Google Chrome, lack of transparency and security with keychain passwords.

Did you know that when you login to Google Chrome, it pre-fills the OSX Keychain with all your saved passwords?

And when you sign out of Google Chrome, it helpfully removes those passwords? Wrong! No it doesn’t!

This is a major problem if you’re using someone else’s machine temporarily. A work machine perhaps? My job requires me to move around from office to office, and usually I use my own MacBook. Some occasions call for using a different machine.

Moving passwords into the keychain

I’ve recently been at an agency which asked me to borrow a MacBook for two weeks, and as expected Chrome pulled down my passwords for me. Handy, until I worked out they were actually being stored in the keychain for anyone with admin rights to see. Simply change my password and Voilà! You’re into every password I’ve saved in Chrome, plain text for all to see.

The only way to rectify this isn’t the expected “Sign out of Chrome”. Doing so will still leave all your password in the keychain. You’ll need to head into the keychain, locate all your password and delete them.

The problem is Chrome never notifies you of this, and it can cause issues with security and privacy. It’s another addition to the issue over plain text passwords being accessible with only a couple of clicks. I was shocked a year or so ago when someone at Technophobia showed me all my passwords when I handed them the machine to fix an issue. His words were “be careful in future”.

Thanks Chrome!

Your iPhone is watching you.

You may remember a couple of years back that iPhones were secretly tracking your every move. This data was susceptible to attacks through a hidden file that iTunes copied to your computer when you synchronised it. Apple quickly addressed the issue and removed the exploit. I actually like to have my location tracked. I turned it on with the Google app for iOS and I even uploaded that original iTunes file to an open data project. The only caveat is, I like to know it’s being tracked, and I like to know what it’s being used for.

The iOS7 secret

iOS7 is tracking your every move. It’s recording key locations you visit in your life and it’s using those to improve its mapping facility. It knows where you live and it knows where you often visit. Question is, did you know? I certainly didn’t.

Yeah but the little location icon pops up in the top right corner, correct?”

Certainly, apps like Google Maps, Google and anything which uses your GPS location trigger the icon in the top right.. But it’s a little more shady for Apple’s latest option hidden way down in the location settings of your phone. You’ll probably never notice the little icon ever appear.

Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services (bottom) > Frequent Locations

Yes it’s all likely innocent, yes it’s likely private data but, hiding it under a general “Enable location services” when you first setup your phone is a little sneaky. And hiding it under 5 difficult menus is just wrong.

For example, the Google app drops the icon in the bottom left corner, and is open about how and why they track your information. And you have to opt in to that specific feature.

Google's method

I’ve started cycling. Cycling is the easy bit.

Well, I’ve been cycling for years but last year I bought a new road bike and hit the tarmac.

It’s great. As I’ve been watching the tour this week and seeing the thousands of spectators, it made me think of the dangers and hostility cycling brings.

I often feel sorry for the cyclists on Le Tour as sometimes, fighting the spectators becomes a bit of a hindrance. See Christophe Riblon pushing his way through the thousands of people cheering on. It almost looks impossible to get through. I saw Riblon have to push fans out of his way from knocking him off his bike shortly before winning a punishing Stage 18 of Le Tour.

Christophe Riblon Tour Spectators

In the real world

4da4b37a841311e29a6422000a9e06c4_7It’s a similar story in the real world, but not as flattering. I was out only last week, riding on a pot hole infested road in Rotherham when a Silver Ford Focus came flying round the corner after nearly knocking a friend I was riding with off his bike then narrowly passing myself. The car threw copper coins at me as I was cycling. You can’t avoid them but the roads are a dangerous place for cyclists.

A few weeks later another car flew close past me and screamed out of the window as they got within a foot of me. Some beep their horns, some shout abuse out the window.

If it’s not abuse, it’s incompetence. Drivers coming too close or overtaking in stupid locations. I was following a car at the same speed, close behind it, and the car behind me felt the need to overtake me. He was going nowhere, ended up heard first towards an oncoming car, slammed the brakes on and fell behind. Complete idiot. He obviously thought it was my fault.

I still love the cycling, it’s mega liberating and great when you get a good rhythm going but the most dangerous part is often the idiots who drive on the roads. I love my car, but riding on the road on a bicycle opens your eyes to how scary it is when you’re riding on two skinny tyres.

Delete those visual metaphors.

I’ve worked on two projects recently which have gone to town with images, which have little relevance or usefulness to the user. It’s an easy pitfall. Text can look boring, and often that’s true, it is boring, but as sites are becoming more content focussed and task led these images are disappearing from our content, and that’s a great thing.

Should websites scrap images altogether unless illustrating a piece of content? Certainly.

Images and adverts hinder the overall user experience.

Yes, it certainly depends what kind of site you’re designing. For the purpose of this article we’re talking task led and content focussed sites. Let’s start with the obvious one. They banned the use of visual metaphors in a huge way and the content has benefited greatly because of it.


Some would say the site has little character and that’s missing the point. Can you achieve your task easier and quicker? Is it less of a headache to use? Yes. Scanning content and flicking between the visual metaphors associated with that content can be exhaustive, and mean you miss the most important part of the content.

We should be simple and clear in all our communications. Visual metaphors which are overused tend to hinder communication rather than help it. – GDS Design Principles

It’s the classic customer services link with an attractive lady smiling while wearing a microphone. Or the one about how we love our customers, with two guys in suits shaking hands. That’s all yucky.

What you should focus on.

If you’ve gone straight into Photoshop, HTML, Sketch and whatnot you’ve made the first mistake. IA plays such a fundamental role in the design that it’s often underrated. Try letting your designer get out of Photoshop and into Balsamiq or Omnigraffle. Give them the task of designing the site with no colour, no images and no visual design.

We need to identify the key “priority” tasks users want to achieve. If we try and maintain a task led approach, we’ll save users time and effort, producing a happier experience.

Not this:

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 15.11.32

Moon on a stick

Moon on a stick

I recently published an article on the new publishing platform on how to think about your idea the other way round. Think small, start small and build upwards. It’s simple, but time and time again projects come through trying to reinvent the wheel and add 1000 features to it.

“Moon on a stick” seems to be the most popular and humans are forever wanting the next Facebook, the next, the next eBay. It’s an infinite loop of trying to eclipse the previous product. But startups and individuals have the upper hand when it comes to challenging the giants, you just don’t realise it yet.

Have a read over on

Apple got its sh*t together!

iOS7 new user interface

I’ve been a long advocate of Apple products but it’s the niggles that wind me up. That unified, perfect experience we strive to achieve in all manner of design. Apple have knocked it out of the park for several years now, but they started to lag.

In response to the people disappointed with the new iOS7, my car has never run correctly since I bought it. The idle was iffy and the throttle response slow. I had to pay Ford £35 to update the ECU and now it runs a dream.

I’m writing this as an initial reaction to #WWDC13 and the signs look promising. A good half of my colleagues and friends switched from iPhone to Android back when iOS6 was announced. It’s unassuming feature updates and lack of innovation just compounded the fact that it was falling behind Android’s updated interface and improvements with the experience. From being a dog to use, to catching Apple up. Both experiences weren’t perfect, and we’ve all heard the arguments for and against each operating system.

Devil in the details

The devil is in the details, and the experience has to unify between products and applications. I’ve been impressed by this years updated Air line and iOS7. 12 hours battery life is just mental from something so small and compact, and a complete overhaul of iOS seems like something a multi billion dollar company would never dream of. It’s both ambitious to attempt such a big user experience change, and bold to take on Microsoft and Android who innovated with radical design changes, even if Windows 8 ultimately failed on the overall grand scheme of things.

Control center

iOS7 Control Center

Apple have fixed most of the niggles that have bugged me for a while now. “Siri, switch on Bluetooth”, “I’m sorry Mark, I can’t do that” is such a downer when you’re trying to hook up your car handsfree.

The new control center was also a great addition to iOS7. Android has had the ability to control toggles for a long time, and I even had it on a jailbroken 3G years back.

Staying with iPhone

From the updated animated clock on the homescreen (I saw it moving!!) to the ability to share items using Airdrop (emailing images to yourself just becomes tedious). I’m looking forward to trying out the new direction. Looks like I’m sticking with the iPhone after all.

You get it right? It’s not just about colours, gradients and icons. It’s about how it is to live with. Unlike my car, this update is totally free. No catches, but like my car, it fixes a lot of niggles in one fell swoop.

Why I didn’t get on a bus

Bus ticket machinePublic transport can be great at times. Hopping on the train so you can have a few bevvies in town, or getting to London in 2 hours from Sheffield. I’ve used public transport quite a bit, and it’s served me quite well if I’m honest, except for today.

Today was a pretty poor example of user experience, and it’s costing the train/bus service money.

Take the “an your journey” machine to the right. I didn’t have my car today, so I decided to try a bus, after a long time not sitting on one. The journey planner was unusable. Each tap of the touch screen caused the whole page to refresh. Pretty certain it was IE too. 60 seconds it took me to type “Chapeltown“, where I live. That was a major fail.

The next hurdle was trying to workout the actual times of the buses. Safe to say it was unusable. I bailed and decided to go for a train.

Now, Trains have served me well in the past, and the Sheffield > London route is actually really reliable. Today however was another bad day for usability. I’ve seen friends get fined for not boarding the train with a ticket, so figured I ought to buy one before I started. I was greeted with the following:

Great news! So I decided to risk it and get one on the train and hope the ticket police weren’t at the other end.

Simple story about poor usability and getting the experience right, to basically not piss your customers off.

Le Tour Yorkshire, Grand Départ

Le Tour Yorkshire

Today I headed to the town hall for the Welcome to Yorkshire “Tour de France” roadshow.

In case you hadn’t heard already, the world renowned and one of the most popular annual events in the world is coming to town. Starting up in Leeds (Stage 1) it works it’s way through Yorkshire, finishing in Sheffield (Stage 2) the day after passing through places like Harrogate and York along the way. It’s an exciting prospect for cyclists across Yorkshire and one which businesses will want to grab with both hands.

As a keen cyclist myself, the prospect of the Tour leaving a trail of good things and bringing in new visitors is a great one. It’s why I’ve always been reluctant of moving out of the countryside and into the city. The ability to hop on your bike and cycle through the woods and into the pennines in no time is certainly a luxury, and one which many city dwellers fail to understand or explore.


If you get the opportunity, try cycling in and around Penistone, Sheffield, Holmfirth, Huddersfield and you’ll quickly see why the Tour is coming to town. Although, maybe overlook the pot holes for now, as I’m told they’re be départing before the competition arrives ;)

Welcome to Yorkshire, and welcome to Sheffield. See you in 2014!

BBC Connected Studios


This is two months late, but it was such a great experience, I felt I had to finally get it online.

In February, I was invited to attend the BBC’s Connected Studios. It’s an opportunity to work on products that millions of people use, including products you probably use on a day to day basis. Divide headed down to Broadcasting House to boil the brain over ideas in a rapid one day session.

The week I attended was for the iPlayer. The BBC released a brief to incorporate new ideas into the platform. While the BBC iPlayer team is robust and extremely skilled, the BBC flexes its muscles to bring in ideas from externals, and from other parts of the BBC. It’s a very innovative and quite agile method of work for the iPlayer.

While the first day is purely speculative, the prospect of working on iPlayer alone is enough to invest in a full day for the BBC. Additionally, if you make it through to the Build Studio you receive a basic day rate and get the opportunity (if they like your ideas) to work on a pilot with a pot of up to £50k available. It’s an enticing prospect. Finally, your idea could well make it into the final product used by millions across the UK. Pretty cool opportunity right?


After successfully pitching my ideas, the BBC invited Divide back down to the Build Studio, to work on the ideas generated in the pitching sessions a few weeks before.

I came up with iPlayer Find. The ability to find out what was on before, after and during the programme you’re currently watching on iPlayer. Without saying too much, the idea went down really well, and the enthusiasm for the project was enough to get back down to the iPlayer build studio. Only a select few companies are invited back down, so it was a privilege to attend a few weeks later.

BBC iPlayer Build Studio

Mozilla Bikes on the wallIt was held in Mozilla’s awesome workspace, MozSpace, in London. Think fridges with beer in the kitchen, conference facilities, hot desk facilities and bikes on the walls, you get the idea.

The two day build studio event went really well and was a mixture of User Experience Design (sketching, wireframing and general collaboration) throughout the first day, and creative work the second. We already had a solid idea to work with, which was great. We spent more time finessing the details than we did actually designing the functionality, due to the evolution of the idea over the day.

Working with the BBC’s R&D team, the real brains behind the idea, and the driving force behind the analytical data which supported this pitched idea for the iPlayer.

It ended with a presentation of our work over the two days, and a clear. The final creative showed a strong idea, and clear steer towards the current iPlayer User Experience and visual design. A great couple of days had by all.


New venture, Divide.


So a few months ago, I was sat in my day job thinking “I wish I could do…”, “I wish this was done a certain way…” “I want to do…”.

I left Technophobia in 2012 after spending 2 years there and went to MadeByPi for a short stint as a UX designer. I’d decided that what I wanted to do was UX based. I wanted to sell these techniques I’d learnt on the front line. I wanted to meet people, network, interact, have time to do my own thing and challenge myself in a new way. Turning up at 9am and leaving at 5pm just wasn’t working for me. I’m used to pulling all nighters, actively challenging myself and working harder than the average human. I did this for a few years at Uni, and my final year was, well, mental.

So, now it’s time to do that all again! But this time I’m risking any savings I have in my bank account, and investing in starting up on my own. I created Divide. My goal for 2013 is to still be doing this in December. Making and designing websites and expanding my own business by helping others’. Whether it’s freelance with companies such as MadeByPi and Technophobia, or designing and creating with my own new clients, I hope I’m able to continue it for a long time to come.

Have a look at the new site. I’ll be updating it soon with case studies of Moonsync and TwiPho.