Garden Design i2

At Automattic we call new rounds of design work “iterations” and post them in the format i1, i2, i3, etc. These first few days of spring, I’ve been working with my garden designer Humzah Khraim on i2 of my garden. More pictures once everything’s done and the weather is nicer, but here’s a taste of some of the changes so far.


Here’s the before picture from one year ago.

Enabling Network Link Conditioner on iPhone and iPad

Network Link Conditioner is an Apple tool that lets you simulate adverse network conditions on your Mac or iOS device. If you’re a designer or engineer who makes things on the internet, it should be considered an essential part of your toolkit. Without it, you can’t possibly imagine what it’s like for people to use the websites or apps you create out in the real world.

But Apple makes it kind of difficult to find. My colleague John Maeda wrote a guide that walks you through using it on your Mac. I couldn’t find a simple, up-to-date set of instructions for using it on iPhone, so here’s how you do it as of iOS 11.

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Go Vote.

In 2004 I voted for the first time. I was so excited that year, because it felt like we were on the cusp of change. Needless to say, that election was a letdown. I spent that night at Huc-a-Poo’s on Tybee, surrounded by Bush supporters, trying to forget about the weight of my disappointment.

But two years later, I voted again. And Democrats took back the Congress. And two years after that, I voted for Barack Obama. The progress that LGBT people made during his presidency was astonishing, especially to a young gay kid from Alabama who never thought he’d be treated equally under the law.

Last year was the most soul-crushing election I’ve ever experienced, and that’s probably true for some of you, too. However badly I felt in 2004, 2016 was an order of magnitude worse. But I can’t help but remember how fast things changed after 2004. With every election, we have the chance to make our government a little bit better, and more responsive to its citizens. We have the chance to support incumbents who truly care about their communities. We have the chance to lift up new voices and to give them power.

Today, I’m proud to cast my ballot for Cathy Woolard for Atlanta mayor and Natalyn Mosby Archibong for my city council representative. If there’s an election where you live, and you’re able to do so, I hope you’ll go vote today.

Running an effective remote design team

Around this time last year, I got an interesting call on Slack.


Automattic had recently organized its mobile teams into a new division called Hogwarts, and our new division lead Cate Huston had embraced her new identity. I was coming off of several weeks of time off after surgery to repair a nerve in my hand that I severed during a cooking accident. Feeling down and sorry for myself, I was having a hard time getting back into the rhythm of work. But I was jolted out of my inertia by the reason for Cate’s call: to talk about forming a mobile design team within Hogwarts, with me as its lead.

I love mobile design, and with a second product designer set to join Hogwarts, I knew it was the right time to start a design team. Despite having never really felt like much of a leader, I thought it made sense for me to do it. And so, the Ministry of Magic was formed. I was nervous at first, and made plenty of mistakes. But through a process of constant iteration not unlike how we make products at Automattic, I’ve gone from being a reluctant leader to an enthusiastic one. I’m far from an expert on this topic, but Hogwarts, once an organization where design was often an afterthought, has become one that has an effective design team at its center. Here’s a few of the things I’ve learned in my first year as a lead.

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Designing Login for the WordPress apps

Earlier this year, a project squad in our mobile division set out to work on a surprisingly tricky task: creating a simple login flow for our mobile apps that works with any WordPress site.

Why would that be hard? Because there isn’t just one flavor of WordPress. Endless hosting configurations, an almost infinite number of plugin combinations, and competing APIs make it challenging to create a single login experience that works for everyone. There are users with multiple sites, and users with no sites at all. Users who are accustomed to desktop computer interfaces, and those who have never used WordPress on anything other than their mobile phone. Multiple paths for logging in had been added over time, each optimized for different kinds of users. As a result, our existing login flow was complex, to say the least.

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Improving Accessibility in WordPress with Dynamic Font Sizes

At Automattic, I lead a team of three designers dedicated to our native apps. We focus our time on the design of WordPress for Android and iOS.

Over the last few months, the developers and designers who work on our apps have been improving our support for the accessibility features available on mobile devices. This includes ensuring our apps properly support features like VoiceOver on iOS, and TalkBack on Android, which make the apps accessible to blind users.

One new feature I’d like to highlight is support for dynamic type sizes. This lets users choose larger (or smaller) text, to find the size that’s most comfortable for them to read. We recently made a change to the text used for blog posts and pages on iOS to make it even more readable. Now, no matter what text size the user prefers — even the largest sizes, which are huge — WordPress responds as the user should expect. This makes the app accessible to users with low vision, in a way that wasn’t possible before.

Screenshots of dynamic text on iOS

If you use an Android device, you can customize your device’s font size, too.

Screenshots of enlarged text on Android

We’re continuing to perfect this feature, so if you notice parts of the apps where it doesn’t work quite right yet, drop us a line, and stay tuned for future improvements.

For more information on adjusting the font size on your device, see these articles:

Originally published on A8C Design.

Just a Bunch of Silly Pictures of Me and my Dog, on the Occasion of Her Adoption Day


Exactly 11 years ago, I brought Maggie home for the first time. A few days later, I took this picture.

This was the first in a long line of silly pictures of Maggie and me.

Eventually, I realized how much she hated being picked up, and I found new ways to make her hate being photographed.

The past eleven years have had many ups and downs, but the constant source of happiness, stability, and love is this pup.


I took this one on the scariest day of our lives together; the morning I dropped her off for her cancer surgery.


And took this one once she was home.

We’ve both got a little more gray in our beards these days, but we’re going to keep taking silly pictures every chance we get.

Maggie D, you’re the best. Happy adoption day, little bear.

The Big Reveal

After much planning, estimating, digging, hauling, welding, grading, planting, adjusting, and obsessing, my back yard is complete. I’m thrilled with how it turned out and am excited to share the first pictures of it today. But before we get to that, here’s a 2-minute timelapse video that shows where we started, and how we got here.

Shouts out to Humzah Khraim here in Atlanta for a beautiful design and a job well done — if you’re in Atlanta I highly recommend working with him.

Now… I’ve got to buy some furniture for this back porch.

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