Posts about Information design


Presidential Election 2016: The Best UI

With each leap year comes a new race to the White House. Candidates are constantly being compared with regard to their positions on health care, international policy, civil rights, and the economy. However, one important issue has fallen off the radar this election: the strength of design of the leading candidates' websites. In this article, I'll compare and assess the designs of the five leading candidates' official campaign website homepages.

Disclaimers 

  • Candidates were selected based on their performance in the primaries at the time of this writing.
  • Candidate names are displayed in alphabetical order.
  • The messaging and imagery of candidate sites can (and do) change on a daily basis.
  • Content may appear differently depending on when you view the site.
  • The websites were viewed in New York City using Google’s Chrome browser. Content may appear differently depending on where you are.

Splash Pages

With the exception of Donald Trump, nearly all of the candidates’ websites use a redirect to a splash page in an attempt to solicit campaign donations or get users to join their cause. All of these splash pages appear on a user’s first visit to the site and most contain a hard-to-find call to action to reach the actual website.

Besides Donald Trump, who does not have a splash page at all, Hillary Clinton has the least obtrusive splash page -- mainly because it isn’t truly a splash page. Most times her site displays a small, easily dismissible pop-up, over a full-screen, transparent background. On rare occasions, after clearing cookies for the site in order to view it as a first time user, an actual splash page appears, asking for donations.

Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders sometimes display a splash page to promote an upcoming state’s primary or to gather support and collect donations after a win.

Marco Rubio appears to have a persistent splash page for first time visitors, which is always displaying a donation module.

Splash Page Comparison 

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With each leap year comes a new race to the White House. Candidates are constantly being compared with regard to their positions on health care, international policy, civil rights, and the economy. However, one important issue has fallen off the radar this election: the strength of design of the leading candidates' websites. In this article, I'll compare and assess the designs of the five leading candidates' official campaign website homepages.

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Visual Design for White Labelled Products

Designing a product with the intention of being “white labelled” means that you are creating a software for a client to incorporate into their existing (visual language) system. Every now and then design consultants are hired by another consultant to work on a third party’s existing system. This what you call a super white label. Here, you not only have to consider your client’s needs, but your client’s client’s needs, too. It can be easy to start designing with everyone’s goals in mind and eventually lose focus, leaving no one satisfied in the end. These are some basic tips I’ve found that to help start and manage a white labelled project. 


It can be easy to start designing with everyone’s goals in mind and eventually lose focus, leaving no one satisfied in the end.

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What you'll like for dinner

Or: How persuasive design saved my lunch

While I was on route to Amsterdam for IXDA14, something struck me about the way the dinner options were presented to passengers. Here’s what was happening. The flight attendant delivered the menu in the same way to each row:

“Would you like barbeque chicken, beef strip, or vegetarian?”

I’ve been a vegetarian for twenty years now, and I’m a little sensitive to these moments. At first, my identity hackles were raised. “Hey!” I thought, “Why wouldn’t it be ‘Chicken, beef, and spicy red-beans-and-rice?’ We eat food, not a category of food! Those options should be presented as equals because we’re equals…Blah blah blah…ramble ramble…”

Fortunately, as is my habit, I caught myself mid rant, and tried to consider what was good about it. And sure enough, on reflection it’s the exact right way to present these options. Cooper’s been paying more attention to persuasive design of late, so let me explain, because that’s exactly what’s going on. The flight attendants are using choice architecture to keep vegetarians fed.

You see, one of the problems that vegetarians encounter when eating buffet-style with omnivores is that when there is a veggie option present, if it’s too good, there’s a risk that the omnivores will eat all the veggie stuff before we get to the front of the line, leaving us poor suckers with empty plates and sad-trombone bellies.

If the attendant presented “chicken, beef, and spicy red-beans-and-rice,” that’s exactly what’s at risk. An omnivore hearing that might think, “Hey, I’m a huge fan of spicy red beans and rice! Cajun spice is awesome. Bam! Let’s kick it up a notch!”

 

 

But when hearing a menu consisting of two easy-to-visualize options and the category of "vegetarian," omnivores are more likely to be turned off by that third option. “Vegetarian? Screw that. I’m not a vegetarian. I like my meat heaping and with a side of meat. Meat me up, attendant, with the finest, meatiest meatings you have!” They’re less likely to ask after the actual contents of the vegetarian option, as they’re busy thinking about whether they’d like chicken or beef.

Meanwhile the vegetarians (even if their delicate identities are a bit bruised) are relieved when they hear that their needs have been considered. The unlucky ones in the very back of the plane (who failed to arrange a special meal in advance) might even get to eat.

 

descriptive optioncategorical option
omnivoresMight choose :)Less likely to choose, still :)
vegetariansLess to eat :(More to eat :)

It’s not foolproof, of course, but I’ll bet if we could do a plane-by-plane comparison of “vegetarian” vs. “red beans and rice”, the categorical option would result in much more of everyone being happy. And that’s one of the powers of well-done choice architecture.

Or: How persuasive design saved my lunchWhile I was on route to Amsterdam for IXDA14, something struck me about the way the dinner options were presented to passengers. Here’s what was happening. The flight attendant delivered the menu in the same way to each row:“Would you like barbeque chicken, beef strip, or vegetarian?”I’ve been a vegetarian for twenty years now, [...]

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Amber Alert: The Tragedy of Bad Design

If you live in California or New York and you own a cell phone, you probably recently experienced the new Amber Alert capabilities. And by “capabilities,” I mean “the government’s newfound ability to disturb your sleep with non-actionable information.”

In California, the alert that set all this ablaze was in reference to a man, James Lee DiMaggio, who may or may not have killed his friend and her son, burned his house down with them in it, and fled with her daughter. Not that you would have known that from the Amber Alert: “Boulevard, CA AMBER Alert UPDATE: LIC/6WCU986 (CA) Blue Nissan Versa 4 door.” Certainly, Twitter has been all a-buzz about the alerts, and there are dozens of articles on the subject (my personal favorite headline: “Shaquille O’Neal: Yeah I Got That Amber Alert”).

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If you live in California or New York and you own a cell phone, you probably recently experienced the new Amber Alert capabilities. And by “capabilities,” I mean “the government’s newfound ability to disturb your sleep with non-actionable information.” In California, the alert that set all this ablaze was in reference to a man, James Lee DiMaggio, who may or [...]

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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 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 [...]

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Explore New Interaction Paradigms at UX Boot Camp: Wikimedia

Advance and apply your UX design skills to a meaningful real-world problem in this intensive, hands-on workshop

BootCamp_WEB

This September, join Wikimedia, Cooper, and design-thinkers from around the world as we find new ways to spread knowledge through mobile Wikipedia. In this four-day workshop, you’ll use new UX skills to make mobile content contribution more approachable, intuitive, and less reliant on traditional input methods like typing. If you’ve wanted an excuse to explore new interaction paradigms and stay ahead of the design pack, this is your chance. Best of all, you get to do all of that in the creative classroom setting of Alan and Sue Cooper’s 50-acre ranch in Petaluma, CA.

Register now: UX Boot Camp: Wikimedia September 17-20, Petaluma, CA

What’s in it for you?

  • Learn new interaction techniques and approaches under the guidance of industry leaders, including Alan Cooper
  • Learn how to think through a problem from both a design and business perspective, rather than blindly applying methods by rote.
  • Energize your practice and make new connections by working on a real-world challenge with peers from around the world.
  • Beef up your portfolio with a smart, new design concept
  • Pick up leadership and collaboration skills that will help you better navigate your work environment.

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Advance and apply your UX design skills to a meaningful real-world problem in this intensive, hands-on workshopThis September, join Wikimedia, Cooper, and design-thinkers from around the world as we find new ways to spread knowledge through mobile Wikipedia. In this four-day workshop, you’ll use new UX skills to make mobile content contribution more approachable, intuitive, and less reliant on traditional [...]

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UX Boot Camp Goes to Europe

Guest post by Francesca Di Mari at Sketchin, a Swiss user experience design firm based in Lugano.

At  Sketchin we strongly believe that design can improve lives and foster social good. We first heard of Cooper’s UX Boot Camp when we visited Cooper in September, 2012, and we fell in love with their idea of using design to educate and foster social good by bridging design students with non-profits. This idea was conceived of and developed by Kendra Shimmell, the Managing Director at Cooper U, and it launched our determination to be part of a design revolution for social good. Our first step was to create our own UX Boot Camp modeled after what we experienced at Cooper. So in May of 2013, together with Talent Garden Milano and Frontiers of Interaction, we organized the first Italian UX Boot Camp in Milan, modeled after the Cooper UX Boot Camp. Here is a look back at what we created and discovered in the process. UX Bootcamp Milano 15

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Guest post by Francesca Di Mari at Sketchin, a Swiss user experience design firm based in Lugano. At Sketchin we strongly believe that design can improve lives and foster social good. We first heard of Cooper’s UX Boot Camp when we visited Cooper in September, 2012, and we fell in love with their idea of using design to educate and [...]

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Telling visual stories for science

The other night I attended a presentation/panel discussion about visual science communication. Well, I should say I had a terrific dinner at Wexler's first, then attended a presentation/panel discussion. These panels are better with a cocktail in you. The event took place at swissnex. I think they like their name uncapitalized. I'm still a bit unclear about what swissnex is. The name struck me as delicious-sounding, like something you'd pair with Nutella in the morning. Swissnex. Your Toast's Best Friend. I read their annual report and sat in their event space, so I know that they are a non-profit, they are staffed by lots of competent Swiss people, and they like to underline text. I'm guessing it's some kind of quasi-governmental Swiss cultural mission. Anyway, they host presentations about art and science, and do fun things like get Swiss kids to think about what 2023 will look like. All very wholesome. The speakers at this event were a motley crew, and some are doing truly interesting work designing things to communicate science to the public. There was Michele Johnson, for example, a "public affairs officer" for the Kepler mission at NASA Ames. Kepler is a space telescope orbiting the sun, looking for Earth-like planets. She talked about how they manage to create a huge beautifully-rendered picture of a distant planet using only 6 pixels of image data. Obviously, it involves making a lot of assumptions. (I think the Kepler people are a tad jealous of Hubble, pumping out eye candy for the public, no need to emblazen "artist rendering" all over them like a Barry Bonds asterisk. I'd be jealous, too. It's the difference between a webcam from 1995 and a telephoto DSLR. But they do impressive work, despite their constraints.) Another interesting panelist was Ryan Wyatt, the director of the planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences. He showed us the visualization his team created for their EARTHQUAKE!!! exhibit. Pretty sweet. And kind of mind-bending, because they're designing this uber-animation for the domed ceiling of the planetarium, projected with at least a half dozen overlapping light systems. They are an active and talented bunch, it seems. Six full-time staff work on science visualizations at the museum. (Edit: over-estimated the size of the team. Thanks, Ryan!) There was also Joe Hanson, who does a PBS Youtube show called "It's OK to Be Smart." His main point: that creating engaging video content (about science, or drunk make-up tips, or whatever) is easy, can be done on a shoestring budget, and please please please release your stuff to Creative Commons so that other people can re-mix and re-use for free. It ended late, so I wasn't in the mood to hob-nob too much. Plus that cocktail was beginning to weigh on my consciousness. But I left with a feeling that the problems the UX community face aren't so different from our compatriots doing science visualization. Sure, science viz is less concerned with usability and affordance (museum exhibits being a big exception). But we both have to synthesize input from subject matter experts. We both juggle the demands of clients and users and resources. We both strive to create artifacts that engage our users, drawing them in, immersing them in an experience, distilling complexity into its essential pieces. Our two communities, seemingly distinct, have a lot to learn from each other.  

The other night I attended a presentation/panel discussion about visual science communication. Well, I should say I had a terrific dinner at Wexler's first, then attended a presentation/panel discussion. These panels are better with a cocktail in you.The event took place at swissnex. I think they like their name uncapitalized. I'm still a bit unclear about what swissnex is. The [...]

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Interaction13 - Day 4 Recap

Ah, the final day of IxD13 has come to an end. Day 4 was comprised of panels, debates, and rapid ingenuity cycles. It was a blast to cover this conference. If you missed any of the other days, check out our recaps from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3. Can't wait to meet up again next year in Amsterdam!

Interaction Design Education Panel: Report Back

Dave Malouf, Haig Armen, Kristian Simsarian, Dianna Miller

IxDEdu ColorCheck

Demand for Interaction Designers has grown, but because IxD is so new, education programs are being developed independently. With no single organization curating a design education program, there is little chance for design educators to share information and techniques. This panel was brought together to discuss patterns in design education, and as a platform for designer educators to connect with each other.

How do we make IxD training more widely available?

Lots of small design shops don’t have budgets to send people to conference or for extra training. And a lack of guidance can lead to people to seek other employment. At the IxD13 Education panel, these were some of the ideas discussed to build skills without breaking the bank.
    Apprenticeship programs: (younger person paired with a senior designer) The junior designer would do smaller tasks and begin learn through doing.
    Partner with universities: Students gain real-world experience by working on client projects.. Design studios get fresh ideas and build relationships with future recruits.
    In-house training: How do you evaluate people’s aptitudes when they apply to an organization? Studios need better evaluation of applicants because people come with such mixed backgrounds.

There is a disconnect amongst what students think they are prepared to do, what they can actually do, and what employers want. Grads are not prepared to do high-level strategy. Many think they are, but it takes time to build that skill set.

Design fundamentals should be taught in middle and high schools, but if we can’t teach design curriculum in schools, we can host junior conference or 1 day UX Camps. Design principles are valuable to students of all ages. Design can teach people how to fail and how to take risks early in their development

How do we start to informally formalize where and how to find good teachers, mentors, programs, and studios?

We can spread good design education through our current network. Go to schools and give talks. As your relationship develops, schools will start to see you as a resource, and you can spread your design philosophy to new generations of movers and shakers.

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Ah, the final day of IxD13 has come to an end. Day 4 was comprised of panels, debates, and rapid ingenuity cycles. It was a blast to cover this conference. If you missed any of the other days, check out our recaps from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3. Can't wait to meet up again next year in Amsterdam! [...]

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The wrong projection

On a recent flight from Amsterdam to Houston, I turned on the “moving-map system” in the in-seat entertainment system and was surprised to see that though we were halfway through the 10-hour flight, the map made it look like we were minutes from landing in Texas. Sure, I had dozed the delightful doze of the jet lagged international flight, but had I actually passed out? Or had time slipped by that quickly? Shouldn’t we be somewhere over Greenland? That looks about halfway.

Then I realized that it was the map itself that was to blame. The arc was being true to the plane’s path across the map, but with a map as distorted as this one, it was bound to be confusing.

Like most cool things, this gets nerdy quick. See, when you try and take something that’s pretty much a sphere (the Earth) and fit it to a rectangle (the in-flight entertainment screen) you’re going to run into some deformation. There are many, many ways to crack this mathematical nut (the awesome site Radical Cartography lists 30) and each optimizes some things at the costs of others.

The designer of this system had chosen to use the familiar Plate Carrée projection of the Earth. It’s ancient, and quite familiar to travelers. It’s used everywhere. So certainly, it optimizes for initial use. At a simple glance, the traveler knows what he’s looking at.

But this projection, in forcing the longitude and latitude lines into tidy squares, severely squashes areas that are closer to the poles. The result is that—unless you’re traveling from one point on the equator to another—an actual straight line across the surface of the planet will appear on this map as oddly arced. What’s worse is that the arc won’t mean the same thing across its length. Nearer the poles it will be stretched and closer to the equator it will be squished, resulting in the weird, jarring experience of watching the plane zip to Ontario, and then crawl to the Gulf Coast.

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On a recent flight from Amsterdam to Houston, I turned on the “moving-map system” in the in-seat entertainment system and was surprised to see that though we were halfway through the 10-hour flight, the map made it look like we were minutes from landing in Texas. Sure, I had dozed the delightful doze of the jet lagged international flight, but [...]

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