Cufflinks - Edition 1 - 24th April

A new recurring blog post for sharing my favourite links and resources

Photo by Yaya The Creator on Unsplash

Cufflinks is the title for recurring blog posts where I share some of my favourite links. I plan to write these posts on a semi-regular basis. The inspiration came from the fantastic, Stéphanie Walter’s “Pixels of the Week” which is an amazing resource. Do check out Stéphanie’s blog here.

Welcome to the first edition of Cufflinks!

Something I wrote

I am delighted to have been invited to write a guest blog post for SEDA’s thesedablog, Supporting and Leading Educational Change. My post entitled, User experience: When you need to know something, show something, and solve everyday problems outlines my approach and some of the UX methods that I used in my former job as a Learning Technologist. The post is such a fantastic record as it really underlines why I made a career change. UX/LX research and design methods are now fundamental to my work as a Learning Experience Specialist and I build on this practice every single day. It is an amazing adventure and I am absolutely loving it.


Design methods can provide strategies for thinking about a problem on your own, or with a group of people. Methods can also provide ways of gathering feedback and showing your thinking to stakeholders and senior managers. Some of the methods may feel familiar, as they derive from anthropology, psychology, and social sciences.

Read the full post at thesedablog here.

flow of activities starting with video interviews, a written interview transcript, a chart showing click activities when using software. Then example statements for a job: when I am context, to help me motivation, so I can outcome.
Flow of activities starting with video interviews, followed by a written interview transcript. and a chart showing click activities when using software. Then example statements for a job or action: when I am [context], to help me [motivation push/pull], so I can [outcome]. A functional test list comes from the job statement followed by video and written web tutorials.

Things I have read

The Power of Exercising Loud: On the impacts of immersive exposure to UX processes
by Hossein Raspberry writing for UX Collective on Medium

This article is a nice piece of validation for my guest blogging venture above. The writer talks about the importance of making UX work visible. So, it is not only the work of doing the research, but it is the process of involving stakeholders and then sharing the results. All three aspects vital to ’the work’. Doing this work on research and design in the open, helps to uncover the synergy between projects and to break down historic silos.

The more inclusive you are in inviting stakeholders to explain and understand your processes, the more brainpower you have on the solution. This way the product objectives can be more aligned from different perspectives and hence everyone — UX professional, organization, users, and business — wins.
- Hossein Raspberry (2022)

The 7 principles of universal design
by Robin Christopherson for AbilityNet

A key part of contributing to the design of an organisation from the inside is to find common ground to agree on. Design principles as rules of best practice are a good place to start. The ‘7 principles of universal design’ are now 25 years old, yet they are more relevant now than ever. I have often thought that the inclusion of the ’d’ word might be a mistake. As ‘design’ might imply that ‘designers’ alone are in a position to make an impact, in fact these principles need to be embedded at every stage of the product cycle and at every level of the product itself. Also as the principles were written by a group led by the architect Ronald Mace and the group included engineers, environmental design researchers, product designers, and architects it is clear that these concepts apply in any situation where a solution for humans is being built. We need to avoid the situation outlined in the LinkedIn post by Edward Rice below by engaging with all users and avoiding the assumption that what will be functional and safe for one, will be functional and safe for all.

Screenshot of a post on Linkedin, attached image shows a person who is a wheelchair user about to cross a road but a drain is positioned under the lip of the curb, the drain has wider gaps than wheels on the wheelchair, so it is possible the chair wheels will get stuck.

Screenshot of Edward Rice's post on LinkedIn. Post includes the text: 'Poor Accessibility Regulations and enforcement results in this type of dangerous design. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what’s wrong with this, on so many levels. Another case where common sense is not commonly used!'

Applying pace layers to career paths
by Richard Rutter (Clearleft) at Clagnut blog

This brings me on to the ideas of pace layering and cultural rates of change and why patience and persistence are both virtues for anyone involved in design and transformation. This month’s dConstruct newsletter from Clearleft refreshed my memory on this one. Originally devised by Stewart Brand is his 1999 book, The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility, pace layers are a concept for thinking about how the rate of change differs at levels of civilisation. Fashion being the fastest to change and culture, followed by nature being the slowest to change. A chapter from Brand’s book is represented in this 2018 article, Pace Layering: How Complex Systems Learn and Keep Learning at Journal of Design and Science MIT Media Lab. This concept has become well-worn in design spheres but still has merit as shown by Richard Rutter who uses it as a catalyst to consider the changing nature of UX-related professions.

Top, fastest layer to lowest and slowest: fashion, commerse, infrastructure, governance, culture, nature
From Brand (2018) Pace Layering: How Complex Systems Learn and Keep Learning

Dunning-Kruger Effect, or why some people don’t get jokes
by Curiosity Research & Design for Bootcamp on Medium

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is fascinating when you consider what learners think they need to know in comparison to what they might actually need to know to achieve competency.

If you’re training people, you can expect the bottom percentile to not even be aware that they are wrong. Dunning Kruger say it is because metacognition is linked to skill level — the same attributes that make a person skilled in the domain are needed to evaluate if one is right or wrong. There are domains where this is true — like logical reasoning — but also where it is not true, and where the effect would not be as obvious.
- Curiosity Research & Design (2022)

Learning Science Bootcamp > Bitesized
by Dr Philippa Hardman

So with this in mind, we need our approach to be effective and to feel relevant to those learners who potentially think they know more than they actually know. Dr Phil Hardman’s bitesized suggestions, such as Observing Experts and Meaningful Collaboration are great and have already got me thinking about some alternative approaches to things that I am working on at the moment. I am eager to participate in the BETA version of the Learning Science Bootcamp, the sign-up link is available on the page above.

9 Ways to Indulge Your Creative Side at Work
by John Boitnott for Calendar on Medium

I have been thinking about creativity at work a lot recently. This is partly because I personally know that I am at my best when I make time for creative thought in my week (something I am doing right now by writing this post). At least an hour of that time should be at work. Most commonly this involves taking to paper to draw out the solution to a problem, but sometimes it involves a 10-minute skipping break in my local park. Why skipping you may ask? On the one hand, skipping is something that I have been actively practising for many years and on the other it is the closest you can get to dancing in a public space without confusing people. With skipping I can create a dance routine on the fly using different jumps and rhythms to fit what I am listening to on my headphones. This gives my brain a creative distraction from work tasks that might be troubling me. Then when I go back to the work tasks they are far more swiftly dealt with; that is the thing about brains, less is more.

Please stop saying feedback is a gift
by Nick Ang on Medium

I am taking this one on the nose, as I wrote this in an email the other day. I will also say that the issue noted by the author is how the statement ‘feedback is a gift’ was used to avoid communicating authentically and with empathy. The response Ang cited was “Thanks, Nick! I love feedback. Feedback is a gift!”. This is an empty response which suggests that they had not read the constructive feedback, least of all taken it onboard. To receive feedback with empathy is to listen and acknowledge, whether you agree or not, then delay a full response if more full consideration is required. Receiving feedback is hard and this is something I am continually working on getting better at myself. I for one will consider the article as a piece of practical feedback, which will cause me to think twice prior to stating the obvious next time and rather just focusing on the ‘doing’ part instead.

24 Hours in the creative life
by Nancy Coleman, Kate Guadagnino, Thessaly La Force, M.H. Miler and Malika Rao for the New York Time Style Magazine (paywall $)

A fascinating article providing insight into working artists from a range of disciplines. How do they stay motivated? How do they cope with public critique? This felt like the perfect application of my point above, where a key idea in the article was to not internalise negative or positive feedback, but to take what you can from it to improve and most importantly not let it eat up your insides.

Note to self…

These are tools or posts which I have, or will, find useful.

Something I listened to

Great Minds on Learning Podcast with Donald Clark and John Helmer
Season 2, Episode 11 Informal Learning with Donald Clark

A great episode featuring some of my very favourite thinkers and theorists.

Something I made or fixed

I am trying to fix things and to buy second-hand when I can. My Converse trainers started disintegrating before our eyes at UX Camp Brighton this year so it was a topic of conversation. Thankfully all fixed now, thanks to some hardy denim from my fabric scraps and some all-purpose glue.

Fiona MacNeill
Fiona MacNeill
Learning Consultant &
UX Researcher

Passionate about creating inclusive and accessible experiences, tools, and services for learning and doing.