Design for Developers

how to make a good app without wearing a turtleneck

Rich has been doing a lot of design work for Loomio lately. Today he hosted a session at Enspiral Space to explain his design process, you can read some product guides here.

The presentation was primarily targeted at an audience of software developers, but will interest anyone looking for an insight into how software design works.

The recording includes a 30 minute presentation from Rich, followed by Q&A.

Slides available here.

Resources mentioned in the talk:

Peter’s notes from the session:
Peter's notes

Derek’s notes from the session.

Feel free to reach out to Rich on Twitter: @richdecibels

Making a decision with Loomio 1.0

The process of making a decision that Loomio enables is actually really simple: bring people together to talk things through, share ideas, address any concerns, and determine a clear course of action that works for everyone.

Loomio Beta is great – the core of the decision-making process works really well. But it still has a few barriers which make it hard to use for certain types of groups and decisions. If we really want to spread collaborative decision-making, it has to be the easiest thing in the world.

So for Loomio 1.0, we’ve examined and removed each barrier to entry.

Straight to the action

You can start a decision directly from the homepage and you don’t even need an account. It’s super simple:

Start a decision

Start by saying what is you want to decide about.

Log in using single sign-on (e.g. Google, Facebook, or Persona), or if you don’t want to create an account you can just put in your name and enter an email address to stay up to date.

Bring the right people in

This is the decision page: you can see the topic at the top of the page, and then a list of who’s involved. To start with, you’re the only one there, so you can get everything set up the way you want, and add people in when you’re ready.

Decision page 1

Add participants by clicking “Share” and entering their emails, or copying and pasting the link and send it to them.

You can also add existing Loomio groups to the decision, and everyone in the group will be able to participate.

Discuss the options

Once people have joined the discussion, they can start commenting and suggesting ideas. This is the initial brainstorming part of a decision-making process.

Decision page 2

Click ‘like’ on any idea that sounds good to you.

This is an easy way to get a ‘temperature check’ to see how the group feels about the different options.

You can have a discussion right here on the page, to work out any details. This solves the major problem with online polls and surveys, where you can only select from pre-determined options, and there’s no place to discuss alternatives.

Converge on a solution

Once an idea is looking favourable and you’re ready to make a decision, anyone can start a proposal. This will notify everyone involved and give them the opportunity to have their say.

Decision page 3

Here’s the default set of decision options (we’ll be adding plugins for different styles of decision-making):

agree – I think this sounds good
abstain – I’m happy for the group to decide without me
disagree – I think we can do better
block – I have really serious concerns

This set of four options came directly from our experience of collective decision-making at Occupy. We’ve found this protocol to work well in all kinds of groups. There’s more nuance than a simple yes/no binary, but it’s simple enough to be really easy to grasp.

The decision is made

When the proposal closes, you can set an outcome, so every discussion comes to a really clear conclusion.

Decision page 4

An online home for your group

Once you’ve made a decision with a bunch of people, you can set up a group to keep track of your decisions for the future.

Group page

Setting up a group gives you an online home. All the decisions you’ve made together are kept in a tidy archive, and you can tailor the look and feel to match your group identity. There are no ads, so it actually feels like a nice place to have an online meeting, rather than a shopping mall.

Because it’s built in HTML5, this will work on any web-capable device: laptop, tablet, smartphone, whatever. And it’s open source free software, so the code is there for anyone to improve.

Now let’s build it!

We’re pretty excited about these designs. They’ve developed based on the feedback of thousands of users, and some deep thinking from experts in user experience, group dynamics, and open mobile technology. The designs are sure to evolve as they get built and tested, but we’re confident this is already a huge step up from the prototype, Loomio Beta.

We think that making online decision-making ridiculously simple can transform the way people relate to each other at every level of society, and fundamentally improve the decisions that get made.

Now we just have to build it!

The thing is, we can’t do this without you. If you think this should exist, check out our crowdfunding campaign, throw $25 in the pot, and get early access to Loomio 1.0!

Sneak peek into the future of Loomio

Hey there, Jon here, from the Loomio product team. I’ve been working pretty hard on some new designs for Loomio, and thought it’d be nice to share with everyone.

There are three things the new designs are trying to accomplish:

  1. Make Loomio nicer and easier to use. This means things should always be self-explanatory, and you should never feel overwhelmed by too much activity.
  2. Make Loomio work well on mobile phones.
  3. Make it easier to navigate through discussions and find what you’re interested in.

All the designs are just “mockups” at this point and subject to change. But they’ll give you a good idea of where we’re headed. Most of the mockups were done mobile first, but they all scale up to desktop as well.

It’s been a great opportunity to think about the design of our app holistically instead of one feature at a time.

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Optimising for Emergence

“Emergence” is an ugly buzzword for a truly magnificent concept that is central to our vision for Loomio. Jeffrey Goldstein defines emergence as “the arising of novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties during the process of self-organization in complex systems”.

Emergent phenomena tend to arise when many individuals interact with their environment, without central control, in ways that are governed by simple rules.


Emergence in Nature
There are lots of striking examples of emergence in nature.
Continue reading “Optimising for Emergence”