Friday, July 31, 2009

Direct Better than Clean

We often see that links embedded in a paragraph should be used on words that describe what the user will see after they click it. A coworker recently shared this post from Dustin Curtis about his personal experience as he modified the text around a link to his Twitter account. He started with simple statements like "I'm on Twitter." with his Twitter account linked from the word "Twitter". He then ended up with the link in a sentence on the word "here", which isn't as elegant of a presentation, but seems to be more effective. He identifies the success of this presentation to the forcefulness of the phrase "You should follow me on Twitter here," and how it directly addresses the person reading it.

I find this interesting because it is definitely not the most sophisticated solution, but if you're trying to get people to act on a link, sophistication may not be what you want. Instead, you need to take the route of advertising, address the broadest range of users, and tell them what they should do instead of hinting at it.

What do you think? Is it more important to cater to the masses even if the design is not as clean, or is there a way to marry the two and have good, effective design that pushes action?

Augmenting PC Reality

My last post on Augmented Reality showcased using mobile devices as the viewport. Other AR experience are leveraging increasingly-available webcams, particularly on laptop computers. Consider LevelHead, a game that projects the game environment onto cubes that serve as the game control mechanism:

levelHead v1.0, 3 cube speed-run (spoiler!) from Julian Oliver on Vimeo.

From a developer standpoint, the biggest barriers to adopting these techniques are the complexities of computer vision and manipulating 3D space. As a developer, I'm particularly interested in ARtisan, which tries to simplify the use of Flash AR tools FLARToolKit and Papervision3D. Flash is uniquely positioned for the AR space because of the ease with which applications can be distributed and its access to the host computer's camera and microphone. If you have a webcam, I would definitely recommend checking out some of their examples.

Finally, this post has some other interesting examples of AR experiences.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Design without research

This article was in the Interactions magazine. It is a two part article. The jyst of the article is the author begging the question, how far do we take user feedback? What lengths should designers go to in order to get user feedback and incorporate usability results? The author makes the point to keep it in perspective. Designers don't always have to go out and get extensive user feedback.

Part I of the article concludes:
"Like everything else in design and research (often overlapping terms that I’ve avoided specifying here), the answer to “design without research?” is, it depends. Among other factors, it depends on how much we already know about our customers (perhaps through our own experience). It depends on what we hope to learn and how we want to use that learning to create action. It depends on where we are in the development timeline of a product or service, and whether the product or service is new, me-too, innovative, or a redesign. It depends on business constraints like time to market, the maturity of the category, and the cost to evolve the design. No doubt it depends on other things as well. What do you think it depends on?"

Part II of the article makes the point that I would strongly agree with that when presenting design alternatives or business concepts to users in order to get feedback, it is important to give the concept you are presenting the best presentation possible. Meaning, the design alternatives are the most accurate representation of the concept you are getting feedback on. He summarizes the article with the following:
"When we’re using research to understand whether or not a concept is going to address people’s needs, we need design to create the best representation of that concept, and we need design to translate the output from that research into the next iteration of that concept. We can conclude that research needs design, before and after. Rather than treat research and design as separate activities (sometimes performed by siloed departments or vendors), I would encourage all the stakeholders in the product development process to advocate for an integrated approach in which design activities and research activities are tightly coordinated and aligned."

For the full articles, visit the following links:
Part 1:
Part 2:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bear as user, part 2

Some of you might remember the popular videos a while back of a bear user-testing a bear-proof trash can. Janea Triplett highlighted the story here.

Now a most-popular NYTimes article is related: designing the food canister that a bean can't open. It's almost anti-user design: know your user so well you make the product unusable to it. Or perhaps it's just an example of multiple stakeholders: bears and campers.

Looks Good Works Well

I recently came across a the blog of Bill Scott, the Director of UI Engineering at Netflix ( Bill has some terrific blog posts as well as embedded slideshare presentations that are quite thought provoking about design, functionality and user interaction. Specifically, the presentations by Stephen Anderson is exceptionally done and deliver solid messages. You can view them at: I especially appreciate slide #63 in this presentation. It illustrates how usability is about removing friction while psychology is about increasing movitation. This slide was created by Joshua Porter, another great set of presentations if you are interested. Joshua is the Founder at Bokardo Design, a company that specializes in social web app design. You can also find his slides on Slideshare.

One more interesting quote from Stephen Anderson's site:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” — R. Buckminster Fuller

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Some Great Resources for Project 3 and Service Design

After several days of not reading my Google Reader feed, I finally got around to catching up on some of my usability & UX news.

First off, for project 3 on encouraging people to go for walks, you may find Social by Social (a practical guide to using technologies for social impact) helpful, at least if you find that the lack of physical exercise, like walking, is essentially a social problem and not about the individual. I discovered this site from Experientia's blog. I, admittedly, have a bias in looking at things to see the social--even in creativity--but I haven't actually looked at the issue of why people walk (or don't) so I can't say whether or not this is a viable solution path (only your data can tell you that).

Also, and I wish I had known about this site earlier (so I could pass it on earlier) is this new site on Service Design tools, which goes over various ways of communicating service design to clients (so a lot of what the last and current service design project deliverables covered).

Also, in case there are still any lingering doubts of the benefits for design-oriented folks to know about implementation, I recommend reading this blog post about a designer now wearing more of a devloper hat ("programming for non-programmers", mostly, but the reflections are still very relevant).

Hope you all find some of this useful.