HACK: How to make a hard-to-read page look however you want

Have you ever been on a page and dreaded reading it because the paragraphs go on forever, not just vertically, but horizontally + the text is squint-small? I sure have, and until now, I either abandoned or just suffered through it with negative emotions I probably ignored. However, I’d like to give you a hack to make the experience better. Web developers and User Designers probably know of this already, but for the rest of you out there, here’s the trick for when you’re on a chrome browser. It might work on non-chrome too, but may have some different verbiage (click on the image to enlarge):
Making things readable-Hack

Thanks for paying for my Dentist appointment

Last week, I had the good fortune to have a dentist appointment. I know, I know, most people are terrified of going but in the end, it’s not a big deal. But to me, it was a VERY big deal, especially reflecting on it afterward. Here’s why:

1. It took me 2 hours of calling around trying to find which dentist I was assigned to
2. It cost me $0
3. The care I received was exceptional

Number One: the only thing that sucked. Why was I calling around? Well, because I’m now on “Obamacare” while completing school. Why is it something I didn’t mind doing it in the end? Because it’s a super new system – so they’re still figuring it out, and because of number 2 and 3 above.

Number Two: While this appointment cost the state $258, it cost me nothing because I am temporarily not making much while bettering myself so I can give back when I am finally able to. This is where I thank you US citizens paying taxes because maybe $0.01 of your taxes helped pay for the dental care I got. And I appreciate you all for that; not at all taking it for granted!

Number Three: Props to Willamette Dental Group. They treated me just like anyone else: the millionaire up the street or the fellow student at PSU. They gave me great care and attention. Also, their building in Goose Hollow area of downtown Portland is really warm and welcoming. Thanks to the interior designers and workers who work there.

As a final note – if you take good care of your teeth, the dentist will recommend you to come back in a year. No need for 6-month checkups. So all of you out there who hate going to the dentist: another motivation to floss every day and limit sugar.

Thank you American tax payers!

Make burgers smaller!

Today, as I came home from work in the pouring rain on my AWOL Specialized, my neighbor also rolled in next door in her blue Prius. I had a moment of envy at the fact that she wasn’t dripping wet, while I stood there in my soaking wet rain-gear. We started talking, first about how my trip to Mexico went, then the conversation turned to how her husband is planning to change the menu of the diner he owns.

“For example, he wants to make burgers smaller, I mean I can barely eat half of it, they’re so big!” she explains. In my mind, I was like Nooooo!!!. But to put her comment into some perspective, she is a very petite woman, and I – not as much, having about 6 inches on her in height. So I argued back:

“I don’t think they’re that big! I finish them and get a soup on the side too!” At this rebuttal, she smiled.

“Oh yeah… he wants to make an option on the menu to get one of two sizes.” Sighing in relief, I nodded in agreement.

Why did I bring up this story? It is a great example of a strategy to employ when a key feature of a project has very opposing feedback: give them an option. Of course, it is crucial that the choices do not complicate the concept by offering too many options. (That is why people like Costco, besides the fact that their burgers are HUGE: they have at most 2-3 options for most items, or a giant box with all the 30 options for those with choice anxiety :D). To decide whether or not to branch out to more options, try asking this very important question:

Why does my user want X to be like this?”

Does her opinion originate from a completely different problem? Is he trying to repurpose your feature for something else it’s not intended for? If the answer is “umm… Yup,” you may want to take a step back not be like Dilbert:

Dilbert Comic

Get rid of the Buttons

Drabble Comic

“Just make a button…” It’s one of the most noob requests that makes my hair stand on end. Why? Who needs it? Can we get the same effect in some more subtle way? Did you do any research? (likely no). “But it’s easy, and a call to action!” Yes… but does it do what the user expects? If not, then it’s worse than not having the button.

I had to make this argument to myself the other day, and after realizing I can ax 3 of the 5 buttons on my prototype, I just felt this sigh of relief. So. Much. Better.

This assignment is for my bootcamp in UX design at Bloc.io. Even before this bootcamp, I was thinking of making an app, just for fun. I was thinking of making it artistic, a movement of all the transit happening in the city like watercolor swirling around, but using the backbone of real-time data. It just happens that the assignment was to research and create the first couple screens of a transportation app.

The ah-ha moment I had from above came after I had put these 5 buttons at the bottom of my app:

Then I thought to myself: this is a transportation app. Is there any reason why a user would want to disable seeing the bus lines or active buses on the map? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ … and I could find no reason. Then I asked a couple bus users and they blinked, and said, well.. probably not. So I wiped two of the buttons off, moved the download button to a less important location… et voilà:

Why give the option of toggle if you don’t need to? Anyways, if there seems to be a legitimate reason to wipe the screen clean, I can always add them back. But for now, let’s just have a zen moment of less buttons 😎

Inspiration over Tofu Tacos

So I’m sitting in my living room working through some home-made tacos I made just a minute ago. I put on a You Tube video: High Resolution interviewing Judy Wert. They do a fantastic intro, and finally, she comes on screen. Her smile and mannerisms captivate me. Listening to the talk, I barely get 4 minutes in when she makes a point about her coffee cup, how UX design starts with the person who made this coffee cup, how many kids they have and what is his father like.

At this point I had gotten through one and a quarter taco, and as I take one more bite, I stop looking at the screen of my phone, and start observing the phone itself. I have this sort of out-of-body experience where I just observed myself as the user who has made a work around on how to prop up their phone while watching this video. Instantly, I drop my half taco (it’s still sitting there),

pause the video and start writing. This is what I’m writing about: 

My need – to watch a video while not holding my phone. There are many solutions out there to this already:

In fact, I have one of those piggies. Yet, I still don’t use it. Why? because it’s inconvenient. It’s upstairs somewhere, and my food is getting cold and yes I’m just lazy to get it, plus it doesn’t stick onto my case. So I end up using my PDX carpet coasters to prop up my phone.

But what if…. the Lifeproof case – which by the way last weekend saved my phone when I dropped it in some hot sand – had an edge that better promoted sideways standing. If the leaning tower of Pisa from thousands of years ago can do it, why can’t the phone case?

Lifeproof already has a bomber case, but there’s always room to improve, right? Competition is right around the corner.

Anyways, I’m not an architect, or industrial designer, but I’ve done the observation, and documented what the workaround is, at least in my case.

What do you do to prop up your phone(s)/tablet(s)?? Comment below.


My Polymorphic Light Eruption

I don’t have rabies or anything crazy, it’s only a skin condition that feels horrible and looks completely unattractive. It developed it after I spent a couple years living under the eternal rain cloud that covers Portland, OR from October to May. Here’s the timeline:

2011 July: I move to Portland from sunny Toulouse after studying there for a year.

2012 December 30: I go to Miami and to spend time with my Cousin for NYE in a warm place while it is storming in Portland:

This is when it first happened… dun dun dun: my stomach erupts with these dime-sized red dots everywhere. At first it’s just red, and then it gets itchy. The worst is that the space between these dots stay completely white. It’s like my body forgot how to tan.

And so I go home, and they disappear within a day. I forget about it.

Summer of 2013: The dots come back, especially furiously early on, and they get less and less vehement by the end of the summer. I basically ignore it, mostly because I don’t spend very much time outside because of work.

Summer of 2014-2015: I put a lot of sunscreen on, but the red dots still make a comeback, including some side trips I take to Australia in the spring.

Summer of 2016: I’m fed up. I start researching the key words “sun allergy”, “sun rash”, “red dots from sun” all these come up with a lot of symptoms that are similar, but there is one key thing missing: why does the sun rash I have get less intense after more months of exposure. That is when I finally searched for something to the effect of: “sun allergy that gets better with time in the sun”. And bingo: I find a blog about how a woman had conducted an experiment on herself for ten years, using only one lotion every summer to see how well it works against her condition. That is where I find many lotions that kinda-sorta help, but the 10th one was the 100% awesome solution. It is this shirudo lotion made in Montreal.

January 2017: I got a big tube of the creme at the end of last summer, and this year is the first year I’ve tried the creme, and it works like a charm. Now my skin tans like it did before, it’s not itchy, and I can say it’s the best thing ever, and a mystery solved!


How to make your weakness the reason why people like you

This post was inspired by one of those many articles that try to outline ways to become more likable. There are obvious things like, “Smile more”, or “be more positive”, or “be genuine”. But there is one that really struck home, and I think it’s a hard one to do, especially for those who are perfectionists and hugely insecure in maybe the one thing they cannot perfect.

My advice: Embrace this weakness.

Research actually shows that although people may respect you if you appear perfect in every way (no one really is!), it actually makes you less approachable. Only deities are truly perfect (well maybe the Greek ones had some issues)  so people will look up to you but have a hard time getting closer. So – this weakness I told you to embrace: make it your human trait, and then work on perfecting everything else.

This is one silly example, but I think helps explain the point. Maybe your weakness is being really gassy. Let’s say you’re really good at yoga, and one day you let one little toot out during a yoga class. Up until then, people around you might have been thinking, woah, (s)he’s so good. I wish I were that flexible, strong, whatever. But until that toot, they would probably have a hard time approaching you. (Kids are better at this by the way…). And especially so if they are self-conscious about the lack of their strength or flexibility.

So you farted. What to do next? Perhaps turn red and avoid all eye-contact? That might be the instinctive thing to do. However, the best way is to fight the urge, and react lightly: make fun of yourself, or just a whisper of “oops!” and smile. This reaction will bring you down to earth from the clouds in the minds of others, and in fact make you more likable, and perhaps even relatable for some people 🙂

Of course you should strive to be all of those simple like-able traits like smiling and positivity, but this adds another tool in your toolbox. Good luck, and have fun with it!

Turning the gym membership model upside down

This idea came out of wishing my favorite yoga class was closer to my house. My thought process:

  1. There are yoga studios closer to my house…
  2. But I really like the teacher, she teaches at two gyms/studios, but I only have membership to one. The other one is closer to my house…
  3. I wish my membership extended to cover both places.
  4. So can I have a yoga-teacher membership?

That’s what this post is all about. What if… Students were able to choose a membership centered around a specific teacher, and she/he could teach at any studio/gym, the students can attend based on that membership. Then, the teacher simply gives either a flat fee or percentage of her/his class’s income to the gym/studio as rent for that hour of class.
Potential problem: how does the place that offers the room for the class prevent the users from taking advantage of other utilities in the space?
Potential solution: layout the gym in a way there is one entrance area for the yoga room, and a separate one for the rest of the space. The Yoga teacher could maybe pay more per class if the place includes bathroom/shower or other amenities for her/his students, or the students can pay separate for that (if they want). It’s almost like “itemizing” – pay for what you use.

The most desireable yoga teachers stay in business
More flexibility to teach wherever, and know that students will come to you!

Of course, this idea could be expanded to other fields too – teachers, tutors, chefs, coaches…

Crimp this subliminal Ad

This is the first post of my new category …while in the shower. Why, well who doesn’t have those occasional profound thoughts in the shower?
Metaphorical of course, it just means these posts are all about those random creative ideas I have during the day while doing something maybe unrelated. Some people might take their temperature to measure their level of health, but mine is measure of how many if any creative thoughts that pop up without me actively trying.

For instance, the other day I was climbing with a friend, and though I am at the gym a lot, I never closely observe, but do glaze over the climbing holds, subconsciously noticing the sparsely placed logos such as “So ILL”.

(These logos are all of the climbing hold companies). However, if I saw those imprinted logos anywhere else, I would instantly recognize them and rack my brain, where did I see that!! Eventually I would figure it out. What if, instead of just advertising themselves, they imprinted such subliminal logos or other simple ads of other targeted outdoor/active/sports companies onto their climbing holds. When I climb, I focus on one thing, getting to the next hold, and if at some point I sit there, breathing hard, pondering my next move, I might be staring straight at a hold maybe containing “Mountain Hardware” or “REI”. I may not actually think about my next trip to “REI”, but I still see the logo amidst this uniquely heightened sense of concentration.

I think this sort of subliminal ad placement would be even more beneficial for startups who want to get their name out there. And the imprinted logos are not distracting, same color as the hold. Look at this example: can you see the name “rock candy” in the top left of the hold? Barely, right, but it’s there. And if you climb a lot, the reinforcement works.

Not a bad idea… now how much should a hold-making company charge for it?? I’ll leave that up to the MBAs

The most rewarding computer shortcut

This morning, we get a message from Damir: There is a puddle next to my bed; I woke up to dripping water, so I’m moving. Soon, he comes down, saying he got upgraded to the executive suite as consolation.

“The bathroom is so big, the whole Wandzil team could dance the Macarena in the shower,” he grinned, “…Seriously.” Must be nice… in my room, I have to sit on the toilet sideways so my knees don’t hit the wall.

It had rained all night; all the canals that were previously dry were now filled with runoff. But the rain was a blessing, relieving us of the intense heat, but as soon as I pull out my camera, the lens fogged up! I didn’t know it could be more humid. Pretty soon we might be able to swim through the air, or at least the puddle in front of the Sto. Niño school.

“During breaks, the students use it as a playground, skin boarding,” the teachers laughed, pointing at the lake-sized puddle.

giant puddle in front of school

Today, our pupils were an assortment of teachers and parents.

To combat the gray sleepy weather, Lucille and Aziz introduced the chicken dance. ” Yay! » One of them shouted in glee. The rest of the class laughed pointing to her *preschool teacher*, she must dance this with her class all the time.

The rest of the group caught on, and soon enough the room looked like a flock of clucking chickens.

Dancing the Chicken Dance

Later once we put away our feathers and pulled out the laptops, I walked around the class, passing by Elena. She stared incredulously at the computer, then laughed as I kneeled down next to her.

“I can’t operate this thing,” she pointed at the screen.

Filipino Teacher

“Don’t worry, you can learn!” I encouraged her. Lucille had just showed them the shortcuts Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V to copy and paste text. Elena and her lab partner bit their lips as they concentrated on the task, finally making the magic happen. Their eyes lit up in joy, clapping their hands like a child who had just ripped the wrapper off their Christmas present.

“The key difference between the adults and the children,” Lucille pointed out “…is that the children click everywhere – they learn by making many mistakes. But the adults are afraid of messing up, so they don’t like clicking.”

Aziz Teaching

By the end of the day, it seemed like we made a good dent in their tech-fail-phobia: there were more and more keys being pressed, claps of success, smiles, and hi-fives.

clapping with joy

Only the second best thing to the computer shortcuts they learned, the ladies proudly held their certificates from behalf of the IESC program.

teachers with certificates