My Journey at Peak Democracy: From Design Leadership to Product Management

The purpose of this post is to outline my journey at Peak Democracy, to share what I’ve learned and express my enthusiasm at the next stage of my career as I take on a new role as Product Manager & Lead Designer at Peak Democracy (now a part of OpenGov). Backstory In March, I began consulting for Peak Democracy—a company on a mission to build public trust in government. Their business centers on a web-based product called Open Town Hall, which is widely considered to be North America’s leading online civic engagement platform. Open Town Hall was

Are Smartphones The Cigarettes of Our Generation?

What if the very tools that have the greatest potential to change the world are also crippling us from doing so? The Problem of Smartphone Usage Here are some stats to illustrate my thinking: The average smartphone user checks their phone 221 times per day, starting by checking their email and Facebook at 7.31am[1]. US consumers now spend over five hours per day on their phone. That amounts to 76 full days in a single year[2]. While the exact figures vary depending on the source, smartphone usage statistics have continued to increase year-on-year. This trend represents one

How I Redesigned My Morning Routine & Got My Life Back

The purpose of this post is to provide an outline of the journey I've gone through to redesign my morning routine and regain control of my life over the past five months. Take a quick look at any website or social network and you might conclude that everyone's life is great, but sometimes… life is really hard. We all go through our peaks and troughs. Some are higher and lower than others. About five months ago, I went through a pretty low patch which forced me to re-evaluate and redesign several core aspects of my life including my morning routine.

What is The Holy Grail of UX Design?

This week in my mentorship session with James Box, my good friend and design mentor, we discussed what he considers “The Holy Grail of UX Design’. The Problem One of the problems I have been facing in my work at Peak Democracy recently is that I’ve conducted almost a dozen user interviews in effort to build empathy for our users, but I don’t know the best way to uncover meaningful insights from those interviews. I have almost ten hours of interview recordings and troves of notes that I wrote while users spoke. I asked James to help me

UX Help! Advice For Switching Careers into User Experience Design

Over the past two years, I've gotten a lot of emails from people that go something like this: Hey John, I stumbled on your site from [source]. I appreciate what you've done and how you share your process. I am looking at starting a career in UX and I was wondering whether you might be able to give some advice. Here's my background: [Background Story] Cheers, [Kind Career Switcher] I've written similar responses to such kind career switchers that I thought it would be useful to publish one as a blog post so that other people might benefit. Here it

How To Run A Product Design Playback: A User-Centered Perspective

Last week I had the great pleasure of launching the MVP of a product whose design I've been leading at Peak Democracy. Peak Democracy is a 10-year-old Bay Area company on a mission to build trust between local governments and their residents. Every week, I’ve been meeting with James Box, my mentor and good friend who is the Director of UX Design at Clearleft. In this week’s session, we critiqued the MVP and also touched a bit on running successful playbacks. Playbacks James suggested that playbacks should: Frame the problem we as a team are trying to solve

Fluffy Edges & The Black Box: A Mentorship Session With James Box

Over the past two weeks I've had the pleasure of reigniting my mentorship with James Box, Clearleft's User Experience Director and all-time awesome guy to work with. I've decided to write a blog post every week as a reflection from my week's sessions with James to help me internalize the concepts we discussed but also to share what I've learned. In my current contract, I'm leading product design for a Bay Area company called Peak Democracy. This role has surfaced a myriad of complex challenges that range from a tactical level (interaction design, front-end development, project management, etc.) to a

Venturing Into The World of Multiple Sclerosis

Backstory The parallel timeline of my life has been the progression of my mother's disease Multiple Sclerosis ("MS"). My mother taught me how to walk, play soccer and ski. By the time I was twelve or thirteen she became increasingly dependent on walking aids and eventually a wheelchair. Enduring excruciating physical pain, my mother has maintainted a persistent brilliance that radiates to all those who meet her—exuding positivity where others would form bitterness. My mom and I outside Norwich Cathedral in 2013 My Wife Sophie's Journey with Chronic Illness While working in India together in 2012, my wife

Redesigning My Approach to Music

I have loved music for as long as I can remember, but for most of my life I've never considered myself a musician. Every time I've tried to learn how to play an instrument it would only last a short amount of time and I never really got over the hump of playing something fluently. My experience with music was always a mixture of pleasure and frustration. After moving to Norfolk this summer I decided to redesign my relationship with music and learn how to play the guitar from scratch, going back to basics and revamping every aspect of my

Reflecting on 'What Matters' by Wendell Berry

Backstory After deciding to migrate away from my digital lifestyle, I pulled What Matters by Wendell Berry off my bookshelf to help prepare for whats next. In an effort to absorb the wisdom of Mr. Berry and also to share its fruits, I've decided to write a little reflection on this collection of essays subtitled "Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth". As the introduction suggests, this book should be required reading for all economists and policy makers, but it also has life changing perspectives for the common man and household. It has made a profound impact on the direction of my