Links and articles about technology, design, and sociology. Written by Rian van der Merwe.


I am available for speaking engagements on a variety of topics, including:

  • User experience — what it is, why it’s important, and how to introduce UX thinking into a company.
  • Product strategy — how to develop great products, what type of methodology is right for your company, the role of product management, and why it’s an essential role.
  • Publishing and internet culture — how media is changing, what’s wrong with the internet and how we can fix it, the future of publishing.

If you’re interested in inviting me to an event, please send me an email through the contact form. Some of my recent talks are listed below to give you a flavour for what to expect.


Getting back into the (right) deliverables business

I feel a little bad for the static wireframe. It’s had a bad year. In fact, UX deliverables in general have had a bad couple of years. There’s a growing skepticism about the value of Personas and other traditional UX artefacts, as well as an onslaught of “get out of the deliverables business” refrains from Lean methodologies.

All of this led me to lots of introspection about deliverables, and if it’s actually possible to create deliverables that are useful to help create better products.

In this talk I’ll tell our story. How we stripped down all our deliverables to almost nothing, and then started building it all up again slowly by asking ourselves, “What is absolutely necessary for us to do a great job?” I’ll discuss some of the deliverables we’ve since created (such as Expanded Journey Maps and Content Slice Diagrams), how they’re useful to us, and how you might be able to use them in your design process as well.

We’ve come to realise that not all UX deliverables are bad. Only bad deliverables are bad.

Getting back into the (right) deliverables business on Vimeo.

View write-up on Elezea >>

Responsive Web Design in Africa — why it’s time to adapt

As responsive web design (RWD) continues to become the new standard for web development worldwide, there is still a lot of skepticism about its relevance in the African context. Since the mobile phone and data access landscape is so different here, many feel that it’s too early for us to spend time and money on designing websites that adapt to whatever device and viewport size might get thrown at it.

In this talk I discuss how the web in general, and mobile context specifically, have changed over the past few years, and how responsive web design is the best approach to adapt to these changes. I’ll then address the major concerns about responsive design in the African context, point out the fallacies, and argue that overcoming the legitimate challenges are absolutely worth our time and effort.

This might be Africa, but responsive design is every bit as relevant here as it is anywhere else in the world.

View slides on SlideShare >>

Read the blog post about the talk >>

Contact me >>

An Introduction to User Experience Design

How do you develop web sites that users love and that allow them to do exactly what they want to do without fuss or bother? How do you make sure users can navigate your web site effectively and get to all the information they need quickly? The answer lies in the process of User Experience Design, which at its core is about delivering business value by making sure there are no points of friction along the user’s journey through the web site.

In this talk I give an overview of the elements of User Experience Design, and more importantly, why you should care about it. The goal is to provide some baseline knowledge of the user-centered design process to equip anyone to take those skills back to their desks and start applying it immediately. We’ll discuss product discovery, user experience research, information architecture, content strategy, interaction design, and visual design, and how those elements work together to build great experiences.

I do this talk in two flavors:

  • A 60-minute talk that gives a brief overview of all the important concepts that make up User Experience Design
  • A full-day course that expands on the material and also provides plenty of opportunity to practice these skills in an interactive group setting

View slides for 60-minute talk on Speakerdeck >>

Contact me >>

Breaking down silos: lessons in building better software through collaboration

Why do we so often see web applications with inferior user experiences? Why do UX designers often get stuck being asked to “make the design pop a little more,” with no room or incentive to innovate? Why do some web developers feel demotivated and unable to break out of doing things the way they’ve always been done?

In this talk I explore some of the main causes of ineffective software development, and discuss practical recommendations on how to improve team structures and development processes to build high quality software that users care about, want to use, and that therefore makes more money for the business.

I discuss how to work with developers, how to ensure everyone gets input into the roadmap without it becoming chaos, and how to make sure that the business benefits are clearly articulated and communicated.

Here’s a video of this talk at Tech4Africa:

View slides on Speakerdeck >>

Contact me >>

How to build an audience in 743 difficult steps

And for something a little different, here’s a video of a talk I did on writing this site. You can also read my extended post about it.

So, get in touch!