A new font, removing a feature, and thoughts on achieving design clarity (Week 31)

How my job board looks today

I’m working on a bigger feature, but it’s not ready to show yet.

So, let’s see, three small things that have happened over the last week…

Automated tweet for Downing Ventures

1—I changed the tweet copy for the Downing Ventures job board!

Note the distinct lack of emojis in the tweet above 🙃 What’s neat is this was a request from Downing’s marketing department, which is my absolute favourite way of prioritising features. There’s going to be some nuance to make Job Garden useful for organisations, and the way I figure that out is to work with them and listen.

2—I removed the feature I added only last week!

Last week I shipped the ability to make email alerts more useful by including location filters. So, for example, you could get just London jobs from my board and just Berlin jobs from Downing Ventures’ board, and receive both in a single digest email each week.

Too complex.

So why did I ship it? I’m trying to answer the question of how to bring the most relevant jobs directly to my users. I didn’t have a clear idea for how to make these emails better, so I added flexibility instead.

But then what happened was I had lunch with a friend, Jeff Veen, and talked through the product and design ambitions for Job Garden, and where I’m struggling the close the loops. (My mental model of a service like this is a collection of self-reinforcing loops of user activity and data.) The conversation led me to clarity about what I ultimately want to achieve with the email alerts, and Jeff helped me break that new, larger challenge into smaller and more measurable steps.

Having done that, I could see that the location-filtered alerts feature made use of the right technology, but had entirely the wrong user interface.

Now it’s gone. One week for a feature to be shipped and then removed. I think that must be a record.

Lesson: talking out loud with smart people is useful. (And enjoyable—thanks Jeff.)

Font comparison

3—A new font!

I’m taking a slow and iterative approach to visual design. It’s pretty generic right now but easy to code like Lego bricks. There’s no need to rush it, and I like the ability to play with the information hierarchy as new features emerge without having to tackle a front-end redesign simultaneously.

But I have noticed that when the basics look smarter, the bits that don’t make sense stand out more clearly. So: time to choose a font.

I’ve changed from Helvetica to IBM Plex Sans. In the comparison GIF above, Plex (the new font) is the one with the crossbar on the J (top left).

Yes, it’s IBM’s corporate font. But I like it because it’s pretty generic (necessary if I’m hosting lots of people’s own job boards), good for lists (I tried a bunch of fonts; you need a certain density for the job listings to be easy to both scan and read), and friendly without being un-serious.

It occurs to me that all three of these small activities are, in their own way, ways of finding clarity on the road ahead:

  • Encourage requests from customers
  • Talk out loud through the bigger goals
  • Tidy up the basics

Okay, so more happened than I thought over the last week.