Making UX Work with Joe Natoli

Episode 09, Peter Kaizer :: Designing with the head, the heart and the hands

October 16, 2018 Joe Natoli / Peter Kaizer Season 1 Episode 9
Making UX Work with Joe Natoli
Episode 09, Peter Kaizer :: Designing with the head, the heart and the hands
Show Notes Transcript

My guest today is Peter Kaizer, a UX designer and developer with over 20 years of professional experience. What’s particularly interesting is that Peter started his career making things with his hands, namely what he calls "functional pottery."

That's an altogether different kind of user experience — but as you'll hear, this approach and experience absolutely informs the digital products that he creates. The result is an emphasis on things that are both highly functional and beautifully designed.

Peter describes himself as creative, collaborative, curious, opinionated and optimistic. He is all that and more, my friends; you're going to enjoy this one.

Twitter:

@pdkaizer

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Website:

peterkaizer.com

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Joe Natoli:

Hello and welcome to Making UX Work, the Give Good UX podcast. I'm your host Joe Natoli, and our focus here is on folks like you doing real, often unglamorous UX work in the real world. You'll hear about their struggles, their successes and their journey to and through the trenches of product design, development and, of course, user experience. My guest today is Peter Kaizer, a user experience designer and developer with over 20 years of professional experience. What's particularly interesting here is that Peter started his career making things with his hands — which is an altogether different kind of user experience — but absolutely informs the digital products that he creates. The result is an emphasis on things that are highly functional and beautifully designed. Peter describes himself as creative, collaborative, curious, opinionated and optimistic. And as I think you'll hear in this conversation, he is all that and more. Here's my conversation with Peter Kaizer on Making UX Work. So Peter how are you?

Peter Kaizer:

I'm good. I'm good. Thanks for having me on. Really appreciate it.

Joe Natoli:

Thanks for joining. It's been quite awhile since you and I talked in person.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, I'm trying to remember when it was... I think I was still at the large nonprofit, Catholic Relief Services, where I was the digital director for many many years for nearly 15 years.

Joe Natoli:

Which is a long time. I think we were talking about actually doing a podcast, weren't we?

Peter Kaizer:

I think we were going to. I do, actually. So here we are.

Joe Natoli:

Isn't that crazy?

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, well podcasts are having a moment right now. I mean they have been for a while.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah I think so. I think so. Well let me ask you: Why do you think that is?

Peter Kaizer:

You know, a little bit of it is it's part of the democratization of technology. I mean if you think about it when — I'm probably a little bit older than you are — but when we were young, we'd listen to, you know, somebody on the radio broadcast or you know, a woman or a man and think "oh that's cool." But but we had no access to being able to do something like that. And now you can make an A movie on an iPhone.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah we've come a long way.

Peter Kaizer:

I think that that's part of it. I also think that increasingly people just want more control over their information. I mean that, and that's a double edged sword. I think a little bit because there are forces out there at play and I don't want to sort of get into the sorry state of our of our society, we'll be here forever. But you can you know...all you've got to do is just look out the window.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, I think and I agree with you I always wonder if part of this isn't people just sort of trying to take back the truth in a way. The state of sort of "broadcast" where, you know, the few get to dictate to the many, I mean that that started to end...you know, with the Internet. But yeah I have to wonder if a lot of this isn't just people saying "you know what, I'm tired of this and I want something else. I want something that with more depth with more humanity with more truth," you know? So they're doing it.

Peter Kaizer:

Absolutely. I also think, look, I come from the world of the maker. So I started my creative career as you know, as a kid when I was 12 years old making stuff with my hands. And so I'm a child of the 60s. I was born in 1957, so I grew up through the 60s and you know as a as a young kid in the late 60s I started making stuff actually out of leather with my hands and then I started making handmade pottery and I did that professionally for a long time. So I came through that sort of studio Crafts movement.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah I saw that in your in your profile.

Peter Kaizer:

The "do it yourself" kind of thing and I think now, with technology, we're in this new 21st century age of do it yourself.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah. Yep.

Peter Kaizer:

And so I think podcasts are really a part of that in a way, the access to the technology. I mean even 10 years ago, it would be hard to do what we're doing right now.

Joe Natoli:

No question, no question. It was sort of a privileged position, you know, to be able to put stuff like this out into the world.

Peter Kaizer:

Absolutely. Indeed.

Joe Natoli:

So let me ask you a question. I mean I saw on your profile, you know, the studio craftsman bit with handcrafted pottery and things like that. I mean that was, from the looks of it, was like 18 years of your life. So, and as you said you started working with your hands at a very early age. So one of the things I've been eternally curious about, OK, in terms of — especially as digital design has replaced print design, where there's no tangible thing you hold in your hands when this is done, aside from tapping it on the screen maybe.

Peter Kaizer:

Right.

Joe Natoli:

Do you feel like the absence of that — the absence of tactile senses — contributes to this sense of... man, I don't want to get huge here but but it always, it's always on my mind... That, I don't know this sense of ... hollowness, emptiness, I don't know what to call it.

Peter Kaizer:

Well I'm going to answer the question, I think, from sort of the other side. Which is I have always felt that I am very good at what I do because I spent so much of my life basically defining user experience by creating actual physical objects that people used every day.

Joe Natoli:

Agreed.

Peter Kaizer:

So I made pottery and before that, you know, handcrafted leather goods that were functional, that people use. So wallets, belts, handbags and then in pottery, very functional pottery that was always really intended to be used in the preparation and serving and enjoyment of meals, of good food and drink. So when you make, I don't know, a thousand coffee mugs a year that somebody is going to drink their morning coffee out of, you pay attention to details. Like what does the lip feel like on a person's lip as they're drinking their morning coffee, or what does a cereal bowl feel like in their hand as they're, as they're you know, eating their morning cereal. Or what does that pitcher feel like when you pour orange juice out of it. Is it weighted correctly, is balanced right. So you learn about, really, about the usability of things and of course you know, look, one of the Bibles for all of us designers is Don Norman's the Design of Everyday Things.

Joe Natoli:

Absolutely.

Peter Kaizer:

That has that famous picture, I always laugh at this picture on the cover of the weird Victorian teapot, the spout. You know, it was like How can you pour something out of that?

Joe Natoli:

Exactly.

Peter Kaizer:

So I guess, to answer your question, yes, I think if you haven't spent time making products or objects that people actually use with their hands, I think, in a way, maybe you miss out on fully understanding what user experience can be.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah and I agree with that. I think there's a dimension missing. You know it doesn't. I don't know that necessarily makes people, um... it's not a detriment to their skill set. But I do think, like you're saying, there's a dimension of understanding that's sort of not there. From a user's perspective, though, I mean one of the things that I guess I'm trying to get at is when you use a digital product — to me, all right, and maybe this is because of my age as well — there is something missing, there is an... there is an element of use of engagement of feedback, I don't know what it is that is missing. As opposed to when you use a physical product, you know, in your head, whether that's a tool or a book or you know driving your car... It's like this thing about self driving cars.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. Yeah

Joe Natoli:

Right? Part of the reason I hate it, I hate the idea of it — I think if I'm I'm being honest — is that I don't want to let go of the experience of DRIVING the car.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. Yeah. No I think you're right. I think you see it even in, you know, the digitization of audio in music. So you know, the audiophiles that I knew as a kid, you know, they wanted to hear the sort of the warmth of the sound, that a needle on on vinyl has. I mean, I knew audiophiles that were like, they were even crazy about the shape of the wire that was connecting their speaker, how that flat wax ribbon copper wire would transmit sound, you know. So there is there's a lot of sort of tactile aspects to producing digital products.

Joe Natoli:

You know, Neil Young has been trying forever to come up with this different sort of compression scheme for audio. For that reason I tend to agree with what he says, that there's an entire spectrum of sound that is missing from digital music. For instance, I refuse to use wireless headphones.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

Because I've listened to them and they do sound good, don't get me wrong. But to me, there's a big chunk of stuff on the spectrum that is that is missing for me

Peter Kaizer:

Right. It's almost like we've made it so clean that it's lost, you know, sort of we cleaned even some of the life out of it.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, yeah, yeah! The humanity, the humanity sort of comes out of it.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah yeah. Yep.

Joe Natoli:

I ran a small record label for a couple of years, it was like I don't know three or four years. And one of my partners had a studio, so we used to record bands as well. So I've produced a handful of bands and one of the things that I sort of insisted on — and we tried it both ways, OK — but one of the things I started to insist on is that the band has to play live together. I don't know what that is. I don't have a name for it. All I know is that when you run separate tracks and everybody tracks themselves by themselves...

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah

Joe Natoli:

Something DIES. Something goes away and the music is perfect and it's to a click track and it's pristine and all the stuff. But there's something something that punches you in the chest that's missing. It's not there anymore.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. No, I mean, I think I think the other thing with — back to your question about what's missing with digital products — so and you know we've been through, in terms of sort of design approaches or designed paradigms, we you know we've been through the skeumorphic age of software design where that note-taking software looks like a, you know, lined ledger paper and that, you know, that audio interface has dials and stuff on it. It looks like dials even though there are digital controls. And so you know there there is something kind of virtual about digital products, that you can't actually touch them with your hands. And I'll be curious like to fast forward, in. I think probably 10, 15, 20 years, because I think the physical screen is ultimately going to go away from a digital product perspective. I think we're going to wind up with, you know, interfaces that are maybe not, probably not true Virtual Reality interfaces, but mixed reality or augmented reality interfaces. You're going to access the news feeds that you want to read kind of virtually, through a pair of light field projection glasses that are basically going to beam that data directly into your retinas. I think that's ultimately where we're going.

Joe Natoli:

Do you think some of the sensory experience will come back in a sort of virtual reality situation like that?

Peter Kaizer:

Well I think it, I think it can. I mean, that's sort of the promise of virtual reality is that it can be more immersive. Now, you know are we going to get to a "Ready Player One" state? Oh I hope not, because that was a sorry, sorry commentary on society. Fun to read, but... And I thought the book was way better than the movie.

Joe Natoli:

I didn't read the book.

Peter Kaizer:

The book is, the book is really good. I read the book first, actually. And I am glad I did, actually.

Joe Natoli:

What was the core difference, out of curiosity?

Peter Kaizer:

Well so, the way that the group of five, you know, meet, they don't meet in person nearly as soon in the book as they do in the movie. In fact, they don't really meet in person till the very end of the book. But you know Spielberg had to. And the author of the book — I'm blanking on his name right now — but had you know he was he wrote the screenplay. So it was it was a slightly it was a pretty radically different story. And I mean the premise was the same and everything but. But anyway I you know I hope we're not there, we don't get, you know, the future is that people who are sort of so walled off basically, walking down the street, living in their own world. I hope that whatever sort of augmented reality evolves that it it allows sort of a a mutually beneficial coexistence between the real world at hand and the virtual world.

Joe Natoli:

Well, I agree with that. I mean I think that's one of the... That's one of the sort of negative sides of the way we use technology right now, that there is a great degree of isolation. We get a world full of people staring down into their phones.

Peter Kaizer:

Yes.

Joe Natoli:

Twenty out of 24 hours a day. Yeah you know, and I understand; I've been plenty guilty of it myself. And you have to really force yourself, sort of, not to do it, because it's always there.

Peter Kaizer:

I agree. I had so I was on a podcast earlier this year. A friend of mine does a podcast with his brother, about... It's called "the stories our robots tell us."

Joe Natoli:

Great title.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah it's a great it's a great title. I'll email you a link to the podcast. And I so I started listening to it and it's really about sort of how we inform our technology and how our technology informs us. And it's a fun conversation these guys go through. So I I listened to a couple of episodes and I emailed this friend of mine and I said, you know, "hey, great! I've been enjoying it. Here's a question for an episode: Can robots make art?" And he said, "Oh, great idea. You have a unique perspective on that given your background. Would you like to be a guest on it?"

Joe Natoli:

Sounds awesome.

Peter Kaizer:

So I'll send you a link to that for that episode because, it was it was curious... and this gets back to that sort of what's missing in digital products that you are talking about. To me art — and let's set aside the sort of, the whole you know, raging debate that has gone on in the, you know, "is it art or is it craft."

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, we won't go there.

Peter Kaizer:

I don't want to go there because or somebody you know permutations of that. But. To me, art is something that elicits an emotion from somebody. Whether it's, you know, something that's hanging on the wall, whether it's something you listen to, whether it's something you read, whether it's something you watch on a screen, whether it's an object that you that you use. So it should elicit some sort of emotional response, which makes me think well, the maker of that object should be able to experience emotion. And I'm not sure robots can yet.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, right, right. We're not there yet. We're certainly not there yet. And I think that's part of the problem. Because you just you just hit on something that, to me, is really important that the maker needs to be able to experience emotion. I think that is one of my big hang ups. You just gave it a name or a definition. I'm constantly reading about, you know, these these automatic frameworks OK? They create web layouts, they create interfaces and they create, you know, responsive grids and all this other stuff. It's all tools and frameworks, tools and frameworks, tools and frameworks. And I feel like, look — you're you're cutting out a massive part of... of the empathetic part of design that creates positive user experience. You can't NOT have human intervention because of what you just said.

Peter Kaizer:

Yep.

Joe Natoli:

A machine does not experience emotion.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

I mean, it doesn't. Maybe it will in the future, who knows. But this, to me, I am really against, I suppose, this increasing reliance — and this sort of superhero fetish — about technology doing its own work. I just... I think it runs counter to everything that we do.

Peter Kaizer:

I completely agree with you. I mean, look, I started writing HTML in the late 90s and I've never used, you know, a WYSIWYG editor. And you know, I'm I'm I'm a coder — I'm also a designer and I'm a coder — I'm one of those people that can do a lot of things because I've had to and I've been doing it a long time. And I love, I mean frameworks have a purpose, tools and and front and tooling has a purpose. I kind of bundle a lot of that stuff. And there is, you're absolutely right, there is an oversized obsession with that stuff right now. I bundle that stuff into sort of, you know, Design Ops. There needs to be good, well-thought-out design operations, just the same way there needs to be good well thought out Dev Ops — developer operations — for a product team that's producing a product. You have to have it, but there's something very important that has to come before that and that is thinking about, you know, it's a human being that's going to use this product. And one of my big sort of bugaboos — you know, things that just drive me crazy — is so we have these great publishing platforms, WordPress, Drupal, you name it, you know content management flavor of choice. Nobody pays attention to what the user experience of the poor soul whose job it is is to keep that Web site up to date with current content.

Joe Natoli:

Thank you. THANK YOU!

Peter Kaizer:

Nobody pays attention to that! Nobody pays attention to it. It's insane.

Joe Natoli:

If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, "oh, it's just an admin."

Peter Kaizer:

Yes, it's such —

Joe Natoli:

I would be a rich man.

Peter Kaizer:

That's craziness.

Joe Natoli:

A human being has to USE that part!

Peter Kaizer:

Right!

Joe Natoli:

No one cares! You just said it. No one gives a shit about how hard it is to use the tool!

Peter Kaizer:

Nobody cares. Yup. And it's, you know look, I've done enough, you know, custom Drupal development, custom WordPress development. It's super easy; it's just laziness.

Joe Natoli:

Exactly.

Peter Kaizer:

It's not considered sexy. You know, "Oh, there's no return on investment on internal administrative user experience." That's such B.S.

Joe Natoli:

I agree. Couldn't agree more.

Peter Kaizer:

I mean, we build, you know, the firm I work for builds some great products, really big products and of course, the federal government right now loves Drupal — which I think is a pain in the ass. I mean I think it is.

Joe Natoli:

It is.

Peter Kaizer:

It's very powerful... And 90 percent of the federal government websites that are done with Drupal could be done with Wordpress for half, half the amount of money.

Joe Natoli:

Oh right, but that scares them.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah

Joe Natoli:

That SCARES them.

Peter Kaizer:

Although interestingly enough, you know who uses WordPress a lot in the federal government? The State Department.

Joe Natoli:

Are you kidding?

Peter Kaizer:

No. I worked on a project for them there. Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

That's funny. The world is an interesting place...

Peter Kaizer:

So yeah, anyway, nobody... You know, people don't pay attention to it. I don't know why... It's like even when you know sort of the usability, they're all stuck on, you know, what's the end user being presented with? That's you know nobody is saying that that shouldn't, that the user experience shouldn't be great.

Joe Natoli:

Right.

Peter Kaizer:

But if you're... If the problem you're trying to solve — and this gets sort of, this is me with my developer hat on — I was like, "what's the problem you're trying to solve?" "Oh, we're trying to build a publishing platform where we can easily publish and disseminate information about our,, you know our government agency to the citizenry of the United States."

Joe Natoli:

Right.

Peter Kaizer:

Well why wouldn't you want an administrative interface that made it easy for your federal employees to publish that information right now?

Joe Natoli:

Exactly right, and that's the right question... That's always the right question. Yeah I have never once — well I shouldn't say never once because in younger... when I was younger man in my early career I certainly did a lot of sort of subservient projects where it's like "you want this? Okay great. That's what we're going to do."

Peter Kaizer:

Right.

Joe Natoli:

But the majority of my career is companies coming to me and saying we want to do this and we have this problem. And my sort of first order of business is, "OK well, what's really going on here?" And a lot of times you find out, with internal systems in particular — and I spend a lot of time, right, with with enterprise organizations and government work — what you find out is that the real issue isn't so much end user experience. The real issue, the things that are... that are really sticking in their throats is the fact that they're bleeding time and money.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

All over the place.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

And nine times out of ten, it's always because — as you just said — the attention paid to the internal administrative parts of whatever they use to to do their jobs and deliver their services is sorely lacking. And so I say, "well you have to fix this problem first because this other stuff is symptomatic of this problem,"

Peter Kaizer:

Right.

Joe Natoli:

You can't execute because your tool is garbage.

Peter Kaizer:

Right.

Joe Natoli:

You know, I mean you have to fix that first. And plenty of organizations that I've worked with have seen massive gains from doing very small things internally.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, yeah.

Joe Natoli:

So it sounds like you and I have had some similar experiences.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah yeah. No I agree. I mean you know and there's still a vast number of federal government — public facing federal government websites — that are powered with really antiquated legacy content management systems. You know, things like Percussion, TeamSite, you know, these huge job platforms that cost millions of dollars and just don't work very well.

Joe Natoli:

Yep.

Peter Kaizer:

And I also think there's, particularly in the government space, there's too many cooks in the kitchen in terms of the procurement process. The decision making process. And you know, it is what it is; I'm not sure it'll ever get streamlined.

Joe Natoli:

Probably not.

Peter Kaizer:

I think I think the British government has done a much better job with their public- facing government sites.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, they've taken quantum leaps forward, from what I can see. I mean if you just look at —

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, gov dot uk it is great.

Joe Natoli:

It's impressive as hell.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, it really is. And you know and I will say that after the debacle of healthcare.gov in 2013, when they first tried to launch it — and I actually worked on that site on the team that worked for a year. I worked on that site after it was fixed. Yeah, I was working for a smaller government contractor at the time that was part of the team that fixed it basically... And I didn't come on to that project until, I guess it was early 2016 and I worked on it for a little over a year. And it was fascinating. It was really really interesting. You know, in terms of the tech stack, I mean —

Joe Natoli:

I'm sure.

Peter Kaizer:

Healthcare.gov doesn't actually have a content management system.

Joe Natoli:

No kidding.

Peter Kaizer:

No.

Joe Natoli:

What does it run on? What is it?

Peter Kaizer:

It's, uh, it's — well you've heard of, you know what a static site generator is.

Joe Natoli:

Oh yeah.

Peter Kaizer:

And so you've heard of Jekyll?

Joe Natoli:

Yeah.

Peter Kaizer:

It's Jekyll. It's the world's biggest Jekyll site.

Joe Natoli:

Wow, that's incredible.

Peter Kaizer:

And all the content is managed in GitHub repos.

Joe Natoli:

WOW.

Peter Kaizer:

And then pushed out to Akamai.

Joe Natoli:

Wow.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. It's, I mean it's lightning fast, because it's not a lot of overhead. And then there's a bunch of javascript framework applications that are built into it. So there's some Angular. There's a couple of Angular applications, there's some React applications and you know...

Joe Natoli:

You still, though... I mean, that to me says that there are a lot of incredible people doing a lot of work.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. Oh yeah.

Joe Natoli:

Every single minute of every single hour of every single day.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah yeah yeah yeah. No for sure.

Joe Natoli:

Pretty incredible.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. So I mean there's, you know you've got that and I think... So after after that debacle in 2013, the Obama administration formed the U.S. Digital Service. You know, trying to take a page from what the Brits did. And that still exists and it's actually falls within the Executive branch of the Federal government. And you know. There's some great people there. You have internal sort of agencies like 18F which is, you know, sort of an internal digital agency that lives within GSA and they do great work and things like the U.S. web design standards. Which is a framework of front end components and stuff, a library. That's a step in the right direction. I actually, before I started working on the project I'm currently working on, I was the lead designer, lead designing Medicaid.gov based on the US web design standards. So we took their sort of, their branding. And we moved that over into a front end design that was based on the US web design standards.

Joe Natoli:

So it sounds like — and this is very heartening to hear, by the way — but it sounds like those entities have survived, so far, this current administration.

Peter Kaizer:

Yes. Yeah, you know, the fact — I mean again without sort of getting sort of you know rolling in the mud of our current political morass...

Joe Natoli:

I'm trying not to, but that was one of my biggest concerns, OK? I felt like a lot of strides were made.

Peter Kaizer:

And those strides those are still in place, because the segment of the Federal workforce that actually makes those decisions are not political appointees. I mean, they're so far down the food chain that I don't think it really affects them. I mean, you know, this current administration saying it's going to slash funding and and slash federal jobs. Well, all that means is companies like the one I work for which is one of the, you know, I now work for a huge contractor. There's just more...the work's got to get done. But there still is a mindset I think within know federal digital platforms. That modernization train is still running. So that's good.

Joe Natoli:

That's good.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. No, I think it is.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, you know, you just want to see that you want to see that continue. So that really is, I've got to tell you, that's a first good news I've had quite a while...

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

...where the federal government is concerned so that's that's really, really awesome to hear.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, I mean and you have places like, currently I'm working down at the U.S. Postal Service on redesigning some of the applications that live within USPS.com.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah. Seems like there's a lot of progress there.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah you know there is, although I mean some of the development practices still need modernizing in terms of the DevOps of it and stuff like that. But yeah there is definitely there's definitely a push to modernize and you're starting to see things like design systems come into play and true DevOps and cloud-based you know AWSs used extensively within Federal websites, because...it's Fed-ramped so they have their own sort of secure corner of of Amazon Web Services where Web sites can be hosted. So you're starting to see that, and you see, you have companies like Booz Allen — who I work for — like you know, like some of the smaller ones that actually came out of the rescue of healthcare.gov Of like Nava and Ad Hoc. You know, you have staffers at those smaller companies that used to work in Silicon Valley and they know how to do stuff the right way. I mean, I think the guy who is a current administrator of the U.S. Digital Service is Matt Cutts, who was a longtime Google guy. He was one of the early engineers at Google and the guy who, the original guy who was the administrator, Mikey... I can't remember his last name... Left. His position was a political appointment. And when the Obama administration went out, you know, his appointment was done. So they brought, Matt Cutts came in as an interim to fill that. And I think he's still there actually. So so there's good stuff. I mean there is good stuff going on.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, it sounds that way.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. It's something you have companies like mine and others you know that are really trying to push modern user experience and development and design practices. Now the the part of the problem, ultimately, with... It's really comes down to sort of the decision making process. There's just still within the Federal digital space, there are so many hoops...

Joe Natoli:

Oh yeah...

Peter Kaizer:

...that you have to jump through and so many, so many cooks and so many hands in that pot.

Joe Natoli:

Believe me, I do some government work every year, this year included, and that's exactly right. There are so many levels and so many layers and so many people...

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

And in every... what I've seen, Ok, is that at every every one of those levels, there are sort of two camps: there are people who are fighting like hell to make things better.

Peter Kaizer:

Yes.

Joe Natoli:

They care an awful lot about how this runs internally, they care an awful lot about how it affects the human beings on the receiving end... Even, you know, inside all these different branches and departments and agencies within the government. And then on the other side, you have people who sort of have their heads down and are tasked with doing a lot of other things, where some of the stuff is kind of in their way, right? So they see it as as disposable, they see it as "well, we'll deal with it later."

Peter Kaizer:

Right.

Joe Natoli:

I can't say that I've encountered anybody who is sort of, maliciously, you know, thinks it's a waste of time. I just feel like there's so many pressing concerns and all these people and they all have responsibility. Like you said, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, yeah.

Joe Natoli:

I think there are so many competing agendas and responsibilities. I think it's damn difficult.

Peter Kaizer:

Oh yeah, yeah! I think it's... I think it's very hard. And I think we, you know, we've come a long way in terms of the Federal space. I mean, my job is... Well for 15 years I worked for a faith based non-profit. It was actually, I worked for the Catholic Church. I was I was a professional Catholic. Working for the most hierarchical organization on the planet prepared me very well to basically be a contractor to the second most hierarchical organization, the US federal government.

Joe Natoli:

You're upgrading.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. It is fascinating. What's going on. And I think you know like the IRS. We were involved, the firm I worked for was involved, in really modernizing a lot of the IRS public-facing website stuff. They finally migrated from, I think it was Percussion to Drupal, and you know they they really did a true sort of user experience analysis. And it's way, way better than it was.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah the Web site is certainly better. And I say that as a small business owner myself, because there are other issues of course within the IRS in terms of...you know, It's where information goes to die.

Peter Kaizer:

Right.

Joe Natoli:

In a lot of cases, but that has nothing to do with the website. What I do see in the public facing part and having to research things and having to access things, is that it's gotten infinitely better. Leaps and bounds.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

Because otherwise, for instance, I had an ongoing problem for the last five years, OK, where we, we filed specific forms related to our business. Sent it certified mail five times with a letter. Okay? And a mountain of paper and said "I've sent this to you five times now. You keep telling me you don't have it. I know you have it. I don't know where it went after this person signed for it, but you have it." It took five years to get that taken care of. And the lynchpin in the last year that I went through this was really the increase in information on the website — because I was able to find very specific information to sort of circumvent some of these departments I was dealing with. And were it not for that, this would still be going on. I know it would be.

Peter Kaizer:

Well I'm glad to hear that. Yeah I think that's the good news. You know there are, there is a sort of let's modernize this, let's make it better. And so I mean. It's funny it's almost like you know you think about Federal websites and you just think "oh, bad design, bad UX," you know, nothing good about it. So you're starting, sort of... the expectations are pretty low. I actually think, you know, if you were to chart the progress it's a quantum leap, because everybody's expectations had been so low for so long. So that's good. And I think it's, you know, it's important. And there's a lot of stuff we still don't see that's, you know, internal systems and stuff like that as well which are very important. I mean the Postal Service is an interesting sort of user experience case study in so much as you know USPS.com is actually something like a billion dollar a year e-commerce site. I mean, you know it's very very widely used. Interestingly enough, my first fFederal project a little over four years ago was an internal Intranet IA project at postal. When I first got hired, it got hired and the user base... So this was the part of the U.S. postal service's Intranet, what they call Blue, you know, Postal Blue, which is powered by this very, very old legacy enterprise software platform which is a beast. But whatever. And it was to reorganize, you know, the content, just within the Human Resources section of that. So the user base was management-level Postal employees. The user base for this Intranet — not public-facing— was bigger than many public-facing websites. It was 250,000 management employees at the Postal Service.

Joe Natoli:

WOW. Huge.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. I mean the Postal Service has something like six or seven hundred thousand employees. That's just usps.com.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, right. Right right.

Peter Kaizer:

Just the US Postal service. It's crazy.

Joe Natoli:

Talk about a challenge.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah yeah. So you know the scale — and that's the thing I think a lot of people just don't know, the scale. I mean, I remember I was doing some work after that when I went to HHS for a while. I actually worked with Anne Dougherty, who you had on, we used to work together.

Joe Natoli:

Wow, that's really cool!

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. HHS, so the Secretary of HHS, I think oversees something like 70 or 80000 federal employees. That's just HHS.

Joe Natoli:

Massive.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. So the scale that's the... I mean the point is is that when you get to organizations that have that kind of scale, there's unique challenges that go way beyond what, you know, most product designers or developers are having to deal with.

Joe Natoli:

Absolutely. It's a whole different universe. I mean, on every level.,

Peter Kaizer:

Yup.

Joe Natoli:

On every level. You know the... Jeez, I mean, the technical development challenges alone — from front end to mid tier stuff to back end — are enough, in and of themselves... to totally absorb every second of your life.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. In any given project, you might have three or four different contractors working on something. You know, it's it's interesting and unique. But if somebody could go in — and I mean, this might take like the rest of time to do this — the process map what happens.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah. Because at any given time, you're only looking at a slice of it.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

You know, to get your head and your arms around this higher part, is just... When I when I've done, you know, whiteboard process work — which is always part of my engagements with government agencies in particular — it's an amazing exercise because the board is never big enough.

Peter Kaizer:

Yup. Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

You know, when you start down one path and you start trying to diagram all these offshoots, of people and process and paper and information and everything else, and it just goes off the rails, you know. 30 minutes in. You're like "WOW, OK... we need a couple of days, I think, to do this. And you're only talking about a small department, right.

Peter Kaizer:

Right. Yeah. It's interesting. There's other places that have similar challenges. I mean, I think, you know, I spent 15 years in a very large international humanitarian aid organization that was a global organization. CRS had similar challenges, being of the scale it was. The other place that I think is pretty, you know, has big challenges, is Higher Ed. I don't know if you've done work for Higher Ed.

Joe Natoli:

I have.

Peter Kaizer:

That's very unique there, because, so I've spent some time out at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. A day there visiting with their internal web team and they had a really good internal communications department. The reason I was out there was — this when I was still at Catholic Relief Services — our incoming CEO and President had been a Dean at the business school there. And so, you know, I just thought let me go out and talk to these guys. I knew about them. There were some developers and designers who I had followed on Twitter and stuff that I knew about. So I went there to talk to them. This will blow your mind: University of Notre Dame, by itself, has 350 standalone websites.

Joe Natoli:

Wow. 350.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

That's... And in a way, I'm going to tell you what. It's shocking number to hear out loud...

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

...but at the same time my son is going to University of Maryland here shortly. At the end of this year. And of course, we've been dealing with their web sites.

Peter Kaizer:

Yep, yep.

Joe Natoli:

It blows my mind, the level of disconnect. And the number of sites that we've had to use to do things that you would think... are logically connected... but they aren't.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. Yep yep. No, I did some, I've done some freelance work for the University of Maryland for the Performing Arts Department years ago. And yeah, no, it's the same thing. And so from a UX and sort of design perspective, they really need to have design systems. They were actually the first type of organization that I started seeing, you know, sort of the precursors of true design systems being put into place. And design systems are a huge interest of mine, and they're, you know, they're a hot thing right now. But you're starting, you know, you're starting to see that. Media organizations, the BBC actually published probably the very first early design system in the form of their global experience language, that they published back in... I think it was 2006. And so that, you know that stuff to me is... that's where frameworks are really important.

Joe Natoli:

I agree. Totally agree.

Peter Kaizer:

Because they're...they're not at that sort of level where they're generating the code base or anything like that, or even defining the use of the UI elements. They're the encapsulation of everything that's needed for your digital product or your digital product universe for your organization.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, but from an organizational standpoint, see this is one of those areas — Higher Ed in particular, one of those industries, if you will — where I think there are some significant organizational challenges that have to be overcome first in terms of how they procure and implement...technology. I see a lot of handicaps, I'll put it to you that way. In the things that they are sort of forced to use.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, yeah.

Joe Natoli:

Because the people making those decisions are removed from technology. Yes well you have that. I mean that same thing happens in the Federal government. Of course it does.

Peter Kaizer:

And it happens in nonprofits as well.

Joe Natoli:

So I guess my question that I'm getting to, for you particular.. What do you do about that? How do you change it? I mean, I agree with the power of frameworks and the fact that the solution is sort of obvious, right.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

How do they get there?

Peter Kaizer:

Well that's where I think really trying to hone in on asking the question, "what's the problem you're trying to solve?" Because a lot of times an organization — let's keep it sort of you know, type of organization-agnostic — might say, "I need more subscribers I need you know, blah blah blah, I need this." Well, maybe what you need is a good well thought out email marketing program. You don't necessarily need a whole new content management system.

Joe Natoli:

Right. Yeah, agreed.

Peter Kaizer:

Maybe you need a good welcome series, if you're a nonprofit, maybe you need a good welcome series of emails that, you know, sort of brings a an interested person along the journey from interested in the work the organization is doing, to maybe being an advocate for the organization and then maybe being a donor to the organization and then maybe being a legacy donor. I mean, this was a challenge we had at CRS was how do we manage that we had lots of different types of end users who were coming to our website and supporting our organization? And so colleges and universities are no different. What's the problem you're trying to solve?

Joe Natoli:

I agree with that. I think the unfortunate reality, and I've experienced this in organizations, is that the pain has to be clear.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

You know, the pain that they're experiencing as a result of those things has to be very clear and very felt, in order for somebody to say "OK, I know we've mandated using this product, this Higher Ed product in the past." I'm not going to name any names. "But it is now starting to cost us a great deal of time and money and it's increasing the level of support we have to give to students. Twentyfold. And OK, maybe now it's time to consider something else." In my experience, that process takes a long time before the folks with the purse strings start feeling that pain. Before they throw up their hands and say "OK, I know we've always done it this way with this product. Maybe it's time for something else."

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah and I mean, if you're if you're talking about products like learning management systems..

Joe Natoli:

I am.

Peter Kaizer:

Then you know, that's, that really gets complicated. Because you know there's basically one big player in that arena

Joe Natoli:

Yep, and it's terrible.

Peter Kaizer:

And it's not good.

Joe Natoli:

It's terrible. I mean, the level of of sloppiness in that product blows my mind. Absolutely blows my mind.

Peter Kaizer:

I actually had a friend and former colleague who worked with me about three years ago in the Federal space, who left and went to work for this company. And she said "Oh, you wouldn't believe the dysfunction here

Joe Natoli:

And you're like, "Oh, I bet I would!"

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah yeah yeah yeah. So I mean yeah. You know with that particular learning management platform — although there are some that are worse.

Joe Natoli:

Really?

Peter Kaizer:

Believe it or not. Yeah I taught at UB for a while.

Joe Natoli:

Same here.

Peter Kaizer:

And whatever they use is worse than the big player, or whatever they were using at the time. I refused. I put all my course work, I built WordPress sites for the courses I taught and put all my coursework there.

Joe Natoli:

Yep yep. I think I was using, um.... Oh my god I can't remember. Adobe's product for virtual...

Peter Kaizer:

Oh, yeah yeah yeah yeah!

Joe Natoli:

Virtual classrooms. That was great. And I did the same thing you did. I was posting stuff in a private area of my own WordPress site.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, yeah.

Joe Natoli:

And I wasn't using the sanctioned products.

Peter Kaizer:

Right. What was it, Adobe Connect I think it was?

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, that's what it was.

Peter Kaizer:

I mean. I mean look, Adobe has got its own problems.

Joe Natoli:

Of course. Well, they're a big fish.

Peter Kaizer:

They're a big fish. They own the market, although they're getting a run for their money right now in terms of design software and design tools, from Sketch.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah and what they're, what they're experiencing is the same thing — and you probably remember this having done this work for a while — they're experiencing the same thing that Quark experienced.

Peter Kaizer:

Oh yeah.

Joe Natoli:

When InDesign first came out, OK, when Adobe InDesign came out, Quark essentially said, "nope, you're going to pay us eight hundred dollars for the software and to upgrade in any way shape or form, it's another eight hundred dollars. And we kind of don't care, right, about these features that users have been screaming about for a solid 10 years." I remember Quark reps coming to talk to us where I worked.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

And their response was basically, "Well, yeah, you can have that maybe, if you pay THIS." And so InDesign came along and said Hey, 99 bucks if you have a Quark license, it's yours. And Adobe BURIED them.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

Quickly. And I think finally the same thing is starting to happen to them. It's like I said a minute ago about pain OK? They have to really feel it before they start to say "you know what? We've gotten a little lazy here."

Peter Kaizer:

Yep. You know Sketch is 99 bucks.

Joe Natoli:

Exactly.

Peter Kaizer:

And it's great. It's a wonderful program. I spend most of my time my day using Sketch. Not that, you know, the tool doesn't make you a good designer.

Joe Natoli:

Of course not.

Peter Kaizer:

But you know, there are sort of things within that design software tooling that can make it easier to do things. I mean, I think in some ways one of my other sort of great advantages is I spent a lot of time, you know, creating objects as a younger person and in the first half of my working life. So essentially designing and creating user experience with actual physical objects. The other thing is, I don't come out of a print design background. I'm not dragging any of that baggage with me.

Joe Natoli:

Which is a good thing.

Peter Kaizer:

Which is a good thing. And I think it makes a huge difference, particularly on the, you know, the interface design side. Because there are constraints that you have to deal with, design constraints. Constraints are a good thing.

Joe Natoli:

I totally agree. And I think print designers, unfortunately... Because I was one, OK, I started out in print design, there was no Internet, right. But I will tell you that the way I was taught design is very very very, hundred thousand percent different than the way most print designers learn design. And I think that's unfortunate, because they have been shortchanged.

Peter Kaizer:

Yep. Yep.

Joe Natoli:

By their educations. I really firmly believe that. Because I was able to make the transition to digital with no problem; the principles were exactly the same. The things that I was taught to pay attention to were exactly the same.

Peter Kaizer:

Right.

Joe Natoli:

And if you go back to pure design principles, that's what you'll find. I think a lot of these folks unfortunately have been given a... this is just my opinion, OK? I really feel like they've given been given a bad hand. And that baggage that you're talking about is the result of that.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. No, I agree. I agree. I mean, you know, I basically came from this sort of had a similar experience from you without having been a print designer because —

Joe Natoli:

Right, but you learned... You learned the same principles though.

Peter Kaizer:

Exactly.

Joe Natoli:

You learned the same principles in working with your hands that you're applying now.

Peter Kaizer:

Exactly. Exactly. And you know, talking about design education... So you know who Mike Monteiro is.

Joe Natoli:

Sure.

Peter Kaizer:

So did you ever. Did you read that Medium piece that he published earlier this year, called "Design's Lost Generation?"

Joe Natoli:

I may have. I read his stuff every once in a while when I have free... Free minutes and there's so much of it, I don't even recognize it by the titles anymore.

Peter Kaizer:

It's a great piece and I actually heard him read it on a podcast I was listening to. What it was talking about was ethics in Design, which I think is another super, super important thing you know as we're sort of reaching this point in the early part of the 21st century where, you know, we're now making these products and it's like, "OK should we be doing this?"

Joe Natoli:

It's the great power, great responsibility kind of thing. I agree.

Peter Kaizer:

And that stuff is important I think. I think younger designers are starting to recognize that.

Joe Natoli:

I think as we talk about it more, I think it changes. You know people in positions of influence, like Mike. I spent some time with with Alan Cooper last year and this was...

Peter Kaizer:

He's a fascinating guy.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah. One of the things that he talked about incessantly, OK, in the conversations that we all had as a group — and in his his talk at this conference I was at — was all about responsibility and stewardship and that is his thing right now and he's pushing it as hard as he possibly can. And I think it's great. Mike is doing the exact same thing. Erika Hall is doing the exact same thing. I just listened to a podcast with her, that... Man, I wanted to stand up and cheer. You know, she kept saying we have to stop glorifying these things in a way that turns them away from, from humanity.

Peter Kaizer:

Oh yeah. I think I think I listened to that, it was that she was on Presentable with Jeffrey Veen.

Joe Natoli:

Yes.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. Who's great. There are voices out there talking about it and talking about, you know, the responsibility and pushing companies, you know, like Adobe and and to really think about this stuff that's about people.

Joe Natoli:

I mean, at the end of the day, it all comes back to human beings. I said this in an interview I just did earlier this week. And I'm going to say it again: I really feel like,, Peter at this point in my career ,I feel like everything I do, I want it to be an antidote to bullshit. Because I just feel like a lot of the human aspects of what we do are being lost in the conversation. And I want to bring it back there.

Peter Kaizer:

Yes. Well it just gets back to your point about you know frameworks and sort of soft technology doing the work that humans should be doing. Ninety nine point nine percent of the problems we're trying to solve are not technology problems.

Joe Natoli:

Agreed.

Peter Kaizer:

They're people problems.

Joe Natoli:

Agreed.

Peter Kaizer:

They're human problems. You know Silicon Valley is very culpable in this. They want to disrupt everything with, you know the latest shiny robotic whatever.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, right.

Peter Kaizer:

Technology is great. And technology is terrible at the same time.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah. I think we're learning some very hard lessons right now.

Peter Kaizer:

We are. And so it's like, you know, "how is this thing, this widget, this whatever that I am working on going to make your life better? Or easier? Or give you five more minutes of your time back so you can read your son or daughter a story?"

Joe Natoli:

Right. Right. Or...the converse of that, "is it going to harm you in some way?"

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. Is it going to expose something about you that you don't want exposed or shouldn't be exposed?

Joe Natoli:

Right. I mean you mentioned Mike OK, and I mentioned Alan, both of those folks have essentially, in very loud voices, said "look, if you work on these projects and you knowingly do this work, you are in fact responsible." And I agree with that. I absolutely agree with that. I have turned down plenty of things in my career that I didn't feel comfortable with. And I get that that's a hard decision to make. I get that there is privilege that, in some cases, where you have the luxury of saying no. But I will also say at the same time that one of the most important lessons I ever learned — in the slowly approaching three decades of doing this — is to say NO to things that cause that tight feeling in your chest.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. Yup.

Joe Natoli:

Someone tried to teach me that at a younger age and I wasn't ready to hear it.

Peter Kaizer:

Yup.

Joe Natoli:

But it turns out to be one of the most valuable things anyone ever taught me.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah!

Joe Natoli:

It matters. Because the implications of doing the work anyway are far reaching. And the way it weighs on your heart and your soul are far reaching as well.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. No. I mean you now have companies like Google where, you know engineers at Google are saying "Oh, our AI I was used for weapons. I don't think I want to be working on that."

Joe Natoli:

Right. You know the Facebook thing, right? "Move fast and break things." OK, well, it certainly broke some things.

Peter Kaizer:

Right. Right.

Joe Natoli:

And some people along the way. And it's still happening.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah no. I completely agree.

Joe Natoli:

And I know it's not as simple as saying, "well, we'll just say no." I mean, nothing in life is that black and white, or that easy. I get it.

Peter Kaizer:

No, no. No.

Joe Natoli:

But that power really does start with the people in the lower trenches, who feel like they don't have any power. They have more than... They have more than they think.

Peter Kaizer:

Yep. Now it's interesting. I would be curious to see where it goes as digital products worm their way into, you know, places we never thought they would be. I mean, I drive an all electric car now. I finally bit the bullet made the decision. I'm not buying another internal combustion engine car.

Joe Natoli:

Cool.

Peter Kaizer:

I approached acquiring that vehicle the same way I approach acquiring a new mobile phone: It was just another gadget I was going to lease. And it's just like a big piece of technology. It's not a Tesla, you know, it's a Chevy Bolt. But it gets gets the same ranges up as a Tesla in terms of a full on a full charge. And you know, the display and everything and, you know, it's like pretty soon we're going to be designing interfaces for the inside door panel of your automobile.

Joe Natoli:

It's coming. That day is coming.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah.

Joe Natoli:

Well we're at the point where I get to ask you some difficult questions.

Peter Kaizer:

OK.

Joe Natoli:

Or at least interesting questions, they don't have to be difficult I guess.

Peter Kaizer:

Well, I'm ready.

Joe Natoli:

What is what is something that we don't know about you? What is something that most people don't know about you, but that they probably should?

Peter Kaizer:

Well, I mean, we already talked about my career as an artist and as a studio Potter. Let's see. tough question.

Joe Natoli:

Difficult, right?

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, it's a good question.

Joe Natoli:

Well let's let's phrase it a different way. What's a hidden talent that you have that not many people know about?

Peter Kaizer:

Well I am a really good cook.

Joe Natoli:

There you go!

Peter Kaizer:

And I've been making delicious food for as long as I've been making things with my hands. For as long as I've been defining user experience in some way or another, which is to say most of my life. And I started cooking when I was 12 years old, you know. So sometime. So to me, food was just another material to be creative with.

Joe Natoli:

I love that.

Peter Kaizer:

You know and early on leather was, you know, was the first material I worked with to sort of make objects, and then it was Clay and you know, now it's pushing pixels around. But at the end of the day to me, it all comes back to creating a really great experience for people for humans. I mean this comes back to trying to connect all of this to our enjoyment.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah, to people.

Peter Kaizer:

To people. The other thing is, I'm an eternal optimist. I mean, I really am, with all the, you know, all the crap going on in the world. I still am an optimist. I always have been. When my my wife and I, when we got married, you know part of our wedding vows were that I'm a glass half-full person and she's a glass half-empty person. So we balance each other out.

Joe Natoli:

Balance is important.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. So I mean, I am... I'm a skeptical optimist internally. And I do think that, you know, there's goodness pretty much almost anywhere. And that, like we've talked a lot about the challenges that you know you and I face in our in our day to day work. And you know that happens when you get to sort of organizations of scale that are trying to do something right. But I think that, you know, if the intent to improve and make something better is there, you'll find a way. I mean the process will maybe suck all the wind out of your sails, but you'll get there.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah I agree with that. The journey is never what you think it's going to be.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah yeah. So I'm also been a practicing Buddhist for, I don't know, 45-50 years.

Joe Natoli:

I think, you know, I think I knew that about you because that's something that — although I'm I wouldn't call myself practicing — but I think that is something that you and I share.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, my joke was, you know, I'm a nice Jewish boy, I was a professional Catholic for 15 years and I've been a practicing Buddhist for most of my life. That's my spiritual tripod.

Joe Natoli:

Spiritual tripod, I like that! I like that. What's the last book you read?

Peter Kaizer:

Actually it was Ready Player One

Joe Natoli:

Was it?

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. I tend to go between fiction and nonfiction. I'm a big nonfiction consumer, so I tend to jump in between the two. So, I also because of my interest in food, I read a lot of...so the book I read before that was a fabulous book but it was written by Edward Lee, who's a chef. He was actually a Top Chef contestant, he owns a restaurant in Louisville. It was basically, he took some time and traveled around the country to different communities, to immigrant communities to find out about the food of those immigrant communities. Basically. Like, I had no idea that Dearborn Michigan had the largest, has the largest Muslim population of any community in the U.S.

Joe Natoli:

Wow, I didn't know that either.

Peter Kaizer:

And that Patterson New Jersey is a mecca for Peruvian food. So it was really interesting.

Joe Natoli:

That's really cool.

Peter Kaizer:

Anyway, so I go back and forth between fiction and nonfiction.

Joe Natoli:

What brings you the most joy?

Peter Kaizer:

Creating something that people enjoy, that people enjoy using. So whether it's a meal, a well-prepared meal, whether it's an interface that I've designed, whether it's a conversation I've had with them, even if it's a difficult conversation because... I had that conversation with them in a way that we can just agree to disagree. You know, like there's a, there's a person on Facebook that I'm connected to who probably couldn't be more different than I am politically. But we have fascinating back and forth because it's respectful. I mean even that, you know, kind of experience. So any time I can sort of facilitate, or be part of creating an experience that people think is a positive experience. I think that's good, that brings me a lot of joy.

Joe Natoli:

I think that's a great answer.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah you know, I mean other than walking both of my daughters down the aisle last year for their weddings, four months apart. You know.

Joe Natoli:

Wow. Incredible.

Peter Kaizer:

Yep.

Joe Natoli:

That's incredible. And you're still standing!

Peter Kaizer:

I'm still standing. My bank account is off of life support. Yeah yeah. Both my girls got married last year.

Joe Natoli:

Well, congratulations, that's fantastic. So last question.

Peter Kaizer:

All right.

Joe Natoli:

For younger designers, developers, UXers, people coming up in this discipline one way or the other. What do you think is the most important piece of advice you would have to offer them, having done this for so long in so many different ways, having touched so many parts of user experience?

Peter Kaizer:

I would say two things. I would say learn how to be a really good listener. I mean a REALLY good listener.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah.

Peter Kaizer:

And write. Learn how to write, because anybody can learn how to use a design tool. Anybody can learn how to write code. I mean, for some people it's easier than others. But pay attention, listen. Be responsible for sort of your actions, understand that what you're creating is for the most wily — not unstable, but unpredictable — entity in creation: a human being.

Joe Natoli:

Truer words were never spoken.

Peter Kaizer:

So you know you really... And you know don't lose sight of what the problem you're trying to solve is.

Joe Natoli:

Yeah. I think that's great advice.

Peter Kaizer:

Thanks. Thanks.

Joe Natoli:

Peter, I cannot thank you enough for your time today. This has been a great conversation. I feel like I could probably do this for another couple of hours.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah. so could I. It's been great. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. So...

Joe Natoli:

Same here and maybe we get to do it again sooner rather than later.

Peter Kaizer:

Yeah, absolutely, I would, I would love to sort of keep, you know, keep in touch, keep the conversation going.

Joe Natoli:

Thank you so much.

Peter Kaizer:

All right take care. Have a great day.

Joe Natoli:

You too Peter.

Peter Kaizer:

Talk to you soon.

Joe Natoli:

Yes sir. That wraps up this edition of Making UX Work. Thanks for listening, and I hope hearing these stories provide some useful perspective and encouragement — along with a reminder that you're not alone out there. Before I go, I want you to know that you can find show notes and links to the things mentioned during our conversation by visiting givegoodux.com/podcast. You'll also find links to more UX resources on the web and social media along with ways to contact me if you're interested in sharing your own story here. Until next time this is Joe Natoli, reminding you that it's people like you who make UX work.