An image of a road. I liked the stripes made by cars’ tires pushing gravel around. Also, apparently I’ve crossed some kind of spelling rubicon, because, possibly for the first time in my life, I spelled it tires with an i, not tyres with a y. I suppose you can read that as a metaphor for the UK’s waning influence in my life, or indeed in the world. But sometimes a road is just a road.

So why haven’t I been writing? A few things, I guess.

  • I’ve built an air gap. Not being on social media has helped create a buffer between having some kind of impulse and sharing it. If I feel strongly about something, I’m much more likely to talk about it with someone I know — if not one-to-one, then one-to-few, rather than full-on broadcasting. (I’m also trying to get better at knowing who to vent to; a lot of the value in sharing/venting seems to derive from knowing who wants to hear it. This is obvious, but I still get it wrong all the time.)

The UK electorate has been lied to, successfully, and the majority either don’t know or don’t care.

This is how things work now. Lying is how politicians gain and hold onto power. Trump does it. Boris does it. There are plenty of others; these are just the ones your white western media cares about.

Your country is next.

If you think it won’t happen where you live, because where you live people are decent and that’s just not how we do things, you are missing the point.

Post-truth politics doesn’t give a shit whether people are decent, or even whether you believe people are decent.

Post-truth politics involves two groups that you, if you are reading this, likely…

Or, that time I danced in the office

Previously I wrote about using Trello to bootstrap a content model and then building a prototype in Sanity. Here’s what happened next:

We tested our concept with our target audience

To recap: we had already done a lot of the heavy lifting. We had:

  1. A model of how the content should be structured (initially in my head, but then formalised as a set of schema definitions in Sanity)

Deactivated components make for bad usability.

Disabled interaction elements: why you everywhere?

Not all users know that an interaction design element can _have_ disabled state.

I’ve seen users clicking and clicking, and just not understanding why a button or other element won’t work. You may not have seen this behaviour, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. These users are typically less experienced at navigating technology and the web. Please don’t make their lives even harder by giving them a thing that’s frustrating and which they can’t figure out.

It has become an implicit design convention that deactivated elements have poor contrast.

Why is it okay for only some users to be able to read a disabled interaction element? All users deserve the same amount of information. …


Norwegians love compound nouns about vehicles. You’ve got bil (car, as in automobile), so a lorry is a lastebil (last means load). The garbage truck is a søppelbil (from søppel, rubbish or trash). Leiebil is a hire car, from leie, to loan or hire. So naturally you need mocchabilen (MOCK-a-BEE-len) to deliver you coffee and hot chocolate on a snowy winter’s day.


The Norwegian verb to iron (as in, ironing a shirt) is stryke, a bit like the English verb to stroke. One of Norway’s lesser-known musical quirks, believed to originate in the Sognefjord region, is the folk tradition of…

At least, this works for me.

You’ve learned a new language. You’re fluent intermediate, maybe even better. But there are a few things you just keep getting wrong, consistently. Maybe these issues arise as a result of your native tongue, because your new language does something in a way that your first one didn’t. Or maybe you just never quite internalised a rule because it isn’t even a thing in the language you grew up with. And now you’re worried that you’ve already internalised the wrong rules, and that these will be hard to unlearn.

It’s okay, by the way, not to be speaking a second…

They said it couldn’t be done. They were wrong.

I’m a Scot living in Norway. Like many other people with a UK passport, I’m glued to the news these days, hoping those in power have a finite supply of chaos-chips they can put into the pot. But unlike fresh fruit and vegetables, UK politicians show no signs of running low on crazy.

My day job involves making information easier to understand. This is nice for me, because I am quickly confused by complex sentences or interfaces with many moving parts. Really, by simplifying things and making them easier to use, I am just helping myself out.

So imagine my…

A case study in thinking about your content model really, really early

You’ve probably been there:

  1. Your content is information, and it has an inherent structure. This is something you more or less know from the start, even if it isn’t perfectly formulated yet.

Is it too early to build something?

Nope. Because…

You can’t disagree with someone’s lived experience of minority any more than you can disagree with their sunburn

Arguing that use of “you guys” is not sexist because you didn’t intend it that way is like arguing that I am not sunburned because you can’t feel any pain. (Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash)

“Why this again?”

Because it’s still not fixed. (Some history here, for those just joining us.)

“Why does it need fixing?”

Because some women find being addressed as “guys” just one more tiny painful, exclusionary reminder that male is the normal, the default, in our society. Which means this behaviour is not okay, because women don’t need yet another reason to feel excluded, diminished, or othered.

Go talk to your woman friends. I mean really talk. Ask about their experiences as women, at home and at work. This thread may be illuminating (I dare you to read the whole thing).

And read on before you “respectfully disagree”.

“But it wasn’t intended as discriminatory – ‘you guys’ is generic.”


Some things are obvious, and some really aren’t

A screenshot from the visas service when we were developing dual language support for applicants from China. I learned at least as much about how to run projects as I learned about interaction design.

I spent a few years helping design and build GOV.UK digital services, and supporting teams doing that work. That the whole GOV.UK project succeeded at all sometimes feels like a miracle — and that it still works, a very delicate balancing act. Here’s what I know.

1. You need a set of objective standards.

You need something that defines what “good enough” looks like. This is the Digital Service Standard, 18 things a delivery team should be able to demonstrate when developing a digital service. If I have to pick one thing from the list, it’s “make sure users succeed first time”, but they’re all great. …

Chris Atherton

Designer/nerd-middleware layer at Also co-host of

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