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9 posts from October 2008

Friday, 31 October 2008

Tog's 1998 article, The Complexity Paradox, totally sums up and proves what I've been experiencing as an Interaction Designer.

Given that people will continue to want the same level of complexity in their lives, given that we will continue to reduce the proportion of complexity of any given function that we expose to the user, we may expect that the difficulty and complexity of our own tasks, be they at the application or OS level, will only increase over time. That has certainly been the case so far--we've gone from simple memo writers and sketchpads to document processors and PhotoShop. And we may assume that's only the beginning.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Using Design to Crack Society’s Problems

Hilary Cottam, a social scientist, is using design methodologies to change the world.

Cottam is one of a new wave of design evangelists who are trying to change the world for the better. They believe that many of the institutions and systems set up in the 20th century are failing and that design can help us to build new ones better suited to the demands of this century. Some of these innovators are helping poor people to help themselves by fostering design in developing economies. Others see design as a tool to stave off ecological catastrophe. Then there are the box-breaking thinkers like Cottam, who disregard design's traditional bounds and apply it to social and political problems. Her mission, she says, is "to crack the intractable social issues of our time."

Failure Is Not an Option - It's a Requirement

UIE's latest article, Failure Is Not an Option -- It's a Requirement, provides examples and thoughts on how to embrace failure and minimize risk.

Failure helps us hone our skills much better than success. When we fail -- and take the time to learn from our failures -- we discover what we need to improve. As the saying goes, the largest room in the world is the room for improvement.

We want to fail. We just want to do it in a way where we've minimized the risk.

Notes from the article:

Slow rollout, paper protoyping and fast iterations are all risk mitigation techniques to catch & contain failures early.

8 mistakes teams make:

  1. No clear vision
  2. No introspection after failure
  3. No communication of lessons learned
  4. No time allocated for iteration or experimentation
  5. Tying to an inflexible platform
  6. Building too much before getting feedback
  7. No measures
  8. No in-depth feedback

Monday, 27 October 2008

Practice noticing stuff and telling stories

Steve Portigal urges designers to Practice noticing stuff and telling stories. Observe the world around us and document it on Flickr or in a blog.

I collect things in Moleskine notebooks but maybe I need to start sharing them online as well...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Selling UX

The October newsletter of UX Matters includes a handy article on Selling UX.Some of their tips include:

Start with people’s own product experiences, then work toward communicating UX concepts.

The recommended exercise for the above tip is to ask stakeholders what search engine they use. Most will likely choose Google and will say because it's easy to use, simple, etc. At this point you can take the stakeholders to Google's Ten things Google has found to be true page where #1 is "Focus on the user and all else will follow."

So, how can you package and present UX in your organization? We suggest doing the following:

  1. Know your target audience.
  2. Have a UX sales plan.
  3. Understand what does and does not sell.
  4. Create UX foot soldiers and arm them with a UX sales kit.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Consistency in Design is the Wrong Approach

I just re-read Jared Spool's 2005 article Consistency in Design is the Wrong Approach which was referenced in a recent IxDA discussion on consistency.

I deal with the consistency issue fairly often and it is usually pushed for as a quick superficial solution. That is, who the users are and what they are aiming to achieve in using the interface is ignored b/c that is too hard and time-consuming to think about. When in doubt, make it the same. It's my responsibility as the interaction designer to go deeper and determine a design solution that matches the user's mental model.

Some bits from Jared's article:

When you think about consistency, you’re thinking about the product. When you’re thinking about current knowledge, you’re thinking about the user. They are two sides of the same coin. We’ve just noticed that the designers who spend more time thinking about the users are the ones that end up with more usable designs.

Funny thing about thinking about current knowledge: when you’re done, your interface will feel consistent. Why? Because it will match the users’ expectations and, where they expect it to behave like something they’ve encountered before, it does.

Some bits from the IxDA discussion:

From Christine Wodtke:

It's like simplicity; be as consistent as possible and no more. If you had to choose between being appropriate and consistent which would you choose?

From Chauncey Wilson:

The issue here is that there are many types or levels of consistency
that you need to consider.  The basic types of consistency are:

Internal consistency - consistency in layout, controls, colors,
commands, features, sizes of objects and areas, and branding

External consistency - consistency with the user interfaces of other
products that people use together (for example, Cut, Copy, Paste)

Metaphorical Consistency - consistency of user interface objects
(individual or composite objects) with their metaphorical counterparts

and perhaps the most important category - Consistency with how people
work - the one that is sometimes lost in the push to be internally
consistency.

When people speak of consistency, they tend to focus on visual and
basic interaction, but neglect the most important issue of consistency
with how people work.

From Todd Zaki Warfel:

Drop the term "consistency" and replace it with "predictability." Predictability is really what you're after. Consistency helps with predictability, but isn't the only factor. Predictability is a collective of consistency, past experience, previous knowledge, and visual distinction.

Predictability is the true goal, consistency is only one part of predictability. And predictability improves usability.

From Joshua Porter:

>Check out epinions and to some extent amazon, and most e-commerce
retail sites...they often put the consistency of the interface above
the needs of the content/context, and the result is a template that
all content is poured into. We don't shop the same for each kind of
product, so why are our interfaces for them all the same?

I would also agree with Jeff that when you talk about consistency vs.
inconsistency then you lose. Talk about usage...what are people trying
to do and what is most important to them at that point? Have the
activity drive the design decisions if possible.

From Michael Andrews:

People aren't consistent, why do we expect interactive software
always to be so?

Friday, 17 October 2008

7 Habits of Highly Effective Designers

Fun & interesting thread on IxDA on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Designers. Some favorites:

Taste. It's something people don't really talk about, and I find it lacking pretty much everywhere, save Apple products, maybe. Here's an article by Paul Graham that sums up the problem. http://paulgraham.com/taste.html

  • Obsession:  bordering on OCD, rare that I see good design that isn't an a reflection of burning
  • Perfectionism

For IXDers

  • Compassion: they care about customers experience
  • Thinking in time: they understand that a user's experience is more than a collection of pages. Motion conveys meaning and emotion.
  • Collaboration: that the best products require a multi-disciplinary approach, tech design, motion.
  • Self Awareness of Limitations: find it easy to ask for help when Constant Searching for the 'real' User - personas
  • Abstraction: ability to normalize many functions/screens into fewer

Effective designers are in the habit of:

...
becoming domain experts in fields they do not work in.
...
trusting their gut.
tackling wicked problems.
sharing ideas.
revising.
thinking about the details.
looking for a different solution.

making lists. ; )

4. Studying many subjects other than design.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Interaction Design Sketchbook

Came across Bill Verplank's Interaction Design Sketchbook, thanks to ever useful IxDA discussion list. Here are some bits & pieces from the sketchbook:

Frameworks for designing interactive products and systems.

1. SKETCHING – beyond craft to design: the importance of alternatives.

2. INTERACTION – Do? Feel? Know? Products, computers and networks.

3. DESIGN – motivation, meaning, modes, mappings.

4. PARADIGMS - brain, tool, media - life, vehicle, clothes.

Sketches are an essential designer’s tool for capturing preliminary observations and ideas. If they are fluent and flexible they support creativity. Sketches can be concrete or abstract, representational or symbolic, loose or tight, improvisational or rehearsed.

There is a danger in iteration if alternatives are not considered, if you are only working on one design at a time, comparisons are never drawn, criteria are never challenged. At the core of invention might be a hunch followed by a hack followed by another hunch (craft) but an idea or generalization is needed for generating alternatives, prototypes and tests (design). The goal is principles, which organize the value of a product which creates a market which creates a paradigm and we are back to a fixed orbit. Design is the “transfer orbit” that gets us out of a small orbit into a larger one.

INTERACTION DESIGNERS answer three questions: How do you do? How do you feel? How do you know?

The result of an interaction design is displays and controls and the behaviors that connect them (mappings). In order to create a coherent implementation there must be both a task analysis of the step-by-step interactions as well as an over-all conceptual model that organizes the behavior (modes) both for implementers and for users. The invention of an interaction involves not only one compelling scenario and a unifying metaphor but consideration of a variety of scenarios and a wide exploration of alternative and mixed metaphors.

Everything that comes between my environment and me presents an interaction design problem. McLuhan called these “extensions” and in particular, he was concerned with sensory extensions. We must extend McLuhan’s analysis beyond electronics (instantaneous) to computers (arbitrary). We will soon have computers in everything, they will sense and act and communicate with each other. How are we to design them so that we can best interact with and through them?

The last fifty years of thinking about human-computer interaction can be understood as a competition between three paradigms: brains, tools, media.

How to deal with so many paradigms – don’t get too serious. Beware fanatics – ignore them. Invent your own: INTERACTION DESIGN. Live and thrive on in the reality of multi-disciplinary teamwork.

I grabbed one of the sketches and annotated it with how it is described in the paragraph following it:

Verplankdesignframework

Wednesday, 01 October 2008

Concept Design Tools

Victor Lombardi describes three tools for concept generation and design:

  1. Question the Brief
  2. Re-Focus the Touch Point
  3. Selective Memory

I found that design concepts are powerful artifacts for both planning and persuasion for several reasons:

  • The primary use of design concepts is to take a broad view of the situation. A breadth-first approach helps us explore the entire space of all possible designs. As an extension of idea generation exercises like brainstorming, it generates new options at the beginning of the project when more ideas can be explored with less expense.
  • Concepts afford a great degree of control over a project because they allow us to frame a problem in a way that can make the solution easier or more interesting. The fashion equivalent of this is couture, of which Honor Fraser, the former English model, says, “I love modeling couture. It’s the only pure expression in fashion—the one part of the fashionable world where there are no commercial compromises at all.”
  • By controlling how a problem is framed, we can address new kinds of issues, including big, strategic issues we wouldn’t ordinarily be assigned.
  • Concepts are sexy; the Italians have known this for a long time. By using rich visualization, language, and attitude we can evoke strong emotions and thoughts from our audience.
  • Concepts reduce risk by ensuring we explore the space of possible designs for the best solution. Imagine reaching the end of the project and the client asks, “Why didn’t you design it this other way?” and you don’t have a good answer.
  • Concepts help teams form a common understanding of what they will collectively design better than written specifications.

For more info see: http://smartexperience.org/conceptdesign/

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