Will Grant

User Experience Consultant & Author with over 20 years experience delivering powerful web & mobile products that have reached over a billion users.

Buy my brain

Over the past 20 years I've learned a lot about UX. Sometimes big things, but more often lots and lots of tiny things. It's hard to pick all these individual lessons out, it feels like they've been compiled into a big “binary blob” in my brain. Over the past year I’ve been working to unpick these threads and extract everything I’ve ever learned about... more...

We have failed

I wrote a post for Initial Commit about how we, as a generation of designers and developers, have failed. Failed spectacularly. Failed to make interfaces that are usable, failed to make software that is intuitive, and failed to make products that normal people can understand. Check out the full version originally published on Initial Commit on Medium. more...

I went to Paris, here are some words

Thanks to a complicated series of events and (possibly) mistaken identity, I found myself in Paris last week for three days. A large global bank were under the false impression that I could help fix their doomed business models and funded the entire trip. I went to Viva Technology — which has usurped the now defunct Le Web conference as the biggest in France. I did a ton of... more...

Convert Microsoft Excel files into SQL databases

If you've ever needed to migrate data from a 'flat file' format into a relational database, you'll wish you already knew about 'sqlizer'. sqlizer.io is a web-based tool that takes a file (Excel xlsx, comma-separated, tab-separated, XML or JSON) - automatically determines the structure - then generates an SQL script, complete with table definitions and insert statements. It's free for personal use (up to... more...

Five success criteria for startups

I have been lucky enough to see “under the hood” of 100s of startup companies — mostly early-stage web technology companies — and I’ve spotted some patterns. That is to say, startups that I’ve seen succeed often adhere to many of these criteria. These aren’t “hard and fast” rules, but they are ways of increasing your chance of success, reducing obvious failures and making your startup journey a... more...

Stuff you can't teach

We're currently on a mini-tour giving a talk ("How not to start a startup") where we try to be self-deprecating and talk about the (many) mistakes we've made along the Droplet journey of the last 4 years. After the talks I've ended up talking to lots of people - mostly other founders in the early stages of their startups - who excitedly tell me what they're... more...

A wiki-like crowd-driven democracy

Wikipedia works because the number of people who wish to make the articles better outweigh the number who wish to vandalise them. Democracy has a problem: disengagement. There are too many levels of abstraction between the citizen voter and the decisions being made that affect us citizens. The voter votes for a constituency MP of a party The balance of MPs determines power in the... more...

Back doors

"There's no back door that only lets good guys go through it" What David Cameron just proposed would endanger every Briton and destroy the IT industry, by Cory Doctorow. more...

Everything is sales

The most important word in the sentence "I'm starting a tech business" is business. Convincing talented people to join you is sales Securing a business bank account is sales Getting third-party providers to give you services at a decent rate is sales Getting press and PR coverage is sales Convincing your team of your vision is sales Getting users to use your product is sales... more...

Flappy Bird and the purpose of the company

Flappy Bird, the infuriatingly-difficult mobile game that went from obscurity to the number one free game on iOS, taking $50,000 per day in ad revenue, is no more:   I am sorry 'Flappy Bird' users, 22 hours from now, I will take 'Flappy Bird' down. I cannot take this anymore. — Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014   Its creator Dong Nguyen, tired of the... more...

Bitcoin may still succeed, but it shouldn’t

I like Bitcoin - it’s a plucky idea. Decentralised peer-to-peer currency, pseudo-anonymity and an anarchist angle: who needs the banks, right? Its success is testament to the hunger for a non-bank alternative payment system. Bitcoin’s unique masterstroke is also its fundamental flaw - the way that coins are algorithmically-derived means that there is a finite supply. They will run out (21 million coins is... more...

ProductTank 2013

I'm going to be speaking at ProductTank Birmingham about Droplet, design and 'things that are good'. ProductTank Brum provides an opportunity for Product Managers or anyone who manages products (even if it's not your job title), in Birmingham and the West Midlands to exchange ideas and experiences about Product Design, Development and Management, Business Modelling, Metrics, User Experience, solving user problems, Product Strategy and... more...

The band

You get some people together (startup), borrow some old instruments (fork something off GitHub), and start getting some songs together (MVP). Your mum and friends say "you guys sound pretty good!" (initial market validation), so your dad buys you a drum kit (friends and family round) and you record an EP (out of beta). You start playing local venues (initial traction) and build up... more...

Significance

The vision statement of the Wikimedia foundation (who run Wikipedia) is; Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment. The sum of all knowledge, free, for every human. Wikipedia have scale challenges - they're the fifth-most-visited property on the web - but under the hood their technology is comprised of widely-used... more...

Droplet featured on TechCrunch

From the article: It’s so simple and disruptive I wonder why others haven’t really tried it. Droplet is a mobile money app on iOS that lets you load cash onto your phone and send payments to anyone – including participating retailers – for free. Droplet plans to disrupt mobile cash with no-charges payment app for iOS. more...

Turn on two-factor authentication

If you're reading this and you're not using two-factor authentication (TFA) for your online services, stop reading now and go enable it. Using TFA, if your passwords are ever compromised (LinkedIn, eHarmony, Last.fm...), then an attacker would also need access to your phone to log in. Pretty secure. Dropbox have just added two-factor, and Google have offered it for some time. The Google Authenticator... more...

Open source your ideas

I wrote an article for .net magazine: Ideas. They’re what millionaires, even billionaires, are made of, right? Imagine you could go back in time and tell your 2004-self to build and launch Facebook – you’d be a billionaire now for sure. Except it doesn’t work like that at all. Read it here: http://www.netmagazine.com/opinions/open-source-your-ideas   more...

Hustle

Your product is great, 'best in class', cutting edge. Your customer service is exceptional, you're a 'customer-focused business'. You have a strong technology roadmap, great features and killer developers working on it all. There's one thing that's more important to the success or failure of a startup business than any of these things: let's call it hustle. By that I mean: Your ability to... more...

The top of my to-do list

I've added this to the top of my daily 'to-do' list, courtesy of Paul Graham. Don't ignore your dreams; don't work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.   more...

Idea dump #6

From time to time I come up with ideas which, for whatever reason, I can’t work on right now. Rather than jealously guarding these ideas, I’m going to post them here in regular bursts, in case someone out there wants to run with them. Most importantly, sharing your ideas triggers something unexpected: it forces you to come up with new ones.   Office Printer... more...

My 'idea dump' posts

Here's a link to all the previous 'idea dump' posts on this blog: Idea dump.   more...

Web-snooping bill could trigger powerful new tools

The UK government's plans to surveil every person in the country with unprecedented powers over email and web traffic are astonishing. But, it might not all be bad news. This move could be the catalyst for a whole new market of software: software which allows normal people to protect their privacy online. A simple, easy to use email encryption plugin, or a consumer-friendly version... more...

The myth of the overnight success

Chris Dixon says: You tend to hear about startups when they are successful but not when they are struggling. This creates a systematically distorted perception that companies succeed overnight. Almost always, when you learn the backstory, you find that behind every “overnight success” is a story of entrepreneurs toiling away for years, with very few people except themselves and perhaps a few friends, users,... more...

Chrome 17 loses the 'plus' from the 'new tab' button

Now the cynic might say that the Google Plus brand team wanted to reduce confusion with their social network's name. The result: the 'new tab' icon in Chrome 17 looks like it's faulty. It might sound like the most pedantic obsession over minutae, but stuff like this matters. It matters not just for us user experience people who pore over every detail, but for... more...

Idea dump #5

From time to time I come up with ideas which, for whatever reason, I can’t work on right now. Rather than jealously guarding these ideas, I’m going to post them here in regular bursts, in case someone out there wants to run with them. Most importantly, sharing your ideas triggers something unexpected: it forces you to come up with new ones.   AutoMarket -... more...

Praise for Innovation Culture

My 'Innovation Culture' course for Econsultancy is a full day of inspiration designed to help make your organisation more agile and inventive. The course is running next on the 27th March 2012 and booking is available here. Here's some choice comments from the last course's feedback: "Very inspirational." Head, top UK financial services firm. "I came straight back and put a few of the... more...

Idea dump #4

From time to time I come up with ideas which, for whatever reason, I can’t work on right now. Rather than jealously guarding these ideas, I’m going to post them here in regular bursts, in case someone out there wants to run with them. Most importantly, sharing your ideas triggers something unexpected: it forces you to come up with new ones.     Media-Agnostic... more...

Econsultancy Innovation Awards 2012

I’m really excited to be judging the Innovation Awards 2012 for Econsultancy along with the rest of the judging panel. We’re not interested in the bog-standard email campaign or ‘been there, done that’ SEO program. We want the ideas and work that are changing the way digital marketing is practiced. If you’ve broken a boundary, connected a new set of dots or overturned an apple cart this... more...

Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the... more...

Best Steve Jobs quote ever

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. It’s not just what it looks like. Design is how it works.” more...

Idea dump #3

From time to time I come up with ideas which, for whatever reason, I can’t work on right now. Rather than jealously guarding these ideas, I’m going to post them here in regular bursts, in case someone out there wants to run with them. Most importantly, sharing your ideas triggers something unexpected: it forces you to come up with new ones.     Social... more...

It's built, what now?

In planning a new project, I've found myself trying this 'thought experiment' virtually every day: Imagine the (minimum viable) product was already built - What now? It's so easy to get caught up in the challenge of 'The Build' when really that's just a part of the business. If you want to build a business around a web/tech product, then there's a whole load... more...

Idea dump #2

From time to time I come up with ideas which, for whatever reason, I can’t work on right now. Rather than jealously guarding these ideas, I’m going to post them here in regular bursts, in case someone out there wants to run with them. Most importantly, sharing your ideas triggers something unexpected: it forces you to come up with new ones.     Wavetees... more...

Lecture: The Internet of Things

I'll be delivering a lecture on 21st September in Manchester with Econsultancy - about the 'Internet of things' - the next big evolutionary step for the web. Plus, as if any more coercion were needed, there's drinks afterwards - should be fun! Booking information: EConsultancy North’s Social Shorts   21st September 2011 (9:30am – 5:00pm) | Peter House, Manchester The Internet of Things -... more...

Idea dump

From time to time I come up with ideas which, for whatever reason, I can’t work on right now. Rather than jealously guarding these ideas, I’m going to post them here in regular bursts, in case someone out there wants to run with them. Most importantly, sharing your ideas triggers something unexpected: it forces you to come up with new ones.     Twitbook... more...

Understanding Google

Examining Google’s products in a systematic way can give some clear indications as to their strategic objectives for the future. Google took $28bn in revenue last year from selling keyword ads. AdWords is the revenue centre of Google’s entire global operation and it’s the part they seek to protect most keenly. They do this by either owning a space, or making it so open... more...

Start-up wisdom from 2005

Still great advice, six years later: Ideas are in the air. There are lots of people thinking about—and probably working on—the same thing you are. And one of them is Google. Deal with it. First of all, realize that no sufficiently interesting space will be limited to one player. In a sense, competition actually is good: especially to legitimize new markets. Second, the specialist... more...

First-mover advantage isn't enough

The landscape changes quickly in web/tech and the behemoths of today (Google, Facebook, Apple) seem unsurpassable. Don't forget they weren't the first guys on the scene. The flip side of 'First-mover advantage' is the beauty of coming at an existing product or market afresh. Unencumbered by the constraints of old, out-dated business models or technology. Or, sometimes - just doing it better. Creative Labs... more...