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This month, Isabel Silvis has hand-picked eight handy articles on usefulness. In the outcomes we create, the skills we develop, and the things we build for others, each of us has an opportunity to make things a little more useful.
This month’s toolkit has a read for every need and purpose—with pieces on learning how to code, re-designing receipts, and finding ways to design for the elderly.
Whatever the challenge, we hope you find this selection has something to help you on your way. Welcome to Super8 in May! The purpose of life is not happiness: it’s usefulness.
1. The purpose of life is not happiness: it’s usefulness.
By Darius Foroux
Found by Isabel Silvis
This month, we’re kicking off with an oldie but a goodie, a piece that asks: what are we doing to fulfill our purpose? We work, go shopping, go on holiday, eat dinner, and spend time online. But do these things help us become happier? Darius Foroux believes that happiness is a by-product of usefulness. When we develop digital products, do we want to build something that makes people happy, or do we want to make something useful? This read explores how being useful, and creating things others can use, is key in making everyone’s life a little happier.
2. 'Desk-less' organisations are finding creative ways to adapt Slack for their needs.
By Michelle Cheng
Found by Rowan Barnes
If you work in an office, chances are you probably use Slack to communicate day-to-day. But if you thought the messaging tool is only for the digital domain, think again. Lately, Slack is being adopted in industries like retail, hospitality, and agriculture. Since Slack isn't built for these industries, these use cases are known as ‘Slack hacks’. From dairy farmers and wildlife biologists to luxury restaurateurs, learn how businesses are finding Slack useful for facilitating transparency and communicating on the go.
3. I wrote the book on user-friendly design. What I see today horrifies me.
By Don Norman
Found by John Broadfoot
What do Don Norman, Jakob Nielsen, Bruce Tognazzini, Steve Krug, and Jared Spool have in common? They’re all pioneers in user research and usability. Aside from being some of the biggest names in UX, they're also all born between 1935 and 1960. Throughout their youth, they all contributed to the usability space right before the web was invented—a key time for the widespread consideration of users and their needs. 30 years later, they’re all in their late 50s to 80s, and author Don Norman is not impressed. As a leader in this space, and now part of an often-overlooked demographic, he explores the lack of usability in everyday things for the elderly.
4. A deep dive into native lazy-loading for images and frames.
By Erk Struwe
Found by Kurt Smith
5. Every life principle is worthless if you don’t master this one.
By Michael Thompson
Found by Sarah El-Atm
The premise of this piece is simple—stop letting the actions of others dictate your day. This read from Michael Thompson opens with a scenario: traffic is backed up during peak hour, and a man steps out of his car, leaving a line of cars behind him for eight long minutes. Not for an emergency or to help someone else, but to grab a croissant from a café. As Michael explains, Croissant Man exists in some form for everyone, every single day. The challenge is choosing how you respond to unnecessary frustrations when you can choose to find purpose, utility, and opportunity instead.
6. The humble receipt gets a brilliant redesign.
By Mark Wilson
Found by Melanie Bruning
You’ve probably rifled through your purse or pocket, found one of the fifteen receipts you’ve reluctantly taken from a cashier and thought: why do I have this in here? In this piece, Mark Wilson covers how Netflix data engineer Susie Lue reframed the scenario to be: how can this be more useful? Here’s how she was able to design a receipt that shared valuable insights. By adding a few additional elements, Susie was able to categorise items by type, and create a bar chart that compared item cost against other purchases in the same transaction—making something often thrown away, more purposeful.
7. Reflections on my first 1,000 hours learning to code.
By Peter Higgins
Found by Jon Trumbull
When Peter Higgins decided to transform his career, he meticulously documented his progress—a little extra work that goes a long way. Instead of spending 1000 hours just developing his skills, he also captured his process to share with others. He summarises his ideas into five learnings, number five being: document your progress. He found that by keeping an honest record of every quality hour that was invested in training, and by watching that number grow over time, he was better able to realign his focus when morale was low. If you’re someone that’s looking to improve in a new area, try taking Peter’s advice and measure your journey getting there.
8. How to use writing to amplify your leadership impact.
By Julia Clavien
Found by Aziza Mohamed
While most companies place (well-earned) emphasis on collaboration and face-to-face conversations, we often underestimate the impact of writing. This article explains why writing can create greater outcomes, how to get started, and what to write. Writing allows for precision and accountability. When you take the time to write something, it gives you time to think it through and organise your thoughts before they are shared—improving critical thinking and allowing you to take ownership of your expression. For more reasons to get pen to paper, get stuck into this guide for practical tips and resources on spelling, grammar, clutter, subject, structure, design, and feedback.
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