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Posts tagged with ‘ux’

'Invisible Design' Is A Cognitive Trap

Timo Arnall debunks the current infatuation with the #NoUI concept, suggesting that it demeans the user and oversimplifies the difficulties involved for design to make complex things seem simple. His argument is directed both at the metaphor of an invisible UI, but also the value of what it rejects.

Timo Arnall, No to NoUI

1. Invisible design propagates the myth of immateriality

We already have plenty of thinking that celebrates the invisibility and seamlessness of technology. We are overloaded with childish mythologies like ‘the cloud’; a soft, fuzzy metaphor for enormous infrastructural projects of undersea cables and power-hungry data farms. This mythology can be harmful and is often just plain wrong. Networks go down, hard disks fail, sensors fail to sense, processors overheat and batteries die.

Computing systems are suffused through and through with the constraints of their materiality. – Jean-François Blanchette

Invisible design propogates the myth that technology will ‘disappear’ or ‘just get out of the way’ rather than addressing the qualities of interface technologies that can make them difficult or delightful.

Intentionally hiding the phenomena and materiality of interfaces, smoothing over the natural edges, seams and transitions that constitute all technical systems, entails a loss of understanding and agency for both designers and users of computing. Lack of understanding leads to uncertainty and folk-theories that hinder our ability to use technical systems, and clouds the critique of technological developments.

As systems increasingly record our personal activity and data, invisibility is exactly the wrong model.

By removing our knowledge of the glue that holds the systems that make up the infrastructure together, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to begin to understand how we are constructed as subjects, what types of systems are brought into place (legal, technical, social, etc.) and where the possibilities for transformation exist. – Matt Ratto (2007)

In other words, as both users and designers of interface technology, we are disenfranchised by the concepts of invisibility and disappearance.

His other points: 

2. Invisible design falls into the natural/intuitive trap — ‘does not give any insight into how complex processes might actually become simple of familiar’.

3. Invisible design ignores interface culture — ‘To declare interfaces ‘invisible’ is to deny them a cultural form or medium’.

4. Invisible design ignores design and technology history —  ’we must critique the clean, orderly, and homogenous future that is at the heart of these modernist visions’.

Go read the whole piece.

PaperTab: Revolutionary paper tablet reveals future tablets to be thin and flexible as paper. (by Plastic Logic humanmedialab)

Fascinating to see bending the paper used to scroll, and touching papers to exchange information.

Scott Forstall Forced Out Of Apple: The End Of Skeuomorphs

Rumors have been flying about Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall’s hurried departure from Apple. Among other misdeeds he apparently was unwilling to sign the iOS 6 Maps apology letter, leaving it to CEO Tim Cook.

From the viewpoint of someone who loves most Apple design, I am not surprised to learn that Forstall was the man behind the ugly ugly skeuomorphs in iOS and Mac OS X, like the stitched leather in Apple calendars. He and Jony Ive apparently couldn’t stand each other, and Ive will now be leading Apple’s user interface efforts.

Apple stock should shoot up on this news, but the average market analyst is unlikely to be able to parse the impact of this on Apple’s future.

Prezi Releases New Interface

Prezi, the infinite canvas style presentation tool, has released a new interface. The company is making an effort to simplify the somewhat arcane user experience of what is now known as the ‘classic look’.  Which means the distinctive — but counterintuitive and slow — ‘bubble’ menu is gone.

In particular, the new approach creates a default ‘path’ — the sequence of screens in the infinite canvas that define a presentation — based on the order of frames created in the canvas. This default can be overridden, but making the path explicit and always present will decrease the cognitive load of Prezi.

I will take another, longer look at this tool, which I tried a few years ago but rejected because of the nausea-inducing swooping in transitions. I never understood why I couldn’t simply move from one frame to another without animation. A quick look suggests that this is still not an option, which is a shame.

A Heart Is Different From A Star

How Airbnb Evolved To Focus On Social Rather Than Searches - Cliff Kuang via Co.Design

For a couple years, registered Airbnb users have been able to star the properties they browse, and save them to a list. But Gebbia’s team wondered whether just a few tweaks here and there could change engagement, so they changed that star to a heart. To their surprise, engagement went up by a whopping 30%. The star, they realized, was a generic web shorthand and a utilitarian symbol that didn’t carry much weight. The heart, by contrast, was aspirational. “It showed us the potential for something bigger,” Gebbia tells Co.Design. And in particular, it made them think about the subtle limitations of having a search-based service. “You have to have search,” Gebbia says. “But what if you don’t know where you want to go?”

It’s the little things, people.


We just rolled out some enhancements to the Dashboard!

Tumblr released a new version of some of the behinds the scenes functionality of the service, with this enigmatic collection of images.

But I found out by not being able to figure out how to get at my ‘customize blog’ capabilities.

'Customize' still appears on the blog main page if you are logged in, but only on the main blog of your account. As before, if you are logged in and looking at  the main page of a secondary blog — like, in my case — the customize option is still not shown.

But today, I wanted to update the ‘what’s hot’ list on, so I went to the dash board and — no customize blog options. 

What I see now is a new dashboard, where there is a selector to pick which blog you are looking at:

Here you see that I am looking at information relative to, including the blog stats.

If I want to mess with the blog’s setting I can select the gear icon at the top, and I see this:

And you can see that ‘customize’ is a box midway down the panel. Once you click that you are back to the same old customize screen for the blog.

I wondered if their Help had kept up with this change, and, as usual, it hasn’t. So if anyone confronted with this reworking of the user experience hoped to get guidance as to where the damn ‘customize’ button had gotten to from Help, they would have found bupkis about it.

LinkedIn has done a dramatic facelift of the user experience on the popular site. Much more clean and modern. It will be rolling out to users over the next short while (I am still seeing the old UX, personally.)
I will have to spend some time there, though, to see if anything fundamental is being rejiggered. This reworking is likely to feature in a project of mine later this fall (announcement later this week).
(via Caroline Gaffney, Introducing a Simpler Homepage)

LinkedIn has done a dramatic facelift of the user experience on the popular site. Much more clean and modern. It will be rolling out to users over the next short while (I am still seeing the old UX, personally.)

I will have to spend some time there, though, to see if anything fundamental is being rejiggered. This reworking is likely to feature in a project of mine later this fall (announcement later this week).

(via Caroline Gaffney, Introducing a Simpler Homepage)

A fascinating UI concept for getting stuff from device to device.

(via Co.Design)


Basecamp UI Preview

37signals have come up with some very unique although simple user experience patterns that should make using Basecamp easier than ever.  Jump into the video at 3 minutes to see a demonstration of how they are allowing for you to easily navigate into a project.

via aparticularpath, 37signals 

Clever sort of ‘stack’ UX, where content in basecamp is treated as an outline, and clicking on an item — like a to do in a project — creates a new ‘sheet’ for the to do that hovers over the project sheet. Closing the to do exposes the project, and so on.

Need to get access to the beta and find out if 37signals have finally fixed the federated identity bug. I bet they have.

It’s funny how hard it is to pick an interesting image from a giant grid on a web site. It’s also funny how many images we look at each day. What’s not funny is how much all that digital viewing numbs our senses and sucks our souls. I’m speaking in terms of science, of course. But when you display one image at a time in a series that’s essentially customized, based on time, something profound happens. More weight and significance is placed on each image, just because you have to consider it, at least for a split second, in your feed. Instagram forces you to focus.

It might seem trivial, but showing one photo at a time is a design decision that creates more value for each image, and enhances your viewing experience. Plus it doesn’t hurt to have the images trapped inside a beautiful iPhone screen. It almost doesn’t matter who you follow—their photos probably look better one at a time. From a UX perspective, we keep learning that interfaces with constraints are successful, and it seems like such a straight-forward principle (140 characters, ahem), but it’s kind of worthless on it’s own. Obviously you can’t introduce constraints without other elements, which is why this is the last point. There’s something enticing about knowing that most Instagram photos are created on the iPhone, since it introduces a NASCAR-like equality. That makes it fun to see what other people can create with the same technical constraints you have. Photography has always been all about the equipment, and not at all about the equipment. Knowing millions of people are creating with roughly the same camera and app as you makes it exciting creatively. So constraints, combined with quality and an audience are what makes Instagram so addictive.

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