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Show Notes

Without the user there is no product: When Twitter rolled out its new design, many users were upset with the new changes, but what comes first, the product or the user? On this week’s episode Paul and Rich sit down to chat about Twitter’s redesign. We share our reactions to the changes and delve into questions of user consultation. Also featured in this week’s episode is the second installment of our new segment Hello Postlight. In it we hear from Aimée Reed, Postlight’s Director of Product Design, who talks about where she finds inspiration for her work (Hint: get out of the house!).

 

Transcript

Rich Ziade Sometimes I have this urge to put my hand in the toilet [laughter].

Paul Ford And then—

RZ So, yeah, I’ve used Twitter. 

PF And then in the blender. That’s Twitter! [Music fades in, plays alone for 16 seconds, ramps down]. Alright, Rich, Rich, Rich! 

RZ What’s up, Paul? 

PF Somethin’ important has happened . . . We have created a call in line for people who’d like to leave a message with their technical product or other kinds of challenges. 

RZ So, wait! [Music fades out] Like a helpline. 

PF I’m gonna give you the number once and then we’re gonna give it to you again. Ready? 

RZ Do it. 

PF 904 414 2934 . . . You’re gonna call and you’re gonna tell us what’s goin’ on. 

RZ And if you’ve got a question! 

PF We’re gonna help you. 

RZ We’re here to help you. And—

PF Let me give you that number again. Ready? 

RZ Go. 

PF 904 414 2934. Call now. 

RZ So, there was a day, Paul [a day] where you called 900 numbers. 

PF Oof. That was a long—I was a little kid. 

RZ Yup. And they charged you money. It got billed [yeah] right on your phone bill [yeah] but there were all kinds of services. 

PF It was bad. That was a bad scene. 

RZ But! Paul, there are some gems that came out of it, and if you go on YouTube and if you search “the crying number” it’s a phenomenal 30 seconds, it’s just people crying into their phones, and they’re like, “Why are these people crying?” And it’s a 900 number that was like three dollars a minute. 

[1:30]

PF And that was back in the day but if you wanna call for free and ask questions. 

RZ This is not a 900 number. 

PF You can call Postlight. You can call me and Rich. 

RZ At what number, Paul? 

PF Mm. Rich, lemme give you that number. 904 414 2934.

RZ Seriously, send us questions and we’ll answer them. 

PF Rich, something really big happened over the last month, and I would say that people didn’t talk about it as much as I thought they would. 

RZ Ok? What happened? 

PF You’ve used Twitter, right? 

RZ Oh yeah! Yeah. 

PF Twitter redesigned. 

RZ That’s a very generic term. 

PF Well, that’s the thing, they—So, look, it’s still Twitter, you put the words in the box and you hit the button and the words go to the people [mm hmm], like there’s that, and there’s friends. Like they didn’t change that you can favorite tweets and things like that. 

RZ Cuz the core capabilities of Twitter haven’t changed. Like when they extended the character limit, that was a big deal. 

PF That was a big deal! They went from 140 to 280. And so this had been rolling out, there was a little guy that would pop up on your page for awhile and he was like, “Guess what? Big things are coming!” So they wanted to tell you—

RZ Ok, so they had a little wizard guy. 

[2:41]

PF Just a guy—it was like a stock art kinda guy, like just a happy, “Ah man, big things are happening.” 

RZ Yep. 

PF “You’re gonna get to use Twitter some more.” 

RZ I didn’t see that part of it. 

PF Yeah, yeah. 

RZ I missed that. 

PF I had it for a long time. I was late to get the roll out. 

RZ Ah, I see. 

PF And we should be specific, what Twitter did was redesign the web frontend for Twitter. 

RZ So the web experience around Twitter. So this is a key point, right? Probably the great, great majority of Twitter’s traffic is not on the web. 

PF No, but it’s gotta be significant, right? But yes, it’s iOS, it’s Android, it’s the native apps for phones. 

RZ It’s for phones. People are using Twitter on their phones. 

PF That’s right. 

RZ Ok. 

PF So, but nonetheless, it’s the Twitter web application, that’s a big deal. 

RZ Huge numbers. 

PF Also, to be clear, you might access that on other devices too. Like, I mean, it’s not just purely for the web. There’s an Android version of the web app that runs really well. 

RZ I’m sure there is. I’m sure there is. 

PF It’s good—

RZ So, so what, Paul? 

[3:35]

PF Well, this—

RZ What’s the big deal here? I saw a little bit of this and it’s kinda meta to hear Twitter complaining about Twitter on Twitter. 

PF They didn’t redesign it to the point where everybody like, was like, “Good design.” Everybody immediately complained about it on Twitter. 

RZ Lemme ask you that question. And this is a general question you can ask about design: is anyone ever gonna universally say that? 

PF No, I mean, I think—I have a thing that I wrote years ago that people trot out a lot at the times of big redesigns in which I said that the fundamental question of the web is why wasn’t I consulted? Like people feel very connected. 

RZ A seminal essay, I will say. 

PF Thank you. But I mean like people feel very connected to these things that they use everyday and they have very, very strong reactions, and you know what? We’re not—

RZ Explain your piece for a second. 

PF Yeah, thank you. 

RZ I think it’s important that people understand it because I think what’s funny about that piece is I think it actually transcends the web, and I think the way web and social media works today, it’s elevated beyond that. So, “Why wasn’t I consulted?” isn’t about changing some colors on a webpage, I think it’s much bigger than that. So, what happened to . . . We used to be real passive. When The Price is Right was on [that’s right], it was like, “And The Price is Right ends.” 

PF Look, I remember when I was a kid, there was a company, a computer company, that came out of—was merged from other computer companies and they renamed themselves Unisys. 

RZ Ok. That sounds like a bad idea. 

PF It was bad. And I just remember my dad seeing the eight millionth commercial that was like, “Data monster and consolidated undulating prong have now merged to become Unisys.” [Ok] And my dad just turned to me and went, “That is a dumb frickin’ name.” Like it just pissed him off. Right? But then he—that was it. He went back to the paper [both laugh]. 

[5:19]

RZ Right, right! That was it. 

PF What are you gonna do? 

RZ You can’t—yeah, he’s not gonna go on a mission. 

PF Look, I mean—

RZ Which we all do. “That’s a shitty song,” “That’s a dumb movie.” 

PF Here’s what’s different . . . is that social media and this is Twitter, right? Has given you—and you could argue whether it’s real or an illusion but a sense of true power and authority that you didn’t have before. Unisys shows up in my dad’s life and he was like, “Ah! Bullshit!” And then he goes back cuz what’s he gonna do? He’s gonna call the branding company and be like, “Hey, I tracked you down. Don’t like that name.” 

RZ “Not gonna fly!” 

PF What is the point of putting that effort into a brand that’s already been built and out there? 

RZ Probably planned out for months and months and years. 

PF In the eighties. Like who the hell gives—who cares? 

RZ So what changed? Why? Why—

PF Well, this is my—the title of the “why wasn’t I consulted?” piece is actually that the web—People are like, “Well, what is the web all about?” And they’ve been asking this since the web showed up. My argument is that it’s kinda foundationally a customer service medium. It’s about giving people the things they want in order to do things, right? It’s a little meta. I would hope you go read the piece before you immediately react to how I just described it, but the point is that people like to talk and they like to have opinions and they like to sort of exercise their authority and the web is incredibly good and useful . . . when you’re providing a service to people to help them figure things out for themselves. 

[6:42]

RZ But—I think you made this point in the piece and I may be wrong, so correct me. 

PF I don’t know if I remember it either now. 

RZ I think they view the platform as theirs

PF Oh God yeah! 

RZ “This is mine. Why did you touch what was mine?” 

PF Well, look, and everybody views every platform that way, it’s just that most platforms didn’t come with a builtin feedback loop. So, TV, people would have to do letter writing campaigns. And then you’d have to get the paper to say, “We’re doing a letter writing campaign.” Like it wasn’t [yeah] organic. 

RZ How did you effect change, right? It takes leg work. You know what’s interesting to me is that today I feel that there is the rise of the protest today. 


PF Yes, that’s right. 

RZ Let’s gather; assemble; go; and protest. There’s more of it. It’s very animated. It’s very active. And what’s funny is that you would think that the protest would die because we have all these amazing tools to sort of come together and create groups and threads and this and that and likes. But people still feel the need that they have to go to the city hall. Go to the building. 

PF You’re right. Well, I mean, let’s be clear: they kinda do. Everybody’s developing an immune system around social media [mm hmm] and they’re like, “Oh well, you know, we here at United take your concerns very seriously. And we’d like to talk to you. Can I DM you?” You know, and they send that out. City hall is still the way. The only problem with city hall if you are used to being able to publish and have people pay attention to you is that it’s a multi year process to get people to listen to you and pay attention. 

RZ So your argument is essentially that Twitter getting redesigned—and they knew this was gonna happen. It’s their platform; it’s not Twitter’s, even though Twitter is a commercial business that has employees, that sells ads, right? I mean that’s what Twitter is but—

PF It belongs to the users. 

RZ It belongs to the people and why did you touch the thing? 

[8:25]

PF Here’s what’s tricky is like without the users, there is no product, right? But any one user is only one out of half a billion or maybe [correct] I can’t remember how many Twitter users there are, it’s probably something like 3,000 by this point cuz there’s always less everytime you look. 

RZ But unlike your dad, I can go on there and thousands of people will hear me. And I’m a nobody. [Yeah] I mean I’m not a nobody, I have thousands of followers; you have tens of thousands of followers. If you said you didn’t like something about Twitter, that’s gonna have real—it’s not gonna have probably any real impact. 

PF Well, see, I’m in a state in my life where I’m not gonna say that on Twitter. Because people who are like connected to that design process are gonna get their feelings hurt and have opinions about what I say. And then I’m in the position of having a full-time job defending my opinions about the design of Twitter. 

RZ Yeah. I can almost write down your ground rules of using Twitter. I’ve seen it. It’s like—

PF Silly jokes. 

RZ Silly jokes and, “Oh my God, it took an extra 20 minutes to get my kid to school today and lemme tell you why the funny story.” 

PF I’ll tell you why because sincerity is a nightmare on that platform. You can’t be sincere, you look like an idiot [Rich laughs]. At least at scale. Right? So it’s just silly jokes but not too silly cuz I don’t wanna be too weird and I don’t wanna alien—it’s just horrible. Anyway, regardless, I love it; I do enjoy using it; it’s just horrible. So they redesigned this thing and yeah, I got tagged in because people were like, “Looks like some more ‘why wasn’t I consulted?’” And then they linked and people are—

RZ Oh they did? 

PF Oh yeah. A former VP of product is fighting in my mentions and I’m like, “Ok.” 

RZ Really?!

PF Oh yeah. 

RZ I saw the redesign. I mean we’re talking at sort of this abstract kind of meta, almost social level. This is something that any designer, any design team, is going to—can you imagine what is going on when that design thing is watching that thing roll out? 

PF Well, let’s stop for a sec, you’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, I’ve been spending time with it. What do you think of it? 

[10:21]

RZ I’m gonna preface: I’m not an intense Twitter user. I find that the timeline is the whole world [mm hmm]. My browser runs wide [mm hmm] and there’s all this bullshit on the sides is my general gut feeling about it. It was a little weird in the beginning just because change is weird. I have a saying around design. 

PF They changed it. 

RZ They changed it, right? And people get good around bad habits. 

PF Yeah, they really do. And it’s almost—it’s harder to let go of bad habits than good ones. 

RZ Well, you get real fast at ‘em and good at ‘em. Like we have a client right now that we’re sitting down with users and they’re doing these insane things and they’re doing them very efficiently but they’re crazy complicated, unnecessary things. 

PF Oh yeah. 

RZ But they’ve gotten—they’ve become masters at them, right? 

PF Yeah, I’m gonna hit my, you know, command, control, left, move the window to the right, and enter [gibberish!] the five things into the box. 

RZ Crazy sequence and they’ve got it down, it’s muscle memory at this point. It’s like art. 

PF And it could be a drop down menu and it would be fine. 

RZ And so I think people get accustomed to things. I think your eye trains itself, the brain trains itself, there’s a distinction that’s made between what’s called short- and long-term memory, not in terms of remembering things but in terms of how information gets turned into sort of lower level code. And what happens is when you’re consciously thin—like when you learn to drive, you’re very much consciously thinking about, “My hand is now on the stick; and my hands are on the wheel,” what happens eventually is your brain files it away to this place where, in fact your conscious memory is no longer really dealing with it. It becomes hard wired, right? 

PF Riding a bike is like that. You don’t—you eventually forget that your legs are moving. 

RZ Yeah, exactly, exactly. And I think people—I think for interfaces, it’s one of the great challenges which is when you touch things, you have to be very careful about it because you have a mass of people who can yell at you [chuckles] that have hard wired how they use a thing, right? And that’s a pretty universal rule around anything you’re gonna touch: great design barrels through that, but the greatest design it doesn’t feel like they changed much. I feel like. It just feels like normal [mm hmm] to go to the new thing [music fades in] and like, “Ah, finally, that feels so good. They finally did that.” But that’s hard [music plays alone for six seconds, ramps down]. 

[12:40]

PF Well, Rich, guess what time it is [music fades out]. 

RZ What time is it, Paul? 

PF It’s time for “Hello Postlight”, the segment of Track Changes when we get to know someone who works at Postlight. 

RZ I love this segment! 

PF It is the best thing that’s ever happened—

RZ It’s relatively new but I love it. 

PF—in America. 

RZ It is. 

PF Yeah. 

RZ Who do we have today? 

PF Let’s let them tell us. 

RZ Who are you here in our studio? 

Aimée Reed Hi there! I’m Aimée Reed, one of the Directors of Product Design here at Postlight. 

RZ Welcome Aimée. 

AR Thank you. 

PF We should point out to people that even though—and your name is spelled A-I-M-E—accent over the E. What is that called? 

[13:13]

AR It’s a [sic] accent aigu. 

PF Oh, ok. So guys, accent aigu and then there’s another E on the end. 

AR There’s another E cuz it’s a feminine—so my name is actually the verb, it’s aimer. It’s spelled A-I-M-E-R in French and it means to love or beloved. 

RZ Now that’s how you do a name! 

PF Seriously! 

AR I had nothing to do with it, I just learned how to answer to it is what I always say. 

PF Tell us how you got into this gig. 

AR Well, it’s been pretty roundabout. I mean, I have had one of those backgrounds where I kinda dabbled in everything. So, you know, I was a baker; I worked as a curator; I was an art writer for a while; I worked in publishing; but this job was one of those jobs where I kind of fell into it and had a knack, and was really excited about it. So, yeah, I felt pretty lucy cuz I really love what I’m doing. So. 

RZ Lots of flavors of design in this world. There’s U—I learned the difference between UI and UX like two weeks ago [Aimée laughs].

PF Still working on it. 

RZ We trumpet design here at Postlight. 

AR Is that when I started here? [Laughs, Rich joins

RZ So we talk about product design at Postlight. Define that for us, Aimée. 

AR Yeah, again, it’s like my take, I think, is also going to be up for argument with people out in the world doing their version of product design but for me the way that I’ve always, you know, defined product design is really being able to be that person to be able to . . . see and be a stewart of that product throughout the cycle and you actually have to think about how the user is going through it and that also informs what the user sees. So you need to be a holistic thinker in terms of doing product design. It’s not just about what color is the CTA, et cetera, stuff like that. 

PF Wait, wait, the CTA, for everyone. 

AR Oh. I’m so sorry. Call To Action button. 

[14:48]

PF There you go. The thing you’re supposed to click on, basically. 

AR Exactly. 

RZ I just learned that now. 

PF Ah! 

RZ When you say ‘cycle’, you mean hang around while it actually gets built? Like when you say ‘cycle’ what do you mean by cycle? 

AR When I say ‘cycle’ I mean from the minute you’re going in and asking whoever you’re building it for, whether you’re in-house, you know, if it’s a stakeholder or a client, and they’re saying, “We want this thing,” and you’re up there saying, “Ok, why? What do you want? Who are we building this for? Why are we building this? How are we solving this?” And being able to work with everyone along the way cuz I feel like every—no matter what, if you’re a designer, or a PM, or an engineer, you’re doing the same things but you’re doing it to be able to define how you can input into that product and help the team build out that product as well. 

PF Aimée, what should that first meeting be like? You’re a good relationship person. How—what is the way to build that relationship with the client or the stakeholder where they’re gonna trust you to do work for them? 

AR Yeah, I mean, for me it’s a lot of just asking them questions. I never like to go in and act like I know everything cuz I just don’t. I mean a). But b) I don’t wanna come in there with a preconceived notion of what they need, and I feel like a lot of the times if you can listen to them and ask the right questions, you can sometimes make sure that—you’re actually gonna give them the right solve as well. 

PF People love it when you approach them humbly and ask them for their expertise. I used to worry a lot that I’d be like . . . they don’t have time for me. But actually, people like to talk about their thing. 

AR And you’re building a partnership with them too. So it’s—you’re like making them feel at ease, they’re building trust in you that you’re actually going to build something for them that they want and that’s gonna be good for their business as well. 

RZ Lemme throw you a curveball. You got to a good place, you validated it, you went back out to the users, did some testing. And the client won’t let it go, wants to keep fiddlin’ with it. And you need to move on. You know we’re at the right place. You know you’re at the right place but every so often you get that note from the client saying, “Let’s play with this some more,” and you really shouldn’t. How do you get a client to do something that you know they shouldn’t do? 

[16:46]

AR Yeah, I mean, I feel like there’s two ways you could do that. I mean the first one, the most simplistic answer to that is a little terminology I like to call Phase Two. So [chuckles], “Let’s move that to Phase Two.” [Laughing] You know that way we can get Phase One done and you get that iteration in there, right? 

RZ Just throwin’ out the big secrets! [Laughs

AR But secondly, I mean, I feel like there’s only so much you can do, right? I mean I’ve been in that position many, many, many times and it’s something I have to work on, it’s like you have to have that patience with them. Cuz you’re also part of like you’re a therapist, you’re a teacher, you’re a friend, you’re an educator, like you have to like talk them through it. So as long as you’re doing your due diligence and you’re informing them and you’re, you know, documenting why you think this is not a good way, and all those things—and you’ve done what you need to do to be that good partner to them and they still decide. I mean ultimately they’re paying the bills and so you have to—

PF Yeah. 

AR—like let them do that. But if you can say that along the way that you’ve tried the best that you could to inform them and they didn’t take it, I mean that’s not really on you. It’s like if you don’t take that time to try to reason with them or educate them, then that’s on us. 

PF You know, you said something that stuck in my head which is that people sort of open the door for you. What do we need to be doing—not just Postlight—in general, to keep doors open? 

AR One of the biggest problems—and I’m gonna talk about within design specifically, not just the industry, but design specifically, is that people I feel like sometimes get I don’t wanna say the word jaded but they feel like they have all the answers. And that’s when the doors start closing because you’re just not having the patience to still be in that enigma state of wondering, pushing, evolving, et cetera, and all that stuff. So, I think that that’s one of the things that’s probably one of the biggest problems is that when people are like, “Oh, they just need this. Oh, let’s get to that quick solve fast,” [mm hmm] I think that’s when sometimes we falter . . . along the way. 

PF “I know exactly what I need and it’s—we’re gonna just stick to this path and assume that we have the solution already.” 

AR Right, exactly. 

[18:40]

PF Ok, that’s good. It’s very meta. Something to think about. 

RZ Where do you go for inspiration? 

AR You know I come from a really art heavy background, so, you know, a lot of the times I’m looking at arts, art websites, friends’ shows, reading about art articles, et cetera, all that kinda stuff. 

PF So fine art. 

AR Fine arts. 

PF Ok. 

AR Is a huge influence for me just because—

PF Contemporary? Historical? 

AR I mean all of it. I love everything from Vermeer to like Barbara Kruger to tattoo artists right now, you know? There’s that visual design is in a lot of different areas and it manifests itself in different areas so I’m always kinda looking—like film, you know? To me there’s no such thing as like one art form. I’m looking at all the art forms. So. 

RZ It’s interesting, right? Cuz the brain works funny that way. I mean, you solve sort of nasty, very kind of basic, fundamental functional problems in good product design but what you’re saying is, “Get out there and let your brain be exposed to all kinds of art in all kinds of places [absolutely] and it’ll actually improve your work in sort of, again, the more basic product design problem solving and creative problem solving and such.” 

AR It just makes me think about I remember one conversation, Rich, you and I had where you were like, “Wow, you really know what you don’t like.” And that’s another thing is like I know a lot of things that I don’t like whether it’s like website patterns or mobile apps, and I’ll take screenshots or I’ll like, you know, document that because—


PF That’s definitely something you have in common with Rich [Aimée laughing]. 

RZ Can I just throw out an Aimée compliment right now? I’m the co-founder of the company, right? So when I say, “Isn’t this cool??” And I point out a movie or a band or whatever. Everybody’s like, “Yeah, Rich, that’s cool.” Aimée has consistently said to me, “Rich, that’s pretty shitty that thing you listened to yesterday [Aimée laughing], that’s kind of terrible actually.” And I’m like, “Wow! She’s great!” [Laughs

[20:27]

AR That’s an exaggeration! 

RZ It’s a bit of an exaggeration but you’re pretty—

AR I feel like I have a better nuance than that [Rich laughing]. 

PF Agencies are groupings of people who are kind of together through a little bit of accident and destiny, and so she’s like—she’s not gonna change her life around you. 

RZ It’s refreshing is all I’m saying! 

AR I feel like I’m very respectful about it though, right? Or am I not? 

RZ No, you aren’t—it was not at that extreme—

AR Is this an intervention? [Giggling

RZ No, it was more like, “You know, that’s not my thing, Rich, if it’s yours, that’s fine.” And you know, I’m looking at myself and saying, “Wow, I have no taste and she does.” 

PF No but see that’s a healthy, clear boundary. I, at this point, feel I need to scream at you just to stop you from talking. 

RZ This isn’t about me. This is about Aimée. 

PF Is there any one thing that people should be looking at or doing? If you could tell the world to go do something. Just type ‘art’ into Google. 

AR I feel like if any—no, I mean, honestly, this is gonna be like such a caveat from this, if anything I would tell people just to go outside and be outside. 

PF Hmm! 

AR You know? It’s like that’s where you can really like get away from everything cuz that’s when you are a little bit more—

RZ That’s great advice. 

[21:29]

AR—in centered and grounded and into you and then you’re open to receive things that you wouldn’t have noticed before cuz you’re not rushing to the store, or rushing to pick up your kids, or whatever, you know? And we all get into those patterns. That’s life. So, if you can find those moments where you can just stop and breathe and be like, “Oh yeah!” 

PF Go outside and engage. 

AR Go outside and engage. 

RZ Great advice!

PF Extremely good advice. 

RZ Aimée, thank you so much for doing this. 

AR Thanks for having me! 

RZ This was awesome. 

AR This was so fun, I was so excited to be on here. 

PF Well, friends, that was “Hello Postlight.” And if you wanna say [music fades in] hello to Aimée, you can send an email to [email protected] [music plays alone for seven seconds, ramps down]. 

RZ Where do you stand on the design? I mean I’m [music fades out] a—just to be clear: I’m a casual user. I found it a little noisy on the edges but what I was doing is I was scrunching my browser to calm down the interface so I could just see the timeline [mm hmm] cuz it’s response but where do you stand on it? 

PF First of all, I’ll just say I think they did a good job. I think it’s good. 

RZ Lemme ask you a question before I ask you that question. 

PF Ok. 


RZ Why did they do this? 

[22:36]

PF See, this is where we gotta get into it for the listeners . . . because . . . it’s not because it looked particularly dated or they didn’t feel it was up to date enough, it’s almost invariably, at that scale, because the system of design and doing things on Twitter had become rigid and they weren’t about to be fluid in building new things or trying new things or creating exper—Like I’m assuming that if you’re Twitter, you don’t redesign because you go, “You know yellow isn’t cool anymore, let’s go with blue.” 

RZ No. 

PF That’s a different problem. That’s your sort of visual interface and what you want is a system where you can tweak those parameters as part of the design system. It’s like, “How are we doing windowing? How are we doing layers of information? What is a tweet? And if I’m gonna arrange tweets in a long thread how should that be?” It’s a simple product but there are thousands of decisions that have to go into making that. And you’ve got—Actually I’ve spent quite a bit of time with it, I’m trying to sorta—and I’m still working in my head . . . to try to understand all the decisions that went into this thing. 

RZ Interesting. 

PF Well—

RZ I think it’s also forward looking, right? I mean one of the design changes that came to mind, that everyone went bananas about, was when Apple went from their wide plug to a Lightning. 

PF Right. 

RZ And everybody lost their shit. They were like, “Are you kidding me?” 

PF Yeah, “Another USB thing?!” 

RZ And more adapters and this and that but really what you were looking at wasn’t Apple trying to be slick, it was Apple thinking about the next seven years. 

PF Yep. 

RZ They were thinking about the prototypes and the road map that they had—

PF “I wanna charge faster, I might need to get a couple of gigabytes of data in here in like two minutes if I could,” and you know, yeah. 

RZ And also just probably the physical size, components that they’re crunching together in that thing. So there’s no doubt, and to your point, they are looking ahead at their road map as they set this design up. 

[24:33]

PF That’s right, and what they have to build is like it’s both a new design and a new experience but it’s also what you see—it’s new scaffolding. 

RZ Well put. 

PF It’s a new way to build the new design. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF Look, I’ll tell ya the things that I—I do some tensions in there, like if you ask me purely on aesthetics, it’s not clear what’s a button and what’s navigation, things have rounded edges, things have square edges, things use different shades, and you’re not always—it’s so sort of big and sprawling that way and you’re like, “Oh! That’s nav, that’s a button, that’s an avatar, and that’s a link,” and so on. And there’s a couple products in there that they never quite fully know what to do with like linking and bookmarking. 

RZ Mm. 

PF They’re trying to make it more sort of useful but it doesn’t—it never quite gets to the fore. 

RZ Yeah. Yep. 

PF And what you see, and the way that I see it, is you see the business requirements around it being like a social network where people chat. Right? There are a lot of people who have 20 followers and they follow a couple of companies, and a couple of people, and they kinda bullshit with their friends. And then one day they just erase their whole account because there’s drama. And cuz they don’t care that much [yeah, yeah, yeah]. And that’s probably the—hundreds of the millions of users. Right? [Yeah] It’s almost all of them. And then you’ve got the one percent who are like, “This is my brand and this is what I do.” 

RZ Yeah. And brands. Like there are brands on there. There are any sort of public figures on there, I mean down to the councilmen in a small town. 

PF Who also say the same stupid stuff but they can’t [chuckles] quite erase their account in the same way [Rich laughs]. They do. They do. 

[26:03] 

RZ So, good work? 

PF Fundamentally like I move the mouse. I move the mouse; I move the window; I cha—like it’s responsive, it sort of all fits together, and I got used to it in about a week. So, on the left, it’s navigation. And there’s some nice work actually, just in terms of the interface and how the, you know, it shrinks down the icons, it expands, there’s labels. It’s kinda clear what things are for, especially if you’ve been around the site for a while. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF On the right you’ve got your trending topics, and people to follow, and things like that. And they’re clearly trying to find a balance between like, “Are we a media and news company or are we a social network where you can talk to your friends?” So the right is them constantly—the feed is just, “Here’s who you follow and sometimes we change the order of it and we’re not gonna tell you what the hell we’re doing but good luck, ok?” 

RZ It’s sort of hands off at this point. I don’t know if you can touch it. 

PF Yeah, so the left is the nav and every now and then there’s gonna be a new icon. Like every year they’re gonna add a new icon and then they’ll take one away. Like ‘moments’, I don’t know what moments are. 

RZ Or television will show up. 

PF Remember? That was the thing, we talked about this on a previous podcast, at one point they put a little TV, just in the middle of the site, and then it went away [Rich laughing] like two months later. So, the left is like, “Oh! There’s gonna something new called like ‘refreshers’!” And it’ll be like classic tweets! And then that’ll be gone in six months and it’ll have a little icon. 

RZ You gotta wonder if sort of the ad real estate is also part of the thinking here as they do this. 

PF Well, I mean right now they’ve just basically said, “Go into the feed, get in there, and just drop the promoted tweets in,” that’s where the eyeballs are. Right? So your revenue is coming out of that feed and then the right is all about engagement. Like I’m gonna get you to follow more people, look at more trends, and so on. It feels like it’s trying to be media but then it backs off. It’s like, “Hey, I’m gonna be your newspaper.” 

RZ I don’t blame ‘em. 

PF No! It’s—exactly, right? Who wants to be a media company? It’s terrible. 

RZ Yup. 

[27:48]

PF Those don’t make money and they shut down whereas social media companies do real good. 

RZ Yeah, exactly. 

PF And so—but you can see—but they don’t have a choice because they actually are capturing the zeitgeist and the users want it. You know, the users wanna know what’s big and what’s happening. 

RZ Let’s talk for a minute about—

PF Notice how little of this is about pixels and colors. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF This is about like—

RZ Well it’s about business. 

PF It’s about the objects in the design system have to reflect the business and serve the users. 

RZ That’s how everything should be dri—ultimately, you know, a great designer elevates out to the business altitude, or the needs altitude. There are some amazing designers who just make everything look really beautiful but the ones that really understand and internalize the needs [mm hmm]—ultimately they’re needs, whether they are business needs or user needs. 

PF It’s systems. And then um. You know who else in this world—you know him. I don’t think I’ve ever met him, Jeff Tian. He designed the little faces that respond to Facebook. 

RZ He was involved with the team that dealt with going beyond the—

PF Thumbs up. The like on Facebook. 

RZ Right. 


PF So you got all those little faces, those things now are Facebook. 

RZ I mean it’s huge. And I think—and I used to make jokes about it—I’m like, “God. They’re still working on it. It’s crazy,” cuz he would share kind of some of the studies he was doing because, you know, an a-ok may be like really insulting in certain countries. 

[29:08]

PF This is the real world and so it’s like that visual expression. 

RZ Months, Paul. He spent mo—they spent so much time researching—

PF On the happy faces. 

RZ But boy is it fun—is it the glue at this point. 

PF And now it’s the branding, it’s the—And you know and people have lots of thoughts about Facebook right now but that was unbelievable design success, articulating what the product’s for and driving engagement with its users. So you’ve got this like five levels of business down below what looks to be a silly happy face. And that is design in this world. 

RZ Even experts in technology or people who are really tech savvy, often like—I’ll do it, I’ll be like, “Scratch—” I’m like, “What the hell are you doin’ there?” And meanwhile you don’t realize there’s 5,000 hours of thinking that went into it. 

PF Oh, can you imagine? 

RZ Some of it looks crude, some of it doesn’t look right, it looks off. But there’s so much that goes into that thinking. 

PF The people at Twitter who did this design worked really, really hard. That’s what I would say. Like it’s so clear. 

RZ Oh yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. 

PF That this was a hard one to pull off, and they did good. They did good from a purely design and now we have to discuss whether Twitter—You know, for some reason everyone’s just accepted that like Donald Trump is still on Twitter. Like that whole discussion is going away. I think we’re more upset about Facebook now as a culture [Rich laughs]. But there’s all that stuff is over to the side but the aesthetics of that thing are solid and I think it got really usable, really fast for me, after a brief moment of disorientation but that’s—I swear to God I spend a lot of time as I’ve been using it, trying to tease the strategy out from what they did cuz it was clearly a real system there. 

RZ Yep. Yup. 

[30:46]

PF So, you know, I know it was hard, good luck out there. 

RZ I mean overall it’s a good job. This kinda stuff—are you gonna make everyone happy and there’s gonna be this rousing standing applause like at the end of a play. 

PF Never! 

RZ Not gonna happen. I mean that is reality. 

PF Never and that’s the only challenge there. You know what’s funny? I thought this would be a relatively straightforward conversation, we’d end up talking about left nav, right nav, center nav, and what they did. I’m about one percent into what I wanna say about Twitter’s redesign. 

RZ It’s a deep pool. I would love to get one of the designers on here to talk through the process and how—what they had to think about and who they had to talk to. 

PF That’s the thing, though. That’s the thing—

RZ Can you imagine? Can you imagine. 

PF And then there is—it does drill down to 30,000 separate screens that get sketched out. 

RZ Dude, it’s also—look at your audience: it’s Twitter. 

PF I know. I know. You can’t win. 

RZ It’s the audience where everybody goes to shit on someone else’s design. 

PF You cannot win. 

RZ Like this is not a—like throw pillow forum. This is Twitter. 

PF No, your whole community is there. And they’re gonna yell at you. 

RZ They’re ready. They’re there. “What the eff just happened?” And then the GIFs kick in and [laughing] it just starts rolling out immediately. 

PF And you gotta work with engineering and there’s product in the mix. It’s so big and complicated. It’s funny, there was a time in my life where I’m like, “Boy, that would’ve been amazing to work on.” That one in particular I look at, I’m like, “That woulda just been a lot of work.” 

RZ Yeah. 

[32:07]

PF And also, God bless but meetings with Jack Dorsey where he talks about the vision while he makes you look at the Golden Gate Bridge and says, “What dog are you?” [Rich chuckling] Like I can’t do that. I’m too old; I’m too fat; and I’m too grey to listen to that and—if this was—if the whole site—what if we could do it as a triangle? 

RZ We’re fans of Twitter. 

PF Yeah. 

RZ And Jack Dorsey. 

PF I love Jack. Come on the show, Jack! I’m gonna ask you [chuckles] about what the hell is going on to your brain? [Rich laughs] So, look, Rich? 

RZ Yes. 

PF What if you wanted to redesign something that was really big and complicated and went all the way down to the bones, all the way down to the central processing unit? 

RZ I’d call somebody. 

PF Well, I wouldn’t call anybody, I would just come to work. Cuz I got the people here to do that work for me. 

RZ Oh I thought you were asking me in the abstract. Oh yeah, I would—

PF Too bad, we don’t have any clue [music fades in] how to communicate after four years. It’s just a tragedy. 

RZ No. Uh yeah. Postlight! 

PF Yeah, that’s a good answer. 

RZ If you want to rethink; redesign, re-architect, we are your shop of choice. There are not many like us. 

PF What you get is true product talent, people who think about these kinda problems, the big platform problems, and Twitter’s an obvious—

RZ Great design. 

PF Twitter’s got a half a billion users, right? So I mean it’s like—

RZ Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s—

PF—a different case but you’re a big organization and you’ve got, you know, a couple hundred thousand users but each one of them is paying a couple thousand dollars a year, that’s a good Postlight space. We can make things better and faster and more pleasant for everyone cuz we have the people who think that way all day. 

RZ We think that way not just in terms of sort of the more narrow problem you’re looking to solve but also the bigger transformational stuff that you’re looking to solve too. So . . . talk to us. We are in New York City. [email protected] We’re actually everywhere, based in New York, headquarters—

PF That’s true. Headquarters is New York City. We have lots of events, we’ve got a podcast, you’re listening to it, [email protected] Alright, let’s get back to work and build some big things, build some design systems. 

RZ Have a great week, everyone. 

PF Bye! [Music ramps up, plays alone for four seconds, fades out to end.]