Sunday, July 31, 2011

Google’s new User Interface

Have you noticed Google’s clean, a minimalistic user interface? The new facelift slowly started to spread across Google’s suite of products when Google+ (Google’s answer to Social Networking problems) was introduced. You could say that the new interface has a much more breathing room compared to the previous by looking at the before and after Gmail themes (below). Allowing extra spaces in between links, buttons, within buttons, words, and sentences makes the information on the page easily readable and digestible. By applying different shades of grays to the controls and fonts, the new facelift brings out all the important information to the forefront. Regardless of all the positive aspect about the new interface, you might experience scrolling vertically, roughly about 128 pixels further down (differences in the Gmail’s before and after image height) to view rest of the content, whereas in the old interface the content would be available to you without scrolling vertically.

Gmail Theme (before)

Gmail Theme (after)

Because of the extra spaced links, controls, and large buttons, Google’s new interface is easier to use on my iPad too. I was able to test the new interface with Google News since Gmail only supports iPad friendly web version.

Google News (before)

Google News (after)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Marc Hassenzahl's Why, What, and How.

While reading Marc Hassenzahl’s chapter on User Experience and Experience Design (link below) in conjunction with Buxton’s “Sketching User Experiences”, the differences and what user experience is became clear to me. Commentaries by several user experience gurus at the bottom of Hassenzahl’s chapter are also helpful in understanding user experience and experience design.

The Philips’ Wake-Up Light is a perfect example that describes a (what Hassenzahl calls it) surrogate experience. Let’s say an enlarged version of the wake-up light that was flat and mounted on to one of the bedroom walls, it would only be visible and active during the user set time—by doing so, would it enhance the user experience?

The three levels of Why, What, and How that Hassenzahl, lays out are easy to understand in terms of the experience of a product. Basically, Why clarifies the “needs and emotions involved in an activity, the meaning, the experience.” After the Why is determined, then the What “determines functionality that is able to provide the experience.” And the How is “way of putting the functionality to action.”

Micro businesses and service design

One of the things that this course has helped me do is recognize service design. I remember when I had my first visual design class in undergrad and I started seeing the world differently and noticing things like alignment, proximity, fonts, and so forth in the media around me. Now the way I perceive the world has a service recog capability that wasn't there before. So I recently saw a very interesting business in my local town that I think is awesome because it's people recognizing a need that is not being met and then fulfilling it. It's not super-complicated but it's a good example of how micro-businesses can work.

The service is called ikea*run. Our city is about 4 hours away from an Ikea store but there are enough people in town who have lived other places and traveled to know that we like Ikea. If you've ever tried to order from Ikea online then you know about their ridonkulous shipping fees. So these clever folks have started a business where you can order Ikea stuff and they will go get for less than the Ikea shipping and without the hassle of going yourself.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tag Clouds and Cognition

Tag clouds have been very popular that last few years, even overused in certain circumstances. Trying to present useful information in a tag cloud seems way out of bounds. But what I've been wondering about lately is how to present information to the user in a tag cloud type of presentation where the weighted links and general organization of items is more intuitive.

Tag clouds generally don't make sense to a new user. It's just a jumble of different-sized words. But it is clear that some things are more important and those words come to the forefront. So, when presenting data to a user, perhaps it makes sense to present the more often-used data in bolder text. I'd like to consider contrasting the matrix format with a tag cloud presentation.

Here is an example:

Name: Bo Campbell
Address: California
Phone: 805-867-5309


Name Bo Campbell
State California
Phone 805-867-5309

It is important here to know what the user is looking for, so let's assume after exhaustive user research we know that the user is first looking for the name and then the phone number. He doesn't really care about the state. I am setting up some surveys for this, but my hunch is that the time it takes to find the data will be very similar. However, the experience may be much different. Instead of scanning line by line, it may be much easier for the eye to catch the words that are presented to them larger and in the right location.

This is more how our brain has to work in the real world. We don't have danger categorized and ordered for use to scan. We have more important dangers that we look out for and keep our eyes open for. Perhaps the expression of data is easier to comprehend in this format.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Contextual Usability Framework for a Mobile Computing Environment

I read this article on the Journal of Usability Studies that was published in May 2011. You may be interested to learn about this framework:

The work of several scholars (Bevan & Macleod, 1994; Shami et al., 2005; Thomas & Macredie, 2002) who attempted to identify additional variables that may impact usability and subsequently adoption, led to the conceptual emergence of context of use (herein referred to as context)as it relates to usability, also referred to as contextual usability. Several frameworks encapsulating context have been proposed (Han et al., 2001; Lee & Benbasat, 2003; Sarker & Wells, 2003; Tarasewich, 2003; Yuan & Zheng, 2005). While there may be other usability frameworks that attempt to capture the essence of context, the models cited here provide a representative set of work in this area. From these we adapted the framework proposed by Han et al. (2001) because it offers considerable detail for each dimension they identified.

On the basis of the discussion on approaches to usability evaluation and the framework proposed by Han et al. (2001) and Kwahk and Han (2002), we propose a contextual usability framework for a mobile computing environment. The framework is depicted in Figure 1 and contains three elements. First, the outer circle shows the four contextual factors (i.e., User, Technology, Task/Activity, and Environment) described earlier as impacting usability. Second, the inner circle shows the key usability dimensions (i.e., Effectiveness, Efficiency, Satisfaction, Learnability, Flexibility, Attitude, Operability, etc.). Third, the box on the top of contextual factors shows a list of consequences (i.e., improving systems integration, increasing adoption, retention, loyalty, and trust, etc.).

Compared to the framework proposed by Han et al. (2001) and Kwahk and Han (2002), there are several advantages of the suggested mobile usability framework. Although the previous frameworks proposed by Han et al. (2001) and Kwahk and Han (2002) are comprehensive, they are difficult to follow due to formation and evaluation dimensions being merged into one diagram. Thus, the suggested framework depicted in Figure 1 represents a simple yet direct way to identify and address the various contextual mobile usability dimensions. In addition, with its central focus on usability, it offers specific guidance on the implementation of any interface/interaction project along with potential outcomes.

In addition, two modifications are introduced in terms of nomenclature for mobile contextual usability. First, “Technology” replaces “Product,” as this term helps conceive the system that a user may interact with a greater set of components, instead of simply the device or application itself. One example of this is found in the case of mobile usability where the inclusion of the wireless network is likely in addition to the mobile device (i.e., the product) when studying usability of a mobile product or service. Because mobile usability is mainly related to mobile technology, which continually improves the limitations of mobile interfaces and its applications, the technological factor of a mobile usability framework is an important and unique component that needs to be taken care of. Second, “Task/Activity” replaces “Activity,” as the former term appears more commonly in usability literature when describing the nature of users’ interaction with the technology. In addition, a list of consequences of usability was added to the framework as an output of usability evaluations.

These four variables (i.e., user, task/activity, environment, technology) were used for the presentation of the qualitative review of previous empirical research3 that relates to the usability assessment of mobile applications and/or mobile devices. The benefit of using these variables for the literature review is found in both the structure it provides for the discussion to follow, as well as to help highlight any areas that are lacking investigation.


Emerging approaches to long-term usability

There is no one definitive solution for the problem of how to ensure long-term usability of data.

Ensuring physical survival of the bits is addressed by today’s archiving solutions. Typically, they deal with the obsolescence of media and form factors by migrating the data from one medium to another. Ensuring the usability of the information is the greater challenge, but in many cases there are a number of viable approaches.

These include:

• Using virtualization technology to emulate the obsolete hardware needed to execute the applications that can make the digital artifact useful.
• Converting the artifact to a standard canonical format, so that the problem is limited to ensuring the usability of the standard format.
• Periodically transforming the artifact into a current format.

The right approach often depends on why it is important to ensure the long-term usability of the information, and on the characteristics of the data, such as format or size. Once the business requirements are determined, it becomes possible to adapt and design a solution to meet specific needs.

IBM has been addressing various aspects of ensuring long-term usability over the past decade, with a wide variety of solutions that address both the survival of the bits and the broader issues of long-term usability.


Content-Incentive-Usability Framework for Corporate Portal Design!

While working on reviewing an Agricultural Knowledge Management Portal I have come across an interesting paper, which discusses about a content-Incentive-Usability Framework for Corporate Portal Design from a Knowledge Management Perspective.

It discusses about three important components:

First, Specify the issues involved with the creation and integration of content for knowledge portals.

Second, highlight the importance of providing incentives for employees to share knowledge.

Third, examine how user acceptance of KM portals can be promoted, and how this knowledge can be used to desing better corporate portals.

If you are interested to learn more about this framework please find resources at

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Swoogle: A Semantic Web Search Engine!

Have you heard of Swoogle?

You can find this search engine at

Swoogle is a search engine for Semantic Web Ontologies, documents, terms and data found on the web. Swoogle provides services to human users through a browser interface and to software agents via RESTful web services. Swoogle employs Resource Description Framework (RDF) semantic technique - and other semantic technique is Topic Map which you may aware of that.

Swoogle is a research project (PhD thesis work of Li Ding) developed at and is hosted by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. This project received funding from US DARPA and NSF.

You can read more at -

How much is too much?

Did you ever hear about the philosophy: "fail early, fail fast". I picked up this line while reading about the "lean start-up philosophy".

Imagine a two person start-up trying to develop a web 2.0 application. Time is the most precious resource for the company and delivering a working prototype is everything! In such circumstances, the million dollar questions is: "how much time do you spend on conceptualizing, planning and designing before you start implementing the prototype? In other words, how much (time spend on design/planning) is too much?"

I know that the answer to this different for each scenario and is dependent upon - the time you have, the overall goal of the project and the immediate goal of the prototype. However I thought, it would be neat if someone could come-up with a 'COMPLEX' flowchart that helps people figure out which design methodologies are more relevant to a particular situation than others. I call it a COMPLEX flow-chart since the number of possible scenarios are infinite and each scenario warrants a unique approach. However it should be possible to identify the 10-20 most common(or general) scenarios and then create a flow chart that. For example the flowchart would tell you that - the card-sorting method is more relevant to scenario X, but usability testing with low fidelity prototypes are more suitable for scenario Y. Basically if we synthesize the different design principles, techniques, methods learned in this class into an applicability based flowchart it would be a nifty tool!

I would like to know your thoughts/opinions on this. Do you think it would be possible? Or would it be too much of a generalization? Or too complicated?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Low/High Fidelity Prototype at Work

There are many different ways to prototyping web pages and applications. In this post I want to mainly touch on low and high fidelity prototypes and which fits best at my company currently. I work in an agile development where the software engineers tend to work faster (at least that’s the case at my workplace), which means the engineers would have a “working” prototype for demonstration prior to going over a low fidelity prototype. Perhaps the engineers should hold off until the low fidelity prototypes are approved and signed off, but that does not seem to happen in the agile world.

When I created low fidelity prototypes (very few times), I thought it generated valuable usability conversation, arguments and suggestions, but unfortunately the scrum team (engineers, BA, PM, QA) thought it decelerated the development process. Whenever there is a meeting (backlog grooming, project planning, design) that debates a feature, the teams would want to see the big picture (high fidelity prototypes) right of the bat.

The quality and usability of the applications at my workplace could be highly improved by at least fifty plus percent if the teams take the role of design in software product development seriously. In Bill Buxton's book, a clear representation of design, engineering, marketing, and sales in all phases of the product development process shows that the engineering team’s role in the design phase is very little, which means that the engineering team would have no room to demonstrate a “working” prototype.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Data visualization on the iPad using Flash Builder

I came across Adobe’s sales dashboard demo app while searching for the Flash Builder tutorials. My initial thought about this demo app was that if I were to prototype a dashboard app, it would not have looked anything like this demo app. My prototype would have carried a data grid, some charts, and lots and lots of buttons! This demo app carries an intuitive user interface, which represents big and small deals in circles/bubbles that users can interact with on the x and y-axis. By displaying information in a way that is easier for an end-user to digest large chunks of data in a usable interface, would ultimately enhance the user experience. The touch gestures in the iPad are perfect and the sales dashboard app built using the Flash Builder demos how pleasurable the user experience can be. It’s very useful to let the user do a gesture based interaction for the purpose of knowing that something is happening and being informed that something is happening in the device.

I haven’t played with the Flash Builder’s mobile properties, but from what I’ve seen (tutorials, sample flash builder mobile apps) I seem to enjoy it.

America: The Story of Us

I don’t know if you have watched America: The Story of Us but this is a very interesting documentary. A co-worker was watching it over lunch the other day and I quickly became absorbed. I am not an avid history buff and I don’t watch the history channel on a regular basis, except for American Pickers, but this show had me immediately. The story is presented in a rich factual way. Though they are reenacting the information it is truly breath taking and makes the history come alive. It isn’t your usual boring narrated film. The thought that went into the design elements and how technology was used to enhance the story not take away from it was phenomenal. If you have not watched the series you can see it on Netflix. Hurry before the price goes up. I know I plan to take a look before canceling my Netflix subscription.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mobile Application Development - Data/Functionality Driven Decisions

I work in a large-company that very recently instituted a mobile-computing team. After attending a talk about the mobile UX, I could identify an interesting challenges while choosing the general mobile application development direction.

Native vs. Web Applications - choosing the right path!

Native application are mobile applications native to the mobile OS. (Eg. iOS, Android). Web applications are applications written in HTML/JavaScript, accessible through a web-browser on the mobile device and respond to gestures just like native applications. It is important to choose between native and mobile applications because of the following reasons:

1. Native applications provide hardware interaction support like camera integration, gps integration etc., Web applications do not support this.

2. Web application code-base is easy to maintain since you can write once and deploy across all platforms.

When native applications are chosen since code needs to be written for each single platform and also maintaining a uniform UI/UX design is an additional challenge.

So choose wisely!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Never Used a Computer Before in His Life

There are people in this world who have never used a computer! We are often quick to forget this. I find it hard to believe too.

Jennifer Boriss, a Fire Fox developer, recently encountered 60 year old Joe, a cafeteria worker, stumbling around the mall food court "bored out of his mind". Boriss had originally traveled to the mall to conduct user tests on how people surf the web (interesting note: she mentions she finds malls an excellent place to find user test participants due to the variation in technical expertise). She ended up spending three hours with Joe, finding his unbiased, inexperienced and untouched impression of the Internet a source of valuable insight.

While she did focus primarily on browser usability, I loved how she found that Joe instantly attempted to use the "Help" menu as a guide for him to navigate the world wide web. There really is no guide book for using the web. Its hard to believe that perhaps we take for granted all the drop down menus, text boxes, and scroll bars we seemingly find so intuitive. While these inexperienced users are becoming more and more rare, Joe's experience serves as a good reminder of remembering to think about your users' context, skill level and basis of interaction.

A few of Boriss's discoveries:
  • No matter the user skill level, users stick with what they know. In the case of new users: text. Simple and informative text is effective.
  • Don't assume users will naturally investigate how software will work. Provide visual feedback and encouragement.
  • Don't make too many assumptions on how user's will use your technology
We truly take for granted what we know as we become experienced technology users. We've become so accustomed to scroll bars and drop down menus. Now we have touch interfaces where we can scroll around with a finger touch and zoom in with a pinch. We are even becoming more familiar with motion sensing devices that allow us to swipe through the air and move around to interact with the virtual world. It would be very interesting to see Joe try out a smartphone, tablet, or the Microsoft Kinect.

With the growth of ubiquitous computing, its interesting to think of how we will interact with technology in the future and decide what is natural and ideal. I personally strive and hope to create and support technologies that will us to interact in such natural ways that provide us deeper interaction with the world around us. I think we will need to learn more about ways to mesh our expertise of perceiving physical affordances in the world with our expertise of navigating virtual world of software and the web.

System Usability Scale (SUS)

I felt like we went over the SUS very quickly, so I wanted to elaborate on it a little.

Originally developed by John Brook in 1986, the System Usability Scale (SUS) is a self reported survey metric used to evaluate application usability. The survey is comprised of 10 questions that rate user satisfaction or dissatisfaction on a 5-point scale. The odd questions are positively worded and the even are negatively worded, this is done to add variation to the survey. The questions are as follows:
  1. I think that I would like to use this system frequently.
  2. I found the system unnecessarily complex.
  3. I thought the system was easy to use.
  4. I think that I would need the support of a technical person to be able to use this system.
  5. I found the various functions in this system were well integrated.
  6. I thought there was too much inconsistency in this system.
  7. I would imagine that most people would learn to use this system very quickly.
  8. I found the system very cumbersome to use.
  9. I felt very confident using the system.
  10. I needed to learn a lot of things before I could get going with this system.
To score the SUS you must first change each score from the alternating 1-5 scale to a standard 0-4 scale where 0 is dissatisfied and 5 is very satisfied. To do this, you take the odd scores (positive worded scores) and subtract 1 from each score. For example, if you had a score of 5 it would now be 4 (5-1). Then you take all of the even scores and make it reverse by subtracting the score from 5. For example if you had a score of 3 it would now be a 2 (5-3). All of the scores can now be summed together and multiplied by 2.5. It is multiplied by 2.5 to make the score out of 100. If each odd score was a five and each even score was a 1, the final score would be a perfect SUS score of 100. SUS scores average at about 66% (69% Median). With 77% in the 75th percentile, anything over 80% can be considered a “good” score (Tullis & Albert, 2008).

Below are some quick reference answers.

How is the SUS used?
          The SUS is most frequently used to compare application designs

How many questions are in the SUS questionare?

Is the SUS reliable?
Multiples studies (Lewis & Sauro 2009; Bangor et al 2008) have founds the SUS to have a Cronbach’s Alpha of .90 (note anything above .7 is considered “good”)

What does the SUS try to measure?
          Effectiveness, Efficiency, Satisfaction

Please, if you have any other FAQs please ask them and I will answer (look up the answer)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Interesting Observations, and Related Resources, from Working on the HCI Website

As I carried out my discovery/research work for my attempt at a re-design of our HCI website, I came across a lot of interesting data, particularly from the site's Google Analytics account, that brought UX concepts back to mind that I was first introduced to when getting into the field. In my experience, in the past year, there seems to have been a dramatic decrease in the mentions of the importance of "copy" and proper "writing for the web." These topics were once extremely prominent across UX publications and online entities. This article, by French UX consultancy Miratech, outlines some reasons, based on comparisons with print reading, that call for curtailed and, most importantly, scannable amounts of copy. The tendency to scan and not gaze as much and decreased information retention mean a lot for text-heavy sites like the current HCI portal. It means that important links, like the PDF versions of all course offerings, found at the very bottom of some inner site pages, are rarely noticed and thus substantially underutilized. In fact, on the page this PDF lives on, Google's in-page click analysis shows an insignificant use (below 1% in page clicks) of the PDF link. In general, throughout the HCI website, less than 4-5% of clicks occur below the fold. Besides for PDF resources like this course handbook, this means that other important pieces of information may be jumped over: contact information, application information, etc.. as all of these academic tidbits live within paragraphs of extensive text. I would say the homepage suffers from the very same problem and that it may correlate with the low depth and length of visits that the site (for 50% + of visits), as a whole, experiences (in absolutes, and not in averages since some students/faculty behaviors are outliers and increase the mean).

So, although it's a relatively old topic in the web-focused domain of the HCI/UX field, it's interesting to once again see a working example of it. This is something I am paying specific attention to during the re-design, which I am mid-way in terms of completing, particularly with certain about pages; the coupling of lengthy paragraphs and poor font choices (size/family) make for pages from which most users don't glean anything useful.

As I was thinking about all of this web copy talk, it brought to mine instances of menus, particularly "specials menus" in restaurants I've visited, where I've felt as equally burdened as when trying to find information on a much too wordy website... a topic which kind of ties in with service design. I'm wondering if anyone has perhaps potentially read or knows of resources related not specifically to web and writing, but to, more generally, services and writing/textual components of the service. I'd love to read more into it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pepto Bismol is Expensive but Feels So Good

The rising cost of design as a project progresses goes hand-in-hand with the "cone of uncertainty" in project management. A designer rarely gets the opportunity to revisit design the farther along a product goes. We are relegated to doing the best we can and then we watch as the design floats down the river, down the conveyer belt, dropped into a container, a lid sealed on, and a label. In a poor process, these late design opportunities present themselves more often, maybe due to ignorance at the upper levels, or cynicism about the design process. But in today's generally "Agile" environment, it happens rarely, though I wouldn't be blogging about it if I didn't recently get that opportunity. And wow, it is a really great opportunity, though not without risks and difficulties.

Our engineering department recently decided to change their code-base. In other words, a very quick and complete rewrite of a project that I had done research, design, and testing on. I was happy with the end-product in general, but one little piece was bothering me and we didn't have enough time to do any more design. It would have worked fine, but if you're a designer, you know, it needs to sit well in the gut. This wasn't sitting well. And then, POW, a new chance. And what a chance it has been. It's expensive, yes. Not as expensive as after the release, but it is costing them. At least the cost was factored into the change decision and the top brass are on-board. Consequently, my gut feels better. The area I didn't like is smooth as silk now. I was offered redemption! I guess I'm just saying that I'm stoked I got this chance and wish there was some part of the process that could be built-in for it, but it's textbook malpractice. Just costs to much.

It must be said, also, that the process isn't completed, yet. The code is still being rewritten and this entire rewrite is to take 4-6 weeks. In other word, I have very little time to test my new design and testing is the real proof. Without the testing, it's just a hunch, and that's scarier than not having a strong gut feeling about it. So I'm struggling to get to a point where I can test, and testing takes so much time, and means iteration. Gotta do it. Otherwise, there goes that twinge in the gut again. Ready to release on a beta of 30 large clients without usability testing? I have just one thing to ask ya, are you feelin' lucky? Huh, punk, are ya?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Service Design Tools

At my work place, one of my boss has a large poster of Service Design Tools hanging on one of the wall. It spurred an interesting discussion between me and her. This graphic representation of how each discipline is intertwined and where they have their roots is fascinating. It shows the inter-relation, history as well as mile stones in each field. Hope you'll enjoy as much as I did.

3M's Visualization Attention Service

I came across this very interesting services provided by 3M when I was searching for various Eye Tracking technology. Recently, I got to try Tobii's ( Eye Tracking technology which was super cool! It's cost factor led me to research other inexpensive methods that captures a user's attention.

3M which is usually famous for all their typical products has now come out with a service called Visual Attention Service. They claim that they can "accurately indicate what design elements people are most likely to notice in the first 3-5 seconds". Now that is quite fascinating that they can accurately determine what catches the users attention. The way it works is that you can upload an image and instantly the 3M's VAS will generate heat maps and hot spots (based on scientific methods) that provides other information such which elements will be noticed by the user in the first 3-5 seconds.

"The tool analyzes basic design elements such as colors, faces, shapes, contrast and text, to accurately predict which areas will attract attention in the first 3 to 5 seconds. The results show you the hotspots – and the not-so-hot spots – so you can easily confirm your design choices or alter your image to emphasize specific elements.

3M VAS does not measure the strength of marking messages or the emotional impact of a design – it goes straight to the heart of visual science to tell you where the human eye will naturally gravitate in the first few seconds of viewing. Once you're certain you've grabbed the attention of as many people as possible, your next steps depend on your own marketing goals and needs."

This is a great inexpensive (first 5 images free and then you have various subscription options) way to test designs in the early phase instead of using conducting a usability testing. This approach can be integrated early on in the design process as a very cost effective method that can generate valid data.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Global companies must harness cloud-based services

The url below is at a large IT conference and highlights the partnership and ideas of Oracle and more specifically InfoSys.

'Look beyond the cloud'
Global companies must harness cloud-based services and platforms, and capitalize on solutions based on multi-tenancy and non-linear payment models to accelerate innovation.

'Invest in the future'
Companies must serve the digital generation by focusing on mobile technologies in diverse areas such as e-Commerce and healthcare. They can enable better collaboration across the enterprise through social media and pervasive computing.

This is very much worth the listen. Particulary notice the presentation on "iEngage" which is one of the infosys platform products. iEngage goes beyond creating facilitation of information transfer and becomes an interactive engagement platform. In the presentation it refers to consumers. Companies must understand the power is at the consumer (users) level and need to understand the consumers demand.

Tesco's subway shopping

A friend at work showed me this the other day and I just think it's a perfect example of service design in action. Tesco, a global grocery store chain, has created a way for shoppers to purchase groceries by scanning grocery items on a giant graphic on subway walls using their cell phones and then Tesco will deliver them to the shopper's home.

Amazing service design. Saves time and eliminates a lot of the work of shopping for customers and I imagine it could lead to quite a revenue boost for Tesco. Plus all of the free viral marketing that they are getting.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eye tracking and custom eye-drawing software


I was browsing for something (I can’t remember what) about a week ago… I might have started with google’s sci/tech news and landed on the EyeWriter.

EyeWriter is a low-cost eye tracking and custom eye-drawing software that enables you to write or draw using your eyes instead of your hand. It’s interesting how these two technologies work together to help Tony Quan (graffiti artist), who was diagnosed with paralyzing Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Tony is now able to draw again using just his eyes with EyeWriter.

What if EyeWriter was combined with other software like Word, Excel, or games that are customized to fit the needs of an individual and what if our smart phones were equipped with this combination? Would we achieve a better user experience since the number of clicks and taps could be relatively minimal? And just as I was wondering how this technology could be combined with robots, I came across the LiveWriter which is EyeWriter + Robot Arm. But I'm aware of other ways to have a robot write or draw something, and LiveWriter is another option that is opensource and low-cost.

Get the code from:

Potential to improve some user experiences Using HTML 5

Apple's iphone and ipad doesnot support the flash and silverlight, which is a big draw back for users as well as from user experience angle. In Such cases HTML 5 is alternate for creating RIA.

HTML 5 has potential to improve the improve some user experiences, it comes with its own set of implementation challenges that can outweigh its benefits. UED professionals should look to HTML 5 as a means to improve accessibility, design apps for Apple devices, and build text-heavy sites.

Using HTML 5 we can improve the experiences in some of the places like

  • Experiences for people with disabilities
  • Apps that are solely intended for Apple devices
  • Producing text-heavy sites that require text resizing
Some of the Best features about HTML 5 which can be considered while building best User experience Design
  • Movable content : The user can easily drag and drop any web content making the user interface very easy
  • Quick access to videos and audios : As there is no need of flash plug-ins , so the site will load very quickly by using less lines of codes

        Social Circles, Service Design, and Other Thoughts

        Today, I wanted to point out two articles I've come across during my usual, pre-work Monday morning read.

        First, and most relevant to our Google+ discussions in class, here's a piece by Frank Spillers, who, like Mike, emphasizes that perhaps the greatest innovation of Google+ is the introduction of social circles. Frank concludes that this extraction of a "real-world social phenomenon" and its application to Google's "user experience strategy" is a sign of "intelligent life" in social networking and design. This particularly rang a bell with me as I thought in a similar vein for my Craigslist re-design project in this course; breaking away from the "social media" stereotype of social design was a main, personal goal during that individual project and to effectively do so, I had to think of "real-world social phenomena," as Frank describes them, inherent in real-world activities that parallel Craigslist's functionality. Out of this perspective, I was able to derive social functionality that did, in the end, prove useful to the users I was testing: bookmarking/saving of listings (much like physical ads -- both for later reference and for sharing with others), more personal, direct sharing of ads (via a bunch of mediums including of course social media channels and e-mail), and friends' activity on the "market"/Craigslist (bordering on this idea of "social circles," we're definitely more prone to trust those within our circles during transactions, as opposed to strangers).. and so on.

        Another relevant piece I came across is a cool booklet about service design and its implications for local authorities. Most interesting about this literature, of course, is the extension of service design's usefulness from more profit-oriented entities that we've examined to public services that directly concern local authorities and governments. As "public services are currently confronted with a number of complex social challenges" (higher demand, aging population, etc.) and simultaneous "squeeze[s] on government resources," service design emerges as a "new discipline" that can cost-effectively help "reach solutions relatively quickly and in a manner that is highly visual and comprehensivle for all." Ever since Mike introduced us to the topic in class, I've been highly interested with keeping service design in mind as a career direction, perhaps after these studies. Articles like this one only re-inforce his take that the discipline is gaining more and more importance and is a great market for HCI practitioners, current and future, to think about entering.

        Saturday, July 9, 2011

        Measuring Usability: 14 burdens placed on the user

        In his recent blog post, Jeff Sauro writes about common and burdensome interaction practices associated with websites and software. Many of them are examples that I've encountered as a user but had never really considered from a usability perspective. I think that to a certain degree I've come to just 'accept' these hassles as part of the experience. I've resigned myself without having realized it.

        I think there also may be a bit of professional "oh well, I understand" going on. For instance, in relation to Sauro's #1 gripe, I work at a university and understand the challenges of a user-friendly universal single sign-on across tools and services. So when I'm using my ISU tools I'm only slightly annoyed that my sign-on info is different in some key places that I access frequently.

        I can use my ISU username and password to get into WebCT or Blackboard and also CyMail. But I have to use my numeric University ID and a password to get into AccessPlus. And if I want to use the Libraries resources, I've got to have my Borrower ID and a totally separate PIN.

        So I understand Sauro's point. And from a user standpoint, I am annoyed. But I also find that, as an IT person, I understand the technical challenges that lead to these decisions and it's not always easy or even possible to make the user experience more effortless.

        Wednesday, July 6, 2011

        Design of shower controls

        This past week I was in Atlanta Georgia and stayed in a Courtyard hotel.  I find most of my hotel stays thankfully uneventful.  It seems most have hair dryers in the rooms and almost everyone has the electronic card swipe locks.  We have all figured out how to operate these devices.  You wouldn’t think that taking a simple shower would require studying the faucet in order to determine how to start the shower.  I think I am fairly mechanically inclined but some of you may think this faucet is easy and/or you may have this particular model at home.  I was able to start the water without a problem but getting the actual shower to start was a challenge.  Before I left the room I had to take a picture because I decided this would make a good blog post and would help me explain.
        As I looked for a way to start the shower I focused on the spot but there was no pull up or other evidence of someway to start the shower.  I focused then on the actual faucet controls.  There was the usual OFF and C and H.  You can see under the control is a black arrow looking mark with what is hard to see tub-lo and low-shwr.  As I looked at this I couldn’t determine if this was for the actual flow control or if there was another control element I was missing.  After careful inspection I found what appeared to be the lever.  It was located on the right side and I have included a better picture below.
        This was just another example of how something so basic that most people use everyday can be made difficult by design.

        Monday, July 4, 2011

        “New Conductive Ink Allows Circuit Prototyping With A Pen”

        As HCI professionals, we depend on our ability to create prototypes that help us to design better user experiences. In this case, engineers now have the new ability to use a specialized ink pen to help them make speedy and less costly prototypes. Previous ink-based circuit construction was typically done using inkjet printers or airbrushing, so removing the extra hardware from the process is a huge step forward. The team has some news for those people that think the writable ink won’t hold up in the long run. The ink is surprisingly quite resilient to physical manipulations, and they found that it took folding the paper substrate several thousand times before their ink pathways started to fail (Nathan, M., 2011). This can be a really be help in user-centered design approaches because this ink can conduct electricity like the copper on circuit boards.

        This kind of application can help designers and engineers to work closer together in mobile environments to help create quicker and faster solutions in designing hardware and other technological devices.

        Sunday, July 3, 2011

        4ourth mobile design pattern wiki

        Smashing Magazine posted a link to 4ourth mobile design pattern wiki today that I thought might be useful for other folks working on projects that incorporate mobile interaction.

        It covers the wrapper, information display, labels, interactive controls and a lot more.

        Here's a snippet from one of the early sections, "What is a Pattern?":

        Patterns are simply well-defined, well-researched best practices, but fundamental principles of design must be followed always, the user must always be kept in mind, and the purpose of the design must always be considered.

        In mobile interactive design, we might summarize these core principles as "user centered design," context, and other principles. A set of more specific ones are detailed at the end of this section. These core principles are always considered, the proper pattern for the situation is determined, and the correct application is created from the user's needs, their context, and by integrating the solution into the whole system.

        The patterns in this book attempt to follow this philosophy. Not only are they intended to be a point of departure, but they explicitly state what conditions are required, which are optional, when to simply follow adjacent or superordinate standards, and the key pitfalls if the edges are exceeded.

        Friday, July 1, 2011

        “Reactable Live”

        Music is a strong application in all things HCI. In HCI we try to make the user’s life better, safer, and etc…by designing and developing ways to program positive experiences. I chose to blog about the power of music because it can be very instrumental in cognitively programming one to perform a desired behavior like to get out of the way when you hear a siren and to increase our ability to memorize information. Play is also just as instrumental because project-based learning approaches help give the users the ability to actively solve problems tangibly.

        Recently, I watched a demonstration of “Reactable Live” that is primarily being marketed to the music industry. However, once I saw this demonstration it became very apparent to me how this technology could be modified as a dynamic learning-programming tool. I thought about how when we hear a siren we cognitively know it is not noise but information. Then I also thought about the possibilities when connecting music/sound and play to program a person cognitively to retain more information for longer periods of time. I can still remember the lyrics of music that I have not heard in years only if I can get the music to flow right in my head, and then the lyrics just come to me as if I just heard the song recently.

        Here is the link and I hope you all enjoy it.

        Touch Screen User Experience

        Touchscreens are becoming popular with their intutive design and ease of interaction, right from the mobile devices, Electronic Devices, Kiosk’s to ATM everywhere touchscreen has made a presence everywhere. Now a days key pads are replaced by touch screens

        I also noticed couple of touchscreen applications/devices, where I got lost just because I wasn’t aware which gesture to use, as no proper guide was provided. I was suppose to pinch on an image to zoom it and I was trying to tap on it. these are all common problems we face. I want to provide

        some of the guidelines which can improve the user experience of Mobiles

        1. Provide clear Navigation
        2. Use familiar Icons
        3. Make Icons, buttons, links and interfaces easily clickable
        4. Position and space the icons
        5. Use Simple language
        6. Maintain consistency and provide clear indications
        7. Implied Textural in Mobile Design
        8. Capture the richness of communication.