Five places to find hope in 2018

Happy new year, y’all! Did you watch the Golden Globes on Sunday? I was skeptical, but I tuned in because I was at home. I got weepy twice - first getting unexpectedly emotional when I saw Tonya Harding, Denzel Washington, and Mary J. Blige in the same shot, and then totally losing it when Oprah said, “There is a new day on the horizon”. 

It’s true though. In 2017, despite what was objectively a bleak political landscape, witnessing it all has been invigorating, and sometimes really painful. We are watching our communities and our culture deal with some deep and systematic oppression and abuse. It has been a rollercoaster, but I know we’re taking precedent-setting steps towards a better future. 

It’s not easy. I always curse myself for not being able to detach better, to not feel so affected by everything around me, but then I remember that I’ve been working through this awhile. You can’t selectively deploy empathy and compassion - you cannot bring empathy to technology like bringing a six-pack of beer to a party. So I take some deep breaths and try and find spots of hope. So, in the latest from UX Night School Notes, here five places to find hope in 2018

1. Upping our game with accessibility

Web Accessibility isn’t new- it’s as old as the web itself. What's more, Accessibility isn’t a particularly tough technical problem! Yet, we still have to justify and advocate for making tech accessible to all of us, and push to make universal design the norm.

Section 508, the ADA guidelines that govern web accessibility, is getting a huge update this year, the first major one since 2001. We’ve all got to up our game with accessibility, and there’s sure to be an ongoing conversation to be had after January 18, when the 508 refresh becomes the legal standard.  


2. The reaffirming value of play

I spent some quality time with my six year-old this past month, which is always eye-opening and exhausting at the same time. We did jigsaw puzzles, made cookies, played dreidel, played in the snow, went rollerskating and had many dance parties. And when we were exhausted from all of that, we watched movies. 

We know that children learn crucial things from play, and it’s the same for all of us, really. I try to find time for play - improvisation, sketching, sharing, putting things together - into all of UX Night School’s  workshops. ( I think we succeed most of the time.) Play is its own form of research, and one we can consider in many aspects of design. While “gets the job done” is a good baseline for any product, “I want to play with it!” is a much higher metric. 



3. We're learning the impact of culture.

Sam Ladner and I got riffing on culture in design and development of AI on Twitter over the weekend, leading me to ruminate over one of my biggest UX beefs of late: that no AI “assistant” is set up for someone navigating the multi-lingual world we live in.

That, if you find yourself running your devices in a language other than English, you’ll be made quickly aware of limitations, performance issues, and other less-than elements of the user experience. (Never mind that 1 in 4 US households uses a language other than English at home.) Forget about using more than two languages either - in my case, if you’re running your systems en Espanol and then ask for directions to your favorite Vietnamese restaurant. 

4. Knowing we have to do better.

In working with developer tools, I’ve found some really interesting data points about how the next generation of developers is much more diverse, global and multi-cultural than the teams making developer products. Some amazing data from the Intel Developer Zone : 82 percent of the global developer workforce is outside of the US, 64% were born after 1981, and 27% of workers are women. (We can do better on the last one.) In order to be relevant, much less competitive, tech has to bridge this widening gap.

5. YOU.

Starting UX Night School and working with all of you has been a huge privilege, and something that’s given me so much hope in dark times. Thank you for showing up, for asking questions, for observing, for analysing with me, and going back to your . We’ve had lots of fun, and we’re just getting started!