The Dovetail Blog

UX London

I had the pleasure of being sent to UX london last week. I did not know what to expect from the conference, but though I would see some great talks and meet some other user experience designers.

Here are some of the stand out talks from my time at UX london. Overall I found the experience to be incredibly inspirational, where I listened to some amazing speakers and got to meet a lot of like minded User experience designers from all over the globe. To say I was “buzzing” after the 3 days would be an understatement, and it wasn’t just the high quantity of excellent coffee :)

Tom Hulme - Design disrupted

Tom threw a curveball for the first session of UX London and talked about something he happened upon over the weeks previous. The topic took the direction of desire paths, and he applied the concept of urban/spatial planning to deliver a very informative talk. Desire paths can be described as paths or uses of a “system/service” that were not specifically what the designer/engineer had in mind. The most obvious case is in open spaces when people will walk the shortest distance rather than the intended designed pathway.

desire paths

Desire paths can be applied to software development where users use your system in a different way than what you would have intended. The measurement and capture of these “desire paths” is important when evolving a system, as the user can guide the product roadmap in the way they use the product. Suddenly capturing/recording usage patterns that were not immediately obvious to the goals of the software can uncover great insight into the potential for a product/system.

Even the simple task of adding a search box to an application can unearth details about the expectations and wants of the end user.

Lean UX and Design - Jeff Gothelf

Jeff spoke about lean design techniques, and some great standout points about lean product development. For example user testing an iPad app with just a PDF. Making assumptions about user behaviour. Sometimes going with your gut and testing those gut decisions early, followed by quick iterations. Easily pivot ideas because the lessons are learned early and before any large investment.

Building a consistent user experience across government digital services - Ben Terrett

Some of the talks were used as showcases for excellent projects completed or underway. This was an extremely inspiring talk about changing the entire government online platform in a very lean and a very clean way. The GDS team grew inside the government and is slowly taking ownership of all digital services supplied by the UK government as GOV.UK.

Some examples of the type of information they removed from the government sites and how they refined the experience to suit the user needs rather than the government goals. The results are an extremely easy to use site, which delivers a very large amount of content.

“A consistent but not uniform design”.


What happens when the agency doesn’t go home? - Tim Malbon

Tim is an extremely entertaining speaker and his talk was extremely engaging. He discussed a skype in the classroom project which made-by-many worked on. This project was, again, a very lean oriented project, where they spoke to teachers early on in the process, involved them in the process and iterated through ideas quickly.

Jobs to be done

Why does an end-user visit a web application or website? They want to get something done. Regardless of the stakeholders agenda, it is important to ensure the end-users agenda is catered for.

The majority of applications will have shared goals between the stakeholder and the user (e.g where a sign up is a success criteria). It's important to hold on to that goal and not let other (marketing/data collection) factors slow down the process for the user.

Over the years there have been 2 core preachers on this topic in my mind. Gerry McGovern and the good folks at 37signals.

Des Traynor recently interviewed Ryan Singer of 37signals on the importance of ensuring the end-user gets the job done when developing an application.

[...] there’s this idea that people are always trying to make some sort of progress. And, the only reason that people bother to buy your tool, or use your software, is because they are in a specific situation and they’re trying to make some progress—get from here to there—and they’re struggling to do that.

This rings true when developing a new website or application for a client. We constantly have to remind ourselves that our end-users are here to get something done and be gone. They don't hang around enjoying the moment and soaking up the atmosphere. This isn't a music festival, it's a web application.

Now for the hard part. At Dovetail, we work for clients and the buck stops with them. It is important for us to communicate our decisions to them; we are hired by them as the experts in software development. Can we convince our clients to feel the same as we do about certain design decisions? 

Sell your UX Solutions to your Clients. Smashing Magazine have an interesting piece on different types of clients, and different ways to build trust:

We have to understand who our clients are, what is important to them and what their goals are. And then we have to deliver work that not only meets the needs of end users, but also satisfies the personalities within the company itself.

By bringing a client through our thought process and the evolution of an idea, we can ensure they are on our side when decisions become more difficult. Client trust is vital, and it must be earned.

Dublin Hackathon


On February 24, policy experts, data owners and technical specialists gathered in the historic Wood Quay Venue for International Open Data Day.

The event kicked off with an open discussion amongst all present.  Projects were suggested and bounced around, before small teams were assembled and work began.

The event yielded several interesting systems, including:

- an Open Data Finder for the public to make and track data requests, by Peter McCanney's team

- the first spike of a Healthcare Dashboard, focusing on hospital waiting time, by Sara Burke, Garrett Heaver, John O'Brien and Conor Byrne

- a map of Ireland's political constituencies and voting histories, visualising the influence of each constituency's influence on election outcomes - akin to the US concept of "swing states" - by Robin Cafolla's team. (Check it out here.)

There were many other projects too and you can see them at the next Open Data Meetup on March 7.

Out with the old

I just found a few old machines lurking in the office and sent them off for recycling.

I felt a little nostalgic thinking of all the man-hours that have been poured into those machines: how they felt so quick when they were new; the various roles each had, and the brilliant staff, past and present, who used them.

And then, for security reasons, I drilled through the hard drives with a tungsten-carbide bit.

I think that was the nerd equivalent of taking a lame old dog around the back of the barn with a shotgun. I'm a little shaky, but confident I did the Right Thing...


IKEA take delivery of second system

We're closing off 2012 with another success: this week we delivered a new system for IKEA in the UK, the second we have built for IKEA this year.

The application is being used by the marketing team to capture customer information as they pilot a new service specifically for businesses customers.

It is a responsive, cloud-based app running on Microsoft Azure, so it can be scaled up quickly as demand increases.

This project was delivered in collaboration with our partners MJ Flood.

ikea business

Dovetail founders in the Irish Times

Dovetail appeared in a feature article in the Irish Times on Monday.  The article covered our ongoing mentorship programme with the MBA Association of Ireland.  It was a nice little write-up, and a fair description of where we are.

Irish Times Article

Many people have asked about the "chance meeting on Lugnaquilla".  It's a great story that's worth a pint on its own.  Unfortunately the Irish Times didn't state that it was with Ivan O'Connor of MJFlood and IceTech.  IceTech are national leaders in provision of touchscreen technology, and we love working with them.

You can see the full article here.

Join us for our 10th Birthday after-work pints

We're proud to announce that this month Dovetail is 10 years old!

It's been a fantastic decade and one that we've really enjoyed.  We're very grateful to everyone who has helped us along the way, whether you are a customer, supplier, friend, family or colleague.

So we invite you to join us in McGrattan's Pub on Baggot Street for a pint and a laugh.

We'll be there (in the back room) from 5pm on Friday the 26th October.  There will be finger food so if you can even pop in for a quick hello please do.  We will of course be there till late.  Probably quite late indeed! :)

Mcgrattans Pub

  • McGrattan's on Baggot Street (
  • Friday 26th October 2012
  • 5pm onwards (Blowing out the candles at 6:30)