TLF Gems Newsletter June 2024

Your monthly CX and insight newsletter from TLF Research

In simplicity we trust.

John Maeda

Using the web, I'm sure you would agree, has become an astonishingly bad experience for customers.

The reason, in a nutshell, is the terrible decisions that organisations make based on what's easy to measure (clicks and views) rather than what truly matters (customer experience and loyalty). Make the experience bad enough and customers will find a better way for themselves.

Recipe sites are among the worst offenders, burying the information you need (ingredients and method) behind layers of overwritten and irrelevant text. So what do customers do? They paste your URL into a recipe app that strips out all the crap and allows them to save the stuff they actually need in an easy-to-read format.

Local news sites are almost impossible to read because of ad clutter. So what do customers do? Switch their phone browser to reader mode and feel the blissful calm of a page that isn't full of flashing ads.

If you find that what you (think you) want and what customers want are pulling the design of an experience in two different directions you should see this as a major red flag. Never trust that what's easy to measure is the right thing to measure.

Most important of all, think about what your choices are encouraging customers to DO.

Thanks for reading,


Here are 6 things we think are worth your time this month

Designing Delight

I really enjoyed RJ Andrews describing the tweaks he's making for the "director's cut" version of his book on Kickstarter (which you should definitely back if you're interested in data visualisation). It's a good example of how lots of small, careful, enhancements can add up to a big overall improvement - just like the customer experience! "You may not notice each of these upgrades individually, and that might be a good thing. Together, however, I am sure they will elevate your experience of the book."


This is a really deep article from Cory Doctorow on the art of storytelling, magic, imagination, and the need to not always give people what they think they want. Customer experiences should mostly be clear and obvious, but there's room to add delight and allow customers to fill in some blanks (particularly in marketing). "What your audience needs is their own imagination."


I have a weakness for tools that help you to see the world differently, and this is a great one. John Willshire's Obliquiscope is available to buy, but it's the concept of thinking in layers that really matters. Examining the customer experience with a lens like this is vital - What is this thing for? How did it get here? Who uses it? etc... "Depending on what you need to do, it helps you see the surroundings more clearly, or blurs them for convenience. It helps a novice understand the basic principles of zooming in and out. For an experienced practitioner, it is a reminder to explore methodically in their inquiries."

Synthetic Participants

This MRS report on the idea of "synthetic participants" could do with being more opinionated, in my view, but is worth reading. Synthetic participants are artificial survey responses generated by LLMs like ChatGPT, and I literally cannot think of a worse idea. LLMs, by definition, cannot generate fresh insights, and they're known to perpetuate biases in society. "The same principles that practitioners apply to any tool need to come to the fore here – when is it helpful, what are the limitations, which groups does it represent well, which does it fail to do so?"

Fixing The Internet

Mike Monteiro gives a masterclass in respecting a questioner's intent while totally tearing their question apart, and the result is really interesting. He points out that the internet we've ended up with didn't just get that way, a group of people designed it (not always intentionally) through their decisions. "Ultimately, I think we got the internet that reflects who we are."

What I'm Reading: Limit Yourself: And Unleash Your Creativity!

It may be counterintuitive, but constraints often spur creative work (which makes sense if you see creativity as problem-solving). This is a great little book to encourage your own creative thinking, whatever you do. "Our brain is constantly in efficiency mode, always looking for ways to use less energy...Limitations do the exact opposite - they force you to think."