"It’s incredible what is lost to history. Even one generation back, so little is really known about the vast, vast majority of people. It’s a shame - especially considering existing technology has enabled us to store everything ever said, done or thought by every person on earth a thousand times over. There is no reason lives have to continue to be forever forgotten. Everyone can be remembered if they put in the effort to be remembered in some concrete form rather than simply being dependent upon fading memories of those who knew the deceased person."
“In UX, we try to hide the fact that our interfaces are built on top of machines — hunks of metal coursing with electricity, executing strict logic in the face of physical resource constraints. We strive to make our systems fault-tolerant, or at least to fail gracefully, though it goes against the machine’s boolean grain. It’s shameful for an app to freeze up, even for a second, or to show the user a cryptic error message. The blue screen of death is an HCI faux pas roughly equivalent to vomiting on the dinner table: it halts the proceedings and reminds us all-too-graphically what’s gone wrong in the bowels of the system.”—
We were just touching on this tonight, when my phone went out of range and Siri trilled that she was no longer useful. She used too many words, didn’t tell me the problem was the phone was offline, and in any case was completing a task—looking up a contact—that should have been possible either way.
Siri is a construct, but tonight she seemed like a nervous idiot—overly apologetic and useless at the same time. We anthropomorphize our computers anyway, but if we’re going to design corresponding personas, they should be capable and likeable.
One way to understand this is: there is some central problem or challenge which the business is facing. Your first job is to figure out what that problem is, and, just as importantly, what words the Important Person uses when they think about that problem.
A very important thing: it usually takes a considerable bit of effort to get beyond the proposed solution (e.g. the report), to the actual underlying problem. Laura Klein summarizes this marvelously as “[People] will tell you that they want a toaster in their car, when what they really mean is that they don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning.” She’s talking about user research, but I find the same perspective is incredibly useful when talking to, e.g. CEO’s.
Returning to our example, let’s say that, as you talk to the Important Person, you come to understand that your new business, which sells software via a monthly subscription plan, has a serious problem — too many customers are canceling every month. What’s more, you’ve joined a startup, and, although it has a solid chunk of cash in the bank, the leaders very much want to ramp up how much they spend on sales and marketing. Of course, doing that will burn through their cash, and thus require raising more capital sooner than later. And getting VC’s to invest more money with that high cancel rate is going to be very difficult, if not impossible.
You’ve been hired, at some level, to help solve that problem. Even if the people who have hired you don’t think about it that way.
“Let’s say you have a car that runs fine for now, but that you know won’t last long because of the time with the attempted oil change and the drain plug you found in a pool of oil in the driveway and you cleaned up all the oil with kitty litter but…anyway, you know bad things about the car that a buyer couldn’t. You’re looking to sell. Meanwhile, a seller of a perfectly good, but indistinguishable, car is also trying to sell, but since he’s competing with you, he can’t charge a price any higher than what you’re willing to accept for your “lemon.” Prices tend to get set by what people will pay for the worst possible car, so the market tends to break down.”—Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful
“The threshold attributes are most often seen as a price of entry. Many products have threshold attributes that are overlooked. Since this component of the product is a necessary guideline, many consumers do not judge how advanced a particular feature is. Therefore, many times companies will want to improve the other attributes because consumers remain neutral to changes in the threshold section.”—
What this quote is positing: that improving the absolute basics of a product (the keyboard on a computer, the wheels on a car) isn’t particularly useful because consumers are neutral about baseline stuff. This is interesting because it works across variable quality scales (eg, the tires on a Lexus vs a Ford) but also because it brings into new focus those elements of a product which may be essential, but about which consumers are not neutral, like computer monitor quality.
Send me screenshots of how you've set up your design apps
I’m doing some research into art/drawing/design app interfaces and want to see how everybody else sets up Tools in Photoshop, Menus in Illustrator, sidebars in Omnigraffle, top bars in Keynote, and so on. You can reply to this post, @-reply my on Twitter (@timoni) or shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, everybody!
“I’ve worked on a several responsive projects in the past couple years, and it’s always been a headache—not from technological limitations, but because there weren’t suitable words to describe the behaviors I wanted. I had to jump into code, and waste time writing non-production markup and CSS to prototype a behavior so the developer could see it. That’s really wasteful, especially if all you needed was a word for the behavior. The community has been putting a lot of effort in developing tools that allow for quicker prototyping, but explaining yourself can happen multiple ways. Clear wording with consistent meaning reduces the number of prototypes you need to build, because a simple word will do. We need to work as a community to develop a language of transformation so we can talk to one another. And we probably need to steal these words from places like animation, theater, puppetry, dance, and choreography.”—What Screens Want by Frank Chimero
Product design. This is my definition, at least. The term is being used to describe any interface designer who happens to work on a product, which is unfortunate, but I’ll keep using this one.
But why us? Why should designers be in these roles? Well, one immediate answer is simply that I would like to be in control over the future I’m building. Right now, many of us can only change our answer to Wilson’s questions by just quitting and finding a new job where we’re bought into the vision.
But deeper, I think this is something designers can be really great at. We already understand how to induce utility, delight, motivation at the level of the interface. Expanding that toolset to apply to the bigger picture is not a huge leap.
This is a way of thinking about design that’s growing in popularity, but I recognize that it’s still a minority, maybe even an extreme minority. Nonetheless, I remain optimistic. When I look at the major shifts in our field over the past years — user-centered design, standards-based design, responsive design — years of advocacy have led to genuine, sustained progress. I’m confident we’ll get there.
“But too often discussions about technology use are conducted in bad faith, particularly when the detoxers and disconnectionists and digital-etiquette-police seem more interested in discussing the trivial differences of when and how one looks at the screen rather than the larger moral quandaries of what one is doing with the screen. But the disconnectionists’ selfie-help has little to do with technology and more to do with enforcing a traditional vision of the natural, healthy, and normal. Disconnect. Take breaks. Unplug all you want. You’ll have different experiences and enjoy them, but you won’t be any more healthy or real.”—The Disconnectionists
And as far as obeying the law on your bicycle, here’s my approach, and it’s based on both respect and common sense:
—When I’m in little fantasy bubble realms like gentrified Brooklyn where there’s an actual infrastructure designed to incorporate cars and bicycles and pedestrians, and where it actually makes sense to follow the law because the people who laid out the infrastructure actually realizes that cars and bikes are completely different, I’m more than happy to be a good little boy scout;
—When I’m in Midtown or some other place where I’m “sharing the road” (that’s cute) and thousands of two-ton 350 horsepower motor vehicles are bearing down on me because they’re driven by people whose only priority is getting to the Midtown Tunnel or the 59th Street bridge as quickly as possible, you can be damn well sure I’ll do whatever the hell I need to do in order to get a head start on these homicidal mutherfuckers, and that includes running the light if I deem it safer to do so;
—When I’m in the city, I do not ride on the sidewalk. However, if I’m in some suburban or exurban area on one of those heavy traffic routes with no shoulder that feeds into an Interstate, and there’s a sidewalk, and nobody has actually walked on that sidewalk since 1963 because they’re all in their cars speeding to the mall, and I feel like I need to use the sidewalk to cross that Interstate, you’re goddamn right I’m going to do it no matter what the law says. I’m going to “obey the letter of the law” in that situation to prove I “deserve respect?” Fuck that.
In other words, I’ll use bicycle infrastructure responsibly if you give it to me, but screw you if you think I’m going to pretend it’s there when it’s not. And if you think I don’t “deserve” the infrastructure I don’t have, then you’re in denial of both physics and common human decency.
The computer world is not yet finished, but everyone is behaving as if everything was known. This is not true.
In fact, the computer world as we know it is based upon one tradition that has been waddling along for the last fifty years, growing in size and ungainliness, and essentially defining the way we do everything.
My view is that today’s computer world are based on techie misunderstandings of human thought and human life, and the imposition of inappropriate structures throughout the computer and through the files and applications, the imposition of inappropriate structures on things we want to do in the human world.
“If an oil puddle is found on the factory floor, most companies would quickly get someone to clean it up before it causes an accident. At Toyota, they would quickly get someone to place warning cones and tape around the puddle, and then they would figure out where the puddle came from. Was a leaky forklift parked here? Does one of the pipes overhead have a leak? Is a nearby robot flinging a few drops of oil from it’s joints every minute? The oil puddle is a sign of a problem somewhere else, possibly a more important one, and you don’t clean it up until you’ve figured out where it came from and fixed the cause.”—ceribus peribus, writing about his father’s experience working for Toyota. (via stevewyshywaniuk)
“The interior scenes in the Battle School—and later in a deep-space forward base—have that antiseptic, too-clean veneer that screams “soundstage set.” I thought Ridley Scott solved this problem years ago with Alien and Blade Runner. You’ve got to dirty up the future a little.”—Story, Spectacle and Ender’s Game - OMNI Reboot
The beautiful Mrs Orwell remembers sneaking out at night and going to nightclubs when she was close to her daughter’s age. Her parents gave her rigid curfews and she rebelled. But the idea of her children engaging in the wildness she did horrifies her, which is, I think, a pretty common feeling. I say, “Well, we survived.” She says, “Only by chance.”
The city is by any external standard safer than when Mrs Orwell was slipping into a taxi downtown, but we are more fearful than ever of its perils. This is the tricky thing: many well-intentioned and psychologically sophisticated parents don’t want their children to experience the freedom they did, to have the slightly too exciting experiences they had in school. They want their teenagers to be innocent and safe, but safe in this context may be another way of saying “controlled”.
I’m interested in picking up some small design projects, particularly designing (or redesigning) personal sites, band sites, and small business sites. If you need help, take a look at my portfolio, and get in touch!
“An old Usenet saying tells us that to every complex question, there is an answer which is simple, understandable, and pleasant, and plain wrong. People love to accept simple answers; only later do they realize they were wrong. More harmfully, many wrong answers have the nasty feature of “working” at first sight. It’s much more harmful to get such an answer than to get an answer which turns out to be bogus the first time you try it.”—A commentary of Wiio’s laws
“Today’s self-publishing tools, almost from the get-go, were designed to privilege the present and ignore the past. When blogs first became popular, they were all organized in reverse chronology, with the most recent post at the top, the older ones fading into the background, and the clear implication of that design is that what’s written today is more important than what was written last week or last year. That design has carried over into basically every tool of social media. And, again, because most of the big social-media tools are paid for by advertising, they have even more economic impetus to reinforce recency in their design. They want us to be constantly refreshing the feed over and over again, because that’ll give them more eyeballs to which to sell ads. What this suggests, though, is that one could design all sorts of quite delightful tools for expression and contact that didn’t prize recency. If you founded a social network that charged a minimal amount of money, for example, you wouldn’t need ads at all, and suddenly the economic need to reinforce recency is gone. Facebook only makes five dollars a year off of each user. That’s actually an amazingly piddling amount, when you think about it.”—
I think this depends entirely on the type of ‘social network’ one makes. If you consider Medium a social network—instead of a content network, but why would you?—then, sure, quality over freshness. When it comes to sharing one’s day to day life, however, the most important events are also the most memorable, and don’t need constant re-hashing.
“They were trying to teach graphics as epitomised by the recognised practitioners of the time – a Milton Glaser or a Pentagram. But they’d lost grasp of the moment. The agenda was how to find witty visual puns to summarise a situation: a logo for a restaurant could be a bite out of a plate. Well, to a young person growing up on Roxy Music, that was utterly banal. I won’t spend five minutes thinking down that line. It’s stupid. It tells me nothing about the restaurant… What I learned from style culture was if you dress a particular way, you communicate with like-minded people. I just employed exactly the same technique with graphics. So forget the bite out of the plate. The choice of type alone will tell you what kind of restaurant this is. Get the typeface, size, position, spacing and mood right, and it will tell you. Is it Le Gavroche or is it McDonald’s? It’s the language of semiotics, not of puns.”—Peter Saville. (via e-r-h)
Throughout my career I’ve had my antennae up, looking for examples of people who use systems as opposed to goals. In most cases, as far as I can tell, the people who use systems do better. The systems-driven people have found a way to look at the familiar in new and more useful ways.
To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.
“Product focus at start-ups tends to centre around development through to launch and it often doesn’t take into account how this will change once a product is in market. What will it be like one month after launch? One quarter? One year? One decade? Using principles of product lifecycle management are key, as are making sure to see how products evolve in tandem and how a start-up may begin with one product but end up with a portfolio approach.”—Start Up Tips For Product Managers (& Vice Versa) : Brainmates – Boosting People and Product Performance
“And I will say this about the abstract concept of ‘freedom’; it’s possible you are freer if you accept what you are and just get on with being the person you are, than if you maintain this kind of uncommitted I’m free-to-be-this, free-to-be-that, faux freedom.”—Jonathan Franzen interviewed by Dave Haslam, Author and DJ - Official Site