14 November 2014

In which Flow gets to change the world. At last.

By Phil Barrett

You know that blog post where the founder of the freshly-acquired agency says how marvellous it all is? How the new combination is going to revolutionise the digital world?

Flow has just joined Deloitte Digital. And the funny thing is, this combination is actually going to shake things up. Here’s why.

There’s a fundamental difference between digital marketing and digital product. Flow is a digital product agency. Which means we like to design and make things that have a long life, and a wonderful impact on the way that people and businesses get things done.

Since software is eating the world, almost every business has discovered that it’s a digital business now. And that puts us in great demand.

But becoming a successful digital business takes profound rewiring. New processes and new culture as well as new technology. We’ve found ourselves, again and again, talking to teams that want their organisation to change, but can’t make it happen. Frustrating for everyone.

Deloitte makes that kind of change happen. They can transform entire businesses, innovate and prove new business models, and implement massive technology programmes. Their business already reaches across Africa, rather than just aspiring to. They can do big data way beyond anything you’ve seen before. Extremely smart people, deep knowledge, and impressive scale.

Most people in board rooms around the world will tell you that UX, design thinking and digital are vital to the future of their business. But they need someone they can trust to deliver those changes. Not just a glossy veneer, but user-centred and digital all the way down. Deloitte Digital fits the bill perfectly.

So for us, joining Deloitte Digital is a fantastic opportunity. One that we have been looking for for years.

It’s the beginning of a new chapter. Where we finally get to change the world.

14 November 2014

Press release: Deloitte Digital buys Flow Interactive as part of its pan-African digital expansion strategy

Deloitte Digital (Africa) has acquired Flow Interactive as it continues to build a fully integrated digital consultancy and agency providing customer-centric digital engagement solutions to its rapidly growing list of clients across Africa.

The acquisition of Cape Town-based Flow, a leading user experience design agency, will boost Deloitte Digital’s growing list of digital expertise. The South African team, which are based in studios in Johannesburg and Cape Town, is already a leading player in Deloitte Digital’s network of more than 2,700 highly skilled digital experts located in 18 studios across the world including the US, Europe and Australia.

“User experience has become the fundamental discipline in placing the customer, supplier, employee and community at the heart of highly engaging digital and physical experiences, whilst delivering extraordinary business value. The acquisition of Flow Interactive enables us to further expand our world class experience design competency as we strive to provide the full spectrum of digital consulting, production and agency capability to clients,” said Tim Bishop, Digital Leader of Deloitte Digital.

“We have a very clear growth path for Deloitte Digital (Africa), which is fundamentally premised on building and offering extreme competency accross the full digital spectrum through carefully selected acquisitions, partnerships and individual talent recruitment across a wide range of customer-centric digital and omni-channel disciplines.” Deloitte Digital will also draw on the skills of more than 5200 Deloitte professionals in 29 offices across Africa. The scale of this African footprint will only be to the benefit of Deloitte Digital’s customers, many of whom have extensive operations across the continent.

“Deloitte Digital is creating a new model for a new age – we’re an agency and a consultancy,” said Bishop. “We provide leading digital and creative capabilities with the deep industry knowledge, technology and real business experience for which Deloitte is known. Clients can bring us their biggest challenges, knowing that we have what it takes to bring a new business vision to life. The expert skillsets we have gained through the purchase of Flow will further strengthen this approach.”

Flow Interactive SA was established by Phil and Debré Barrett in 2007 to meet a growing demand for digital products that people find useful and easy to use. The agency specialises in enabling its clients – which include the likes of Old Mutual, Google, Samsung and Virgin Active – to improve the user friendliness of their digital customer interfaces, ranging from apps to websites, till points to secure online banking platforms. Flow also offers a qualitative research service, specialising in ethnographic research that provides deep and meaningful insights into customer behaviour.

“Our aim is to bring simplicity, humanity and delight to human interaction with digital technology,” says Phil Barrett, Director at Flow. “We aim to make complex technical systems easy for ordinary people to use, which increases conversion and reduces customer support costs. But really successful user experiences can only be delivered by focused organisations and robust engineering. Being part of a world class network like Deloitte Digital, which has a skills base that spans five continents, will put us in a position to help create products that transform businesses.”

29 October 2014

Why we do research: UX principles and design trade-offs

By David

In The Psychologist’s View of UX Design, Susan Weinschenk writes about extrapolating user experience principles from research and psychology. We get users into our lab almost every week for usability testing and research, and usually clients drop in to observe the tests too. It is my favourite part of doing UX – its like brain gym – analysing what happens in the lab always sparks interesting debate and new insights.

On the back of our research we extrapolate user experience principles that guide our design thinking on projects that have similar challenges. I’m happy to see lots of overlaps between our, and the principles in Susan’s article. So quoting from Susan’s list, here are seven principles that I have been thinking about lately.


15 September 2014

Skeuomorphism is still needed

Everyone is happy that the leather bound apps have stopped forcing their way into our lives, but is skeuomorphism still necessary for understanding interfaces and interactions? It seems that Apple and Google think so.

Chris Metcalfe explores this in his blog: Skeuomorphism is alive and well

I believe skeuomorphism is still alive and well, it’s just had a facelift.  The cheesy and outdated stylings have been stripped away and replaced with texture and depth of real life. It’s actually necessary for an understandable interface to embrace skeuomorphism, especially in South Africa.

Google material design

4 September 2014

Google’s User Experience Master Class: Create great apps and websites using the principles of UX


Google is running a two day User Experience Master Class in Cape Town in October to teach developers, designers and product managers how to create great apps and websites using the principles of user experience.

You’ll not only be introduced to the basic concepts of UX design, you’ll also learn the most important practical techniques used by UX designers such as user research, scenarios, information architecture, and wireframing. You’ll be working hands-on in teams to practice these techniques which you can then use to improve your own designs.

There’s also a chance to learn from some local developers who will discuss all the UX considerations they took in their app’s design and development.

The class will be presented by two members of the Google UX team who are experienced in all things web and mobile. As experienced user experience designers, Flow will add local support.

Date: 7 & 8 October 2014

Venue: TBC

Cost: Free

Apply now to attend

22 August 2014

What’s so great about Android? Let’s start with customisation

Our office is almost split down the middle when it comes to the iPhone or Android battle. Each time a colleague is about to get a new phone we all try our best to convince them that our operating system is better.  People seldom change sides but it’s still an interesting debate.

Philip Langley explains just one of the many reasons that he prefers Android in his post:

Customisation: the heart of Android. 


Remember that feeling playing with Lego that you could build anything your imagination could come up with? Sure, it may not have been 100% perfect but you could play with something that previously you could only dream of. That’s the same feeling I get from customising my phone.

my android homescreens

18 August 2014

Usability testing for agile software teams

By Phil Barrett

I did a talk at Agile Africa last week.

A couple of key points:

  • The really valuable kind of user feedback often doesn’t just come to you. If you want good quality feedback, you have to go get it with usability testing.
  • It’s easy to forget to gather user feedback because Agile projects deliver incremental, gradual change… so you don’t notice how far your interface has come.
What your customers REALLY think: Incorporating usability testing into agile from Phil Barrett

18 August 2014

Designing for Behaviour change

By philbuk

I did a talk recently for the UX craft meet up ion Caep Town about designing for behaviour change.

It’s a kind of glorified book report covering Dan Ariely, Nir Eyal and Stephen Wendell. All squeezed into 45 minutes. People seemed to like it!

Designing for behaviour change from Phil Barrett

6 August 2014

How to run a good usability test

By Marc

At Flow we do around 300 usability tests every year – an average of about 6 users per week. Here’s some of the top user testing tips we’ve gathered over the years.


Don’t complete their sentences

Even if you think you know what they’re going to say, you really don’t. Keep quiet and wait for the user to finish talking – even when they’re a bit slow in finishing that sentence.

Don’t use leading questions

“Does that make sense? Do you like that? Was that easy?”

Most people will answer ‘yes’ to that kind of question, because most people want to please the moderator. These kinds of leading questions will lead to false results in your research.


27 July 2014

Research in Nairobi

By David

I visited Nairobi recently to do research and usability testing. Besides being my first visit to Kenya, two things excited me about going. Firstly, putting websites in front of people to find out what they think about them. And secondly, to get a better understanding of what mobile first, or mobile only, means in a country like Kenya, described as the epicenter of mobile innovation.

The battle is fierce for the hands and minds of Nairobi’s mobile phone users.

Doing research

I was going to Kenya because there were things we didn’t know – and talking to people firsthand is the best way to find out. In Nairobi we teamed up with a research company who provided space where I setup two laptops, a smart phone, and a mobile testing sled, and armed with a modicum of background knowledge, I interviewed ten people and tested two websites.

Usability testing on the move: two laptops, a smartphone, and a mobile testing sled.

Before starting a research project I sometimes worry that I won’t find useful information, either because I don’t have the right questions, or that I’m looking in the wrong place. I then remind myself that the only predictable thing about doing research is that you can’t predict what you’ll find. You have to get stuck in and do it, and be prepared to, as Erica Hall writes: Joyfully release all of your preconceived plans and ideas. In time I’ve learnt that this sense of apprehension comes from the fact that preconceived plans create a kind of comfort, whereas what you discover in research can change the entire trajectory of a project. And that is what design is all about.

The trip reminded me of three things

  • The global village is mediated by technology, it provides a universal language of sorts, the result is that on the surface we all appear quite similar, but it is a trap that can hide local knowledge and insight from us.
  • Africa is described as a mobile first continent. But it does not mean that mobile is the solution to all problems. Talking to people is the best way to avoid generalisations.
  • When we look at interfaces we interpret meaning, putting things on screen entails taking responsibility for how we assume others think, testing means owning up to that responsibility.

Reflecting on what to do next I’m reminded of Rebekah Cox’s definition of design:

Design is a set of decisions about a product. It’s not an interface or an aesthetic, it’s not a brand or a color. Design is the actual decisions. 1

Finding out what you don’t know is not a guarantee that things will be easier – the opposite often happens – but you’ll have information to base your decisions on.

And that is why we do research.