simply not possible.

He’s right about Hollywood, and the thought underlying all of this is true of the tech industry’s obsession with planning for platforms before a successful product even exists.

All too often I encounter “big picture” thinking that is divorced from reality. I’m paid to think longterm for my clients, but never at the expense of the present. A vision is great. You need one, but acting like that vision will become a reality before you even have a successful and profitable product is a serious miscalculation.

Want to see something cool pathetic?

Bold = my tech word substitutions, everything else is Mr. Gunn’s.

Listen, I love big ass systems on the web, as well as huge platforms. But I’m a little worried about the numerous shared platforms being planned by companies large and small, without having a strong base product to grow from – or in some cases, NO base product to grow from. Google had the original Google Search, Apple had the original Mac, Amazon’s series of ventures had their original store, even products like Facebook and Twitter – these were products users loved, and the users demanded more from these companies. But these days companies are trying to grow trees without a strong seed. Execs and developers and sometimes even designers are focused on the big picture, without perfecting the task directly in front of them – making a great product. And companies are trying to grow platforms from non-existent products or middling successes. It’s like they aren’t taking users into account at all anymore.

I know Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, etc, had ideas where their products would potentially lead in the face of success. But I don’t think it ever got in the way of making that first product count as if it was the last, of making it something wonderful that people would love whether it led to other products or not.

In short, I think this new business model is flawed. I think designers and companies should be prepared for the big picture, but never, ever let it get in the way of making a single great product. Be a little more experimental and see what works as opposed to trying to force success. And mostly, remember that we as an industry exist to serve the users, to communicate with them – they have a voice in what we create as well. We are not here to dictate what they want to use, mostly because that’s simply not possible.

If you’re designing a platform, stop and think about the product. Think about your user. Design something with some empathy, logic, and creativity. Prove that you have a product that works.

If you manage to do that, you’re ahead of most. Then, and only then should you have the audacity to start talking about a platform.

Grow trees with a strong seeds
Grow trees with a strong seeds