No code

Last year at Phillips we created a new division of the business with the goal to sell art in the middle market. Limited editions of works that could be easily purchased without auction. There’s a pickle of systems in auction businesses and building an ecom platform from scratch or deeply integrating one would have delayed go to market time beyond feasibility. We championed for Shopify, lightly integrated with existing payment services. More interestingly, we constrained the design of the experience to only using Shopify’s core theme Dawn, no-code and no front-end engineers. This prevented the project taking Engineer time away from critical auction projects, zeroed out any contractor costs and allowed the Experience Design & Research team to move fast autonomously. You can visit the shop here.

This planted the seed for me to finally visit WordPress no code for my self-initiated projects. For the last few years I’d been ignoring WordPress updates. I’m very much stuck in time when it comes to making webpages. This current site is all designed in Figma and then I spend way too long trying to achieve the designs using my outdated front end knowledge and ACF layouts. I’m always scared that if I open the door to modern techniques I will spend all my time experimenting and learning without publishing anything remotely close to the designs.

I created a new press over at https://playground.lawrencebrown.eu/ and I’ve been watching the talented Jamie Marshall on his channel to wrap my head around the model, controls and workflow to build and design what I want. I came across Jamie via Matt Mullenweg’s blog post where Jamie rebuilds TechCrunch in 30 minutes using the no code approach. My plan is to keep putting the time into the styles and templates to the point I can transfer over a no code build to this primary url.

It’ll be extraordinary to see where no code solutions get to in the next few years. The market competition and feature set is really strong, blogging and self hosting is growing again each year and I do start to wonder how much the code side of my skills really matter now. Perhaps, its knowing just enough that I can add those few lines of modifications each time that I get exactly what I intended but with only managing snippets not tens of code files.

Finally, it gets me wondering, when this url is running no code, what will I be trying out in my playground subdomain area?


 

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 23rd January 2024


The Domain Riddle

Why keep an unused domain you bought for a side project? The annual renewal comes around, you haven’t touched it in over a year and £32 is due. In no particular order, here follows the riddle in my mind:

a) Renew and go all in. This is the dreamer’s plan. Top tier effort and aspiration. Requires: blood, sweat and tears to revive the initial energy you had when you bought the domain. Furthermore, you have the grunt work of realising everything you’ve had in your mind whilst it has sat unused.

b) Move on, let it go. Acceptance nirvana plan. Life is short and complicated. Ideas are cheap, execution is everything — and that last bit didn’t happen. You haven’t touched the idea in over a year so what makes you think you will now? Less is more. You’re now free of the guilt shackles, although you have to join the DNF bench.

c) Renew it. It’s not that much money in the bigger picture. You can leave it parked on the ideas shelf for another while. No real damage done. Although, what is that? Is it a creeping sense of not delivering and executing something? A mild haunting available at random whenever you don’t need it.

d) Rethink the idea, make the execution easy. You’re caught in a trap where the idea is bigger than the time you have to realise it. What if you go back to the drawing board and make it much easier to execute? So easy that something could be on the domain within a few hours.

e) Start a core meltdown, lower your self-esteem rods. Everything in your life is behind, nothing is complete. In fact the very idea that any good could come of this idea, other ideas and future ones is a work on insanity. Press the reactor buttons, watch the fallout from a safe place and give up. Form the foetal position and find cover.

f) Why would you need more than one domain? Is it old school web thinking to buy domains for specific uses? Use your existing domain once you’ve made the thing.


I bought a new Mac Mini as a personal machine a few weeks ago. It’s my first personal Mac in around a decade. As part of defining the software, process and data setup I want to run I’ve been craving simplicity. I’m sitting on ~550GB of legacy personal data. The simpler the system design of my digital world the better. Less maintenance, less time, less risk, less brain power spent on what feels like a low value element of modern life. Nobody spends their last days thankful that they hoarded gigabytes of unorganised data.

So, with simplicity in mind, what is the answer to the domain riddle? When I ask myself that I know I should let this one expire. A win for simplicity. It’s a name and I can always buy another similar — likely cheaper alternative — if the wind changes direction.

But, hold up one moment. Option D is haunting me. There’s some resonance here, something playing on my mind. Rather than making it much easier, how about it starts easy, then gets progressively harder? My answer is figuring out a gated and phased approach. Right now, I’m resisting the urge to write about modern software development practices.

Order complete.

Now, let’s open the drawing board and figure out the easiest thing to do in hours, not days.


 

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 31st December 2023


Vision Pro. Note to self.

I’ve written web posts just for me before. The training posts here are logs of my actions, results and mishaps. Written just for me to get the stuff out of my head and perhaps, more importantly to look back to. They help challenge my mindset when it changes.

It’s Sunday 11 June 2023. Apple held their annual developer conference this week and showcased a headset – Vision Pro.

Until I watched the event I hadn’t given headsets too much time in my brain wonderings. This week I’ve been looping thoughts, concerns and questions. Why though? I guess because there is a significant belief system that Apple shapes a large segment of affluent Westerners futures. And, I’m looking at this forecast and I’m in disbelief of its value. Furthermore, it feels worrying. So, here are a few bullets, things I’ve been pondering, thoughts I want to revisit over the years as this plays out.


  • I find that there’s something strangely depressing about a screen being strapped to your head. Why? In design I value control, choice, real world sensations.
  • I’m not a gamer, but I believe gaming to be the only killer use case. I’d like to try a driving game in one.
  • I know that the strategy is about using the next few years as developer innovation to create the killer use cases outside of gaming. But I just keep asking – so what? – I can’t imagine the value, I can only imagine the burdens. I’m stuck on this one. I can’t imagine what will make peoples lives better inside a headset. Let’s see what gets created, let’s see how I feel.
  • I found the productivity, work and communication experiences demoed really irritating. I like to gaze away from screens to think, ponder, compose my thoughts. The notion of being trapped inside a screen feels feverish.
  • I kept on thinking about how many terrible things there are in software design already. Tech capitalism is mostly geared to just add more stuff that makes profit. The terrible things are often left ignored, unless there is money to be made. I’m wondering about how many of these terrible things end up making their way into spatial computing experiences. When I think about the areas we can improve in our sector we have a long way to go to serve people better. Perhaps an analogy that might work is, imagine a car company adding more gadgets to a car but never improving the safety, emissions or comfort. The way we experience software and platforms today can be really damaging and spatial computing appears to be burying our eyes and cortex within it.
  • Am I too old to understand headsets? My dad carried on buying CDs after I gifted him Spotify. In his mind, he wanted to “put music on”, listen to it and easily carry it between his house and car. Spotify was a bit like Google to him, a handy search tool. By contrast, I grew up on the Napster era internet (we had a modem was age 13, 1998), Spotify felt logical and native. Will a younger generation see headsets as native? Perhaps this is just part of being alive in the Industrial Revolutions, innovation won’t always gel with your own default mode and era.
  • A few folks have complained about the price, it’s a rich persons toy. I get that we’re looking at a first generation product, the price will go down, competitors will learn from the engineering and produce affordable rival products. It still will be a luxury item, but no different in price from a computer, tablet or phone.
  • Apple appears to have cracked the latency issues headsets suffer from. John Gruber talked about how windows didn’t jiggle or move when he used it. I’ve been thinking about these breakthrough moments, multi-touch is a good example. Once it exists in the world a lot of changes follow because of what is enabled. This feels to me like a Pandoras box moment, the genie is out of the bottle. As it’s now possible to do spatial stuff without the janky experience, does this force the hand? We’re kinda good at creating things that don’t benefit us but because they are possible and desirable. These things produce juggernaut level systems we can end up trapped in: such as, ultra processed food, credit or property.
  • I’ve kept mulling over what we need vs what they can make. A few folks have reacted in the same way. Why make a headset for entertainment when the world has so many problems? I guess it depends what you’re in the business of. Apple are mainly in computing, entertainment and health. They’ve never stated they are in the business of fixing the planet. It’s a peculiar line of thinking really. It’s logical they will make another device. And it stands to reason that it’s doubtful it will truly benefit the world in a meaningful way beyond entertaining folks. Perhaps there could be some novel productivity increases. But yeah, companies don’t often just make what we need.
  • Companies do make stuff that fails. This could never gain significant traction and we all spend a lot of time thinking and talking about it. Not everything works everytime.
  • Final bullet for today, I’ve been mulling over what all of these thoughts say about my beliefs of ‘what is good design?’. Im in danger of dragging out the cliched Dieter Rams reference here. But pausing for a moment and asking myself, if you’re confused by the industrial and experience design of Apples headset, what do you believe good design is? My previous thought on fixing the terrible things about software comes back around. I don’t have a clear and simple answer. I guess it’s something around not letting capitalism eat the design experience.

No big conclusion. No snappy thought piece. I’m going to revisit these thoughts as things shape up.


 

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 11th June 2023