Weekly wins for the week of 2023 10 09

The month of October signals the end of the third quarter in our funny misaligned fiscal year. That’s useful, in part because I promised some things by the end of the quarter, and a little push is a good thing. So,

  • That little push helped me make progress with revamping a set of moribund customer profiles, and the latest increment of that work is now out for review. Thanks, October!
  • I got out and plugged in and noodled on my keyboard (nothing fancy, just an M-Audio KeyStation plugged into Garage Band), filling in little obligatoes to the usual evening Spotify soundtrack. Good fun, and long overdue.
  • Fancy pictures (MRI) of my knee reveal what seems a relatively simple explanation for the oddball problems I’ve been having and have been slowly worsening over years. (Can I afford the remedy? TBD.)

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 10 02

I got to the end of the week feeling like I worked hard but didn’t accomplish much. Lots of managing, a lot less doing, and the things I said I would do by the end of the quarter are now hanging over my head a bit. But

  • I have a solid plan for the number one item on that list, and the one thing that can truly block me from enacting that plan produces its own plan.
  • New mentees are finding me and so far I’ve been able to help each one. It’s a mix of folks! Researchers, new designers, more senior folks, etc. Some of my advice has started to converge (apparently I’m consistent in what I think!), but I believe I’m giving an appropriate level of individual attention to each person and not spouting platitudes. I recognize that that’s an available danger and promise to be vigilant.
  • I once joked that my superhero identity was “explains-a-concept guy.” It has been especially true this week.

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 09 18

It took two trips to Home Depot and a barked knuckle, but I repaired a leaky shower handle in less than an hour for $22. This included finding the shutoff for the whole unit and working around others’ demands for water. I even managed to notice and fix the hot/cold swap that I inadvertently introduced before buttoning everything up. #capabledad #stillgotit

Just a little too late for this project, I also thought that it would be a good idea to write the brand and cartridge part number on the back of the escutcheon to help the next guy. Too bad, next guy!

PT asks: “how do I convince leadership to care about UX research?”

A new mentee opened the session with (paraphrased)

How do I convince leadership to care about UX research?

It’s a broad question. A giant question. It’s highly situational; it’s hard to answer without deep knowledge of the organization’s goals, its failings, and the people involved.

After a bit of conversation it became clear that the actual question was a little smaller. Paraphrased,

Our CTO is placing a lot of emphasis on summative research activities like usability testing. I don’t want to neglect, and am more interested in, formative research. How do I convince him to let me do formative research?

Okay, that’s still a big question, of the sort that a disinterested third party (me) can’t answer directly. But it led us to talk about a few topics:

1. People have their reasons. What are they?

The CTO is favoring testing over formative research. Why? They might be right in doing so; maybe that is what the company needs right now. Or they might not understand the value of one or the other. Or they might have a different understanding than you of the proper division of labor in the company. Or…a lot of things could be in play here; people have their reasons. But it’ll be hard to influence the CTO or others unless you understand their reasons.

2. Given the organization’s goals and performance, what needs to change?

What is the company trying to accomplish, and what are their results so far? Does the gap between what they want and what they are achieving (there is almost always a gap) suggest a particular course of action? Is this gap due to poor product/market fit, poor initial quality, churn, cost of support, customer time-to-value, customer payback time, something else? Each of these would suggest different areas of the product to attach and might require different research activities or emphasis.

3. Who needs to understand the problem the way you do? Who are your allies? Who is your audience?

Once you understand the CTO’s reasons and the organizational situation you can determine if your idea about an intervention (more formative research) is sensible or not – whether or not it will contribute meaningfully to closing the results gap. But then you need to make it happen. And this requires deep knowledge of the organization: the people, the culture, and how change occurs. You may be in an organization where you can, armed with the above information, make a convincing argument to the CTO. You may be in an organization where you have to recruit like-minded people to surround the CTO. Or you may be in a place where convincing the CTO is less important than engaging the people who would be helped more directly by your intervention, the product managers.

We also talked about projects vs incrementalism, chain of command vs lateral influence, and allowing for serendipity in formative research, but those are topics for another time.

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 09 11

  • One-time mentorship conversations are fun, and they remind me how I think about issues. So far everyone has been pleased with our conversations. https://adplist.org/mentors/jon-plummer I wish I was as readily eloquent when it came to writing these posts.
  • My knee is much more stable now than it was when it was irritated recently. This is only now that I have PT and ortho referrals coming up, of course. Murphy sometimes mistakenly interferes in a way that makes things a little better.
  • If you need something done at a hospital, call the patient advocate. Changing the channel from email to phone, and changing the recipient from a barely-interested secretary to a person whose job it is to chase things down has produced enough of my chart from 31 years ago to greatly inform what’s to come next, whatever that is. As I say often to the people I support, “f you aren’t getting the engagement you want, try changing the channel.”

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 09 04

A short week, but things are getting done. People are not waiting, they are seeking. They are asking questions and getting answers. They are not giving even the appearance of waiting. There’s bias to action, and then there’s bias to learning. These people are doing the latter, and it warms my heart.

Gov.uk recommends NOT using alt text. It’s actually a good idea

[name redacted] writes:

UK Gov websites dropping support for alt text fields and giving odd advice about what screen reader users want is making the rounds on Linkedin https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2023/08/10/making-it-easier-to-add-images-on-gov-uk/

Naturally this has been met with many hot takes, including

bizarre, especially given that i have often heard the uk gov is a good example of taking accessibility seriously

[name redacted 2]


I wonder if they consulted any screen reader users before they went with this somewhat condescending metaphor: “Another way to make sure you are describing the image properly is to imagine that you’re reading out the content of the page on a telephone. When you get to the image, what would you say to help the listener understand the point the page is making?”

[name redacted 3]

…as well as complaints that Gov.uk is “canceling the alt tag” and other alarmist conclusions.

Gov.uk’s advice is actually pretty good, if a bit high-level.

We should provide alternate content for anything that is not text or cannot be read by a screen reader and that is important to the meaning of the page – for example, if the image were missing or broken the page’s meaning or intelligibility would be diminished – and should not provide alternate content for anything that can be safely left out without diminishing that meaning.

There are a few ways to provide alternate content; the alt attribute is one of them. It appears that gov.uk is expressing in part that the alt attribute is a less accessible way of presenting that alternate content than simply putting that alternate content right into the page, and that’s true: a person who needs the content in the alt attribute but doesn’t use a screen reader (such as a person using a magnifier) will have to do some extra work to dig that content out of the alt attribute that a screen reader user would not need to do. That person would be helped if the alternate content were in the page, and no one else would be inconvenienced by this change.

Key points of my recent performance review

(Quotations are my words, all else are the words of my manager.)

Revision to goals for the quarter

Step into responsiveness via the design system – propose to R&D why and a way forward to get us to accommodate actual user viewport sizes better, and get a resulting project onto the roadmap

I don’t have the strongest opinion on this one and bucket it similarly to chipping away at general UX improvements. I don’t want to dig the hole deeper – anything net new we develop would ideally have a higher bar of usability prior to general release – but would need to see specific examples with LOE of more general improvement candidates to weigh in.

Improve the quality of UX delivery – establish Figma delivery conventions specifically intended to reduce the cognitive load on developers, with developer input and feedback, and pilot these new conventions

Strongly agree with this one and I appreciate how Jon scoped the specific action item this quarter.

Advocate for an appropriate level of UX/UI polish to survive engineering delivery by spreading the UX review cycle currently piloted via Smart Alerts and Call Review projects to other teams/crews

Also in strong agreement here but with the most Q3 emphasis being on Call Review & Coaching-related projects if we had to prioritize where Jon spends his time.

Advocate for and begin a project to do POC IAs for various user types to explore the sensibility and difficulty of separating [product A] and [product B]

We talked about modifying this one a bit as some of the groundwork on [product B] is in place. I let Jon know that I have a Q3 goal with [PM] to revamp the [product A] product vision/strategy which will surely need UX input as stakeholders and that ideally better defines where UX output can be helpful for [product A] future IA and candidates for usability improvement.​


  • Light The Customer’s Way: [evident in] the improvements we’ve made to UX quality in recent releases and stronger focus on customer adoption and usability.
  • Continuous Improvement: Jon’s involvement in many of the organizational & process improvements we’ve rolled out in recent months, ensuring UX had a seat at the table ahead of making these changes and providing his perspective that influenced the solutions we implemented.​

Past Quarter’s Results

Jon has done a fantastic job improving both the quality of UX output at Invoca and building buy-in for user/customer-centric activities. He receives positive feedback from cross-department stakeholders and I am grateful to have him leading UX efforts. Key examples of Jon’s leveling up of UX in recent months:

  • His participation at Dallas and May offsites, particularly the lead up to our leadership offsite and his help with material preparation and follow through.
  • His very well-received Connect talk that summarized/connected the dots on many of the changes we had been looking to drive following our offsite discussions – trios, experimentation, shipping value/quality vs. speed, etc.
  • Leveling up members on the UX team and helping define new shaping frameworks to set them up for success. Also, pushing the team to have more direct customer/user feedback sessions.I hope Jon recognizes how far we’ve come in a short time (no longer prioritizing by service area vs. customer needs) and I’m excited to continue the journey with him.

​2 – Right On Track

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 08 28

  • Driving lessons with the girl seem to be going well, especially since we’ve borrowed an automatic so we can learn to drive before we learn to drive stick. It has opened things up considerably.
  • I had my review and it went well. I’ll share some of the results in a subsequent post.
  • Football season has begun and there is optimism for both Seattle teams. Hooray.