SXSW Interactive 08 panel - The 10 Commandments of Nice

On 9th March I swung by the session hosted by the Preloaded guys. Ten Commandments? The sheer (tongue-in) cheek of it intrigued me...

A London-based agency, Preloaded are SXSW Interactive veterans. I first bumped into them in the wee hours on Sixth St in 2007 while myself and Sam were scoffing pizza on the sidewalk. They recognized Sam and soon we were all slurring our words and dropping bits of pepperoni on the ground in unison.

I haven’t seen them since, although they were back this year and we were twice in the same four walls. A few text messages and total lack of co-ordination was all we could manage ;-) Oh yeah, and a heckle from me at this session regarding their dissing of London digital networking scene.

London digital networks update - d'oh!

I piped up that they needed to keep up – they hadn’t been to a single Chinwag event of 12 held so far; nor, I guess – NMK’s Beers & Innovation, Minibar, London Geek Dinners, MoMo London, Social Media Club, Creative Geeks, She Says, Swedish Beers, Open Coffee, Tuttle Club / Social Media Cafe, Girl Geek Dinners, Wiki Wednesdays, Next Wednesdays and the host of other cool (and not so cool but still worthwhile) events London is currently awash with.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the action in Austin (by way of my late arrival 10 minutes in, and very rough notes):

Paul Canty - Clients do not get off the phone and curse your very being (copious audience sniggering) Take a walk on the client’s side

Love thy client. Do thongs, I mean *things* (oops, hmm…) to make them feel happy and make them look good. Show them you care.
Try and pre-empt things and exceed expectations. Tell them you’ll deliver Friday and then send them the deliverables on Thursday night
Aim to answer before they have to ask the question; deliver on your promises early and often; ask loads of questions
Share the experience: get your client excited in what you’re doing
Do not love your client literally – don’t date them. Good luck if you do!

Andy Beaumont - Obey the 7 principles of user interface design

Clarity: including accessibility for smaller browsers and screen readers
Feedback: with Ajax, especially on Google Reader, where when you click the refresh button the browser doesn’t tell you what’s happening – it’s broken
Tabs in MS Word look like menu items – breaks design principles
Simplicity: eg. "bulk rename" utility in Outlook – this is what happens when you let programmers design a system
Structure: has a filtering system down the right hand side – 4 clicks to get exactly what you want, very good design
Consistency: eg. logo should take you back to the homepage; if you don’t do this you’re defying user expectation
Tolerance – good example is the Yahoo 404 page; has help and search included; Microsoft error dialog box is really bad.

Rob Corradi - The digital world is global but small...

Do not be a thief
Do not imitate – it’s a form of theft but is also a deep form of laziness
Do not follow fashion – your work will date really easily and will not stand out from the crowd
Do not covet your neighbour’s design
Do not covet your neighbours designers and developers (poaching).

Paul Canty – People, networks, community

Henry Ford said: “I’m not the smartest but I surround myself with competent people.”
Thou shalt surround thyself with people more intelligent than thyself.

Don’t try to know everything – you can’t. If you’re asked something you don’t know – defer; don’t be tempted to wing it – your team will hate you
Networking is also a way of keeping yourself where you want to be
Networking isn’t always fun
There are courses for this kind of thing [yikes!]
A necessary evil sometimes, but a thing to get better at
At SXSW you just have to walk down the street and you're networking; try networking in London, it's not easy (see my heckle and update above)
Networking is not just about getting business, it's about learning
We’re all pioneers in this room – share your experiences and knowledge
You're also surrounded by people who have made mistakes – it's how we learn
Churchill: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with enthusiasm”
People like to share advice and ideas; they can help you and you can help them.

Andy Beaumont - The hype cycle / the hype curve

Old technique – new name: Ajax – coined by Jesse James Garret of Adaptive Path
First there was a lot of bad Ajax, now experience is aligned with perception.
Ruby On Rails – the early days hype was followed by grumblings that it didn’t do what it was supposed to. Now Rails is about halfway along the hype-cycle with some solid history and good applications being developed.

Current hype:
Papervison – or as they call it in the Preloaded office, “fucking Papervision” (see The Armoury Nike microsite)

Pair Programming
Silverlight – Andy didn’t have that in his presentation slide. “I forgot to put it in because it hasn’t reached the early part of the hype-cycle yet, and probably never will...” (eew, miaow!)

Rob Corradi - Adopt a user-centred approach to your products

Nine times out of ten the client isn’t the user
Create personas (to get around this) for likely users and scenarios
Establish and prioritise the features with the personas in mind
Paper test – do sketches or wireframes
Prototyping – eg. html version of the site with very little design
Test the product.

As a footnote Rob added that they were up for a SXSW award for a game they developed for the Science Museum to teach teenagers to about physics – namely Launchball, which had over 1.5 million page views in its first 6 months. People on Digg dugg the more addictive than crack post about Launchball.

Paul Canty – Collaborate with clients

If you can get the client involved in testing it will take the subjectivity out of it
Maximise passion [not sure I noted the right word there] / minimise subjectivity
Do it their way to show them you’re on their side; but then move on from there
Be thorough in your thinking
Know what they like
Involve them in the process
Don’t act as if you know more about their business than they do
Treat them as experts
Use tactics to dissuade them of [I missed the end of this – think it was “bad ideas”]

Verily, this was Ten Commandments of Nice according to Preloaded, and then some :-)

SXSW glories and the meatspace melting pot

The next night at the SXSW Awards they went on to win not only the Games category, but also the coveted People’s Choice Award. Well done them!

Sidebar: the guys have been going to SXSW for several years. I always wonder why more UK agencies don’t send one or more peeps. Preloaded are the only vaguely trad agency I know of to attend in my 3 years there.

Yep, it’s time out of the office, but it’s *very* affordable (especially to a profitable agency!), plus, as the largest-scale global gathering where creatives, geeks and biz/strategist folks really intermingle (it's a festival too, BTW) it is the web’s ubermost meatspace melting pot. Clearly this pays dividends and is A.GOOD.THING.

Plus you can submit your own panel ideas!

C’mon UK agencies! There’s more to life than ossified UK “online marketing” conferences and the Cannes Lions. Get out and mainline the London and regional web/mobile scene, and hop over to Austin in 2009...

And hey, Mr Patrick, this was another session that was fun, business-focused, and I learned me some stuff, ‘kay?

[Note: I would have bullet pointed most of the points above, but bullets force a paragraph break in Drupal even when you remove all line breaks in the html editor.]