Posts about Critiques


The color of empathy is not flat: Insights to Color Blindness & Design.  

Line, motion, space, texture, size , form, shape, typography, and color.

As a member of the 9 structural units, or elements of visual interaction design, the role of color is integral to the way we communicate, parse, and enhance information on and off the screen. In an attempt to simplify human interaction with the digital interface, designers have pursued the style of a “flat UI”. This bare-bones approach relying mostly on rectangular shapes and solid, flat color is meant to place a user’s focus on content. The visual shift from skeuomorphism to flatland also helped to foreshadow a product’s ease-of-use by dramatically simplifying how the interface looked. 

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Designing for color blindness (aka Daltonism) is an example of how designers can practice visual empathy and learn to experience the world from someone else’s perspective.

Easy win: Citibank

Being an interaction designer means you’re aware of improvements that can be made in the things you use every day. This one is about a dropdown in Citibank’s password recovery flow. Hey, Citi! Here’s an easy win.

So you’ve set up your Citi credit card to autopay, and don’t recall your password on the odd time you need to log in. You go to reset it, provide the identifying information, and click Reset Password, only to have the page stop you with some red text and inform you that you missed a required field. A required field with only one possible selection.

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Being an interaction designer means you’re aware of improvements that can be made in the things you use every day. This one is about a dropdown in Citibank’s password recovery flow. Hey, Citi! Here’s an easy win. So you’ve set up your Citi credit card to autopay, and don’t recall your password on the odd time you need to log [...]

Easy win: Twitter

Being an interaction designer means you’re aware of improvements that can be made in the things you use every day. This one is about the notifications in Twitter’s iPhone app. Hey, Twitter! Here’s an easy win.

So you’re on your iPhone when it buzzes in your hand. Hey, neat! A Twitter somethingorother. You open the app, only to see that there are no notifications for your current Twitter profile.

That’s cool. It must be for one of the other Twitter profiles you use. So you open the list of profiles only to see…nothing. No hint of where this little tweet of goodness awaits you.

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Being an interaction designer means you’re aware of improvements that can be made in the things you use every day. This one is about the notifications in Twitter’s iPhone app. Hey, Twitter! Here’s an easy win.So you’re on your iPhone when it buzzes in your hand. Hey, neat! A Twitter somethingorother. You open the app, only to see that there [...]

Easy Win: Photoshop

Being an interaction designer means you're aware of improvements that can be made in the things you use every day. This one is about the crop tool found in the most popular digital image manipulation software, Photoshop. Hey, Adobe! Here's an easy win.

Easywin01.png

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Being an interaction designer means you're aware of improvements that can be made in the things you use every day. This one is about the crop tool found in the most popular digital image manipulation software, Photoshop. Hey, Adobe! Here's an easy win.

Planets Don't Have Orbits

 

 

I heard an argument forwarded by Andrew Hinton way back in Dublin at the Inteaction12 conference. The short form goes like this: "Users don't have goals." (UDHG for short.) Being a big believer in Goal-Directed Design, I thought the argument to be self-evidently flawed, but since it came up again as a question from a student at my Cooper U class in Berlin, I feel I ought to address it.

Are there, in fact, goals?

Given just those four words, it seems like it might be about users actually not having goals. But of course, goals do exist. If they didn't, why would anyone get out of bed in the morning? Or do work? Or make conference presentations? If we didn't have goals, nothing would be happening in the world around us. But of course we do we do get out of bed. We do work. We write blog posts. All because we have reasons which—for clarity—we call goals. This example illustrates that what UDHG really means that most people don't have explicit goals.

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I heard an argument forwarded by Andrew Hinton way back in Dublin at the Inteaction12 conference. The short form goes like this: "Users don't have goals." (UDHG for short.) Being a big believer in Goal-Directed Design, I thought the argument to be self-evidently flawed, but since it came up again as a question from a student at my Cooper U [...]

Design > Critique > Repeat

There’s a lot of writing out there on how to run a productive critique.

One of my favorites is by Jake Knapp of Google Ventures where he lays out nine rules to follow. For example, one great rule is to write it before you say it - this requires 5-10 minutes of silent time to look at the work and write down your initial reactions. It allows you to respond to the work individually – eliminating groupthink. Scott Berkun also wrote a great guide on setting up a critique and goes into the details of specific questions to ask and what materials you’ll need.

So you’ve followed the best practices and just had a super productive critique.

 

Now what?

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There’s a lot of writing out there on how to run a productive critique.One of my favorites is by Jake Knapp of Google Ventures where he lays out nine rules to follow. For example, one great rule is to write it before you say it - this requires 5-10 minutes of silent time to look at the work and write [...]

Your Flat Design is Convenient for Exactly One of Us

Illustration built on creative commons 2.0 Portrait of a Man by Flickr user and photographer Yuri Samoilov

I’m OK with fashion in interaction design. Honestly I am. It means that the field has grappled with and conquered most of the basics about how to survive, and now has the luxury of fretting over what scarf to wear this season. And I even think the flat design fashion of the day is kind of lovely to look at, a gorgeous thing for its designers’ portfolios.

 

But like corsets or foot binding, extreme fashions come at a cost that eventually loses out to practicality. Let me talk about this practicality for a moment.

In The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman distinguished between two ways that we know how to use a thing: information in the world, and information in your head.

 

 

Information in the world is stuff a user can look at to figure out. A map posted near the subway exit is information in the world. Reference it when you need it, ignore it when you don’t.

 

 

Information in the head is the set of declarative and procedural rules that users memorize about how to use a thing. That you need to keep your subway pass to exit out of the subway is information in your head. Woe be to the rider to throws their ticket away thinking they no longer need it.

For flat design purists, skeuomorphism is something akin to heresy, but it’s valuable because it belongs to this former category of affordance: it is information in the world. For certain, the faux-leather and brushed-aluminum interfaces that Apple had been pumping out were just taking things way too far in that direction, to a pointless mimicry of the real world. But a button that looks like a thing you can press with your finger is useful information for the user. It’s an affordance based on countless experiences of living in a world that contains physical buttons.

Pure, flat design doesn’t just get rid of dead weight. It shifts a burden. What once was information in the world, information borne by the interface, is now information in users’ heads, information borne by them. That in-head information is faster to access, but it does require that our users become responsible for learning it, remembering it, and keeping it up to date. Is the scroll direction up or down this release? Does swipe work here? Well I guess you can damned well try it and see. As an industry now draped in flat design, we’ve tidied up our workspace by cluttering our user’s brains with memorized instruction booklets for using our visually sparse, lovely designs.

So though the runways of interaction design are just gorgeous right now, I suspect there will be a user-sized sigh of relief when things begin to slip a bit back the other way (without the faux leather, Apple). Something to think about as we gear up our design thinking for the new year.

Illustration built on creative commons 2.0 Portrait of a Man by Flickr user and photographer Yuri SamoilovI’m OK with fashion in interaction design. Honestly I am. It means that the field has grappled with and conquered most of the basics about how to survive, and now has the luxury of fretting over what scarf to wear this season. And I [...]

The YotaPhone

This morning Dan Weissman interviewed me on NPR’s Marketplace about the viability of the 2-screen YotaPhone. (Americans will pronounce it like “Yoda” phone, and I suspect the semi-implied sci-fi connection will actually help.) The timeslot on NPR didn’t offer any time to expound on punditry, so here’s more on what I’m thinking.

The success of a new product in a mature market depends on many, many things. One of those is uniquely addressing an unmet need. Battery life is as yet one of those unmet needs. Until we solve some of those pesky constraints of physics and/or battery tech, we have to find ways to lengthen the utility of the phone within the constraints of existing power reserves. YotaPhone utilizes a second, e-Ink display on the “back” of the phone, and this helps battery life in two ways.


Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

But first, a paragraph of a primer: If you’re not familiar with the tech, e-Ink is an “electrophoretic display” where tiny transparent spheres can be turned black or white with a zap of a particular charge of electricity. (There’s a color version, but it’s more expensive and not as common.) The spheres are tiny enough to work as pixels, and that’s the basis of the display. It’s the thing driving Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook, among other products.

First: Sipping from the battery cup

One of the great things about e-Ink is that it uses very little electricity, especially compared to the full-color, backlit screens that are on most smartphones. At a 20% battery warning, then, you could turn the thing around and instead of having a handful of minutes left, you could conceivably have hours of phone time left, as long as you stick to the low-energy e-Ink display. That’s pretty cool.

Second: Life after battery death

The other crazy nifty thing about e-Ink is that once the display is refreshed, it uses no power. What that means is that you can design the phone to display critical information as its dying act, and the phone is still useful—It doesn’t become a brick. About to lose battery? Have it display the most common/recent phone numbers you access, so you can make use of some other phone. Have it display the directions you’re currently following so you can get there. Have it display your electronic boarding pass for your flight. In each of these mini-scenarios, YotaPhone can extend the utility of the phone for its users past the battery life. (That said, note that I haven’t been shipped one to play with or test, and don’t know if this functionality is built into the phone. I’m just sussing out opportunities.)

The YotaPhone is not the first to employ e-Ink. The Motorola Motofone (note the rhyming name) was released in 2006, and it featured an e-Ink display. But the e-Ink was its only display. Motofone asked its users to downgrade their whole experience in exchange for battery life, which is not a concern for most of the use of the phone. Contrast that with the YotaPhone, which says that you can have the premium sensory experience of full color and brightness as long as the battery reserves are flush. AND it gives users an option to downgrade their experience when that becomes necessary, and that’s new.

Also note that there are other design challenges to having two screens at once, but these are for a blog post longer than this one. (Somebody hire us to design for this little guy, and you can get a really, really good answer to that question. :)

Here at Cooper we design around user’s goals, and mobile phone users’ goals are actually to have mobile access anytime and anywhere, implying infinite power. And if someday battery capacity and/or decay are simply “solved,” the YotaPhone will seem very much like an antiquated, stopgap solution. But until then, it seems like a very good stopgap solution to me, one that I’d personally find useful, and I suspect the market will, too.

This morning Dan Weissman interviewed me on NPR’s Marketplace about the viability of the 2-screen YotaPhone. (Americans will pronounce it like “Yoda” phone, and I suspect the semi-implied sci-fi connection will actually help.) The timeslot on NPR didn’t offer any time to expound on punditry, so here’s more on what I’m thinking.The success of a new product in a mature [...]

UX Boot Camp with Marketplace Money

Old School Radio Meets the Digital Age

Take a look inside Cooper's June, 2013 UX Boot Camp with American Public Media’s Marketplace Money radio show, where students explored the next horizon of audio programming—a paradigm shift from broadcast to conversation-based platforms.

The Challenge
Students rolled up their sleeves to help the show respond to the trend away from traditional radio by finding the right mix of alternative distribution platforms. Marketplace Money came equally ready to take a radical departure from their current format in order to create a new model that redefines the roles of host, show, and audience in the digital age. To reach this goal, students focused on designing solutions that addressed three big challenges:

  1. Engage a new, younger audience that is tech savvy, and provide easy access to content via new platforms, such as podcasts, satellite radio shows, and the Internet.
  2. Inspire audience participation and contribution. Facilitate conversations and inspire people to share their personal stories so that listeners can learn from each other.
  3. Design ways for the host to carry an influential brand or style that extends beyond the limits of the show and engage with the audience around personal finance, connecting with listeners in ways that are likeable, useful, and trustworthy, making the topic of personal finance cool, fun and approachable.

At the end of the four-day Boot Camp, student teams presented final pitches to Marketplace Money, and a panel of experienced Cooper designers offered feedback on their ideas and presentations. In the following excerpts from each day, you can test your own sensory preferences for receiving content as you see, hear and read how design ideas evolved at the Boot Camp, inspiring new relationships between people and radio.

Marketplace Money Class

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Old School Radio Meets the Digital AgeTake a look inside Cooper's June, 2013 UX Boot Camp with American Public Media’s Marketplace Money radio show, where students explored the next horizon of audio programming—a paradigm shift from broadcast to conversation-based platforms.The Challenge Students rolled up their sleeves to help the show respond to the trend away from traditional radio by finding [...]

It's Never Just a Website Redesign: Transforming Business Through Design

At Cooper’s UX Boot Camp, facilitated by Kendra Shimmell, Stefan Klocek, and Teresa Brazen, held between March 25th and March 28th at Monkey Ranch in Petaluma, CA, Fair Trade USA looked to participants for ideas around how to raise awareness of their mission and inspire consumers to purchase Fair Trade products. Fair Trade USA enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model through certifying and promoting Fair Trade products. Their work benefits everyone from farmers and workers to consumers, industry and the environment, and yet only 20-30 percent of Americans even know what Fair Trade means. Why? The issues are complex, but as students dug into this problem they identified key factors behind this disconnect, including a lack of brand awareness of the business case for Fair Trade, low brand adoption, and limited Fair Trade product presence in stores. From those explorations, the following goals emerged:
  • Motivate and inspire brands to adopt and evangelize Fair Trade practices.
  • Put more Fair Trade products in front of consumers.
  • Build “pop culture” awareness of Fair Trade to get more brands to buy into the movement.
To get there, student teams went beyond the initial concept of a website redesign and took on the bigger questions that lead to business transformation. For a look behind the scenes as the teams approached this challenge, check out the following video filmed during the Fair Trade USA Boot Camp, and read more to take a look at the Fair Trade USA ecosystem model and what the students came up with in the pitch decks that follow. http://vimeo.com/64513760

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At Cooper’s UX Boot Camp, facilitated by Kendra Shimmell, Stefan Klocek, and Teresa Brazen, held between March 25th and March 28th at Monkey Ranch in Petaluma, CA, Fair Trade USA looked to participants for ideas around how to raise awareness of their mission and inspire consumers to purchase Fair Trade products.Fair Trade USA enables sustainable development and community empowerment by [...]

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