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design – Page 2 – Rob Brogan

December 2, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Most interesting (recent) read

I haven't posted here much, and that's basically because I'm lazy. I'm still here, though!

Quickly now, I'd like to share an article that - in my opinion - has a lot of meat, and all of it is interesting, if you're a designer.

Chinese Mobile App UI Trends

By Dan Grover

Some highlights include:
Chinese culture doesn't make a big deal of meeting strangers nearby through social apps.
CAPTCHA utilized on login screens (not just signup flows).
People really do use QR codes!
Moments – Just scroll to this part. I really dig the philosophy.

September 12, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Comparing phone plans for the latest iPhone upgrade

I didn't make this as universal as possible, it's actually for a specific shopping scenario, but if it helps your decision by some chance then all the better!

My specifics:

I'm on a shared/family plan with a total of three lines and three iPhones. All are due for an upgrade (although we might just upgrade two of them).
Average data consumption is a bit over 3GB, so any plan needs at least 4GB of data. Average call time per month is about 1,200 minutes total, but nowadays all carriers have unlimited calling and texting as we shift to a data-only model. Lastly, each person would be upgrading to the iPhone 6 with 16GB storage.

Findings:

comparison of carrier cost for new iPhone

Lastly, I didn't include the trade-in discounts with the grand totals, but you can find the respective trade-in offers in the "fine print" at the bottom of the chart.

August 8, 2014Comments are off for this post.

What is consciousness?

infographic about theories of consciousness

June 4, 2014Comments are off for this post.

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.
John Maynard Keynes

May 25, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Placeholder Content

I see it once in a while (latest Facebook update for example), but it's not very common that someone has clearly defined placeholder content that doesn't look like generic grey filler. Sonia Rentsch's site immediately loads with geometric placeholders in the same color scheme as the rest of the site. In fact, from a first impression I would say that this not-so-subtle graphic element really ties the whole site together. Wink, movie reference, wink.

Drag the divider thingy to compare the two screenshots. Or visit the site. Whatever.

April 20, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Dialog Box Wisdom

dialog box wisdom
Out of context, some of these one-liners you've probably seen in a dialog box have a deeper meaning. The last one is an honorable mention; a classic, non-tech artifact.


Everything not saved will be lost.
Nintendo "Quit Screen" message

Accept Change
Microsoft Word

Wait some time and then reconnect
Canon webcam

Remove all attachments
Microsoft Outlook

Make sure your own mask is secure before assisting others
Airplane safety card

I'm sure you can google for plenty more, but these were my favorites.

April 15, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Form field patterns for email address

Look, a post about UX! This will be quick.

I'm surprised that I haven't seen many design patterns on sign-in fields and how to make them as fast as possible. Yes, I've seen a few design examples, but no patterns that suggest innovation.

Lo and behold, hidden in the rough, the real estate app Trulia has the best email field I've ever seen! No comment on the rest of the app.


The second best has been the Belly iPad app (in-store, not consumer facing). They include an extra row below the iPad keyboard with buttons for common e-mail domains:

belly ipad keyboard

When I first saw that I thought it was incredibly clever. Ever since I've noticed the common domain suffixes on the iOS keyboard while holding down the [.com] key for certain inputs, I've been expecting Apple to integrate a similar email domain shortcut with the [@] key.


My takeaway

Why not use this? I can't think of a down-side.

Since they're using form field input masks (in a clever, auto-complete kind of way) it's not destructive or inhibiting user input. If your domain is not appearing in the masked (grey) suggestion, then simply keep typing the full address.

If your email is: Name@gmail.com
Then you can stop at: Name@g

If your email is: Name@gmaimer.com
Then you'll keep typing... (standard everywhere else).

UX is about making life easier for people, not necessarily solving problems. Yes, you make life easier by solving problems, but one solution will rarely fit all cases. Aim for the majority, and if you can design in such a way that the minority aren't negatively impacted by the design, you get major bonus points.

+2 points to you, Trulia. You go Trulia!

February 7, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Redesigning the Map of the Web

Leverage what information representation can be

It may seem like old news to some, but I very recently got around to reading Frank Chimero’s treatise about the essence of a pixel medium in What Screens Wantand found myself musing about a potential Web that doesn’t conform to our assumptions of what sites and pages are supposed to be made of. I also found myself explaining the whole article to a couple of developer friends that didn’t want to read it themselves.

One key point

The article leverages some historical references with materials in product design, but most convincingly compares the state of the Web as we know it to our centuries-old use of maps.

In the way that a map is a representation of territory, which is likely skewed for one purpose or another, we can use a new one that suits our needs and changing the map doesn’t mean changing the territory. In that same breath, using a different map doesn’t imply the territory was “bad.” The lesson for technology and the Internet here is that we have long since built off of one convenient representation of data, information, and the nature of its exchange. Our concept of a web page is just one map upon the territory of computers and the protocols to connect them.

Chimero quotes Ted Nelson to reiterate our position in the digital world:

"The world is not yet finished, but everyone is behaving as if everything was known. This is not true. In fact, the computer world as we know it is based upon one tradition that has been waddling along for the last fifty years, growing in size and ungainliness, and is essentially defining the way we do everything. My view is that today’s computer world is based on techie misunderstandings of human thought and human life. And the imposition of inappropriate structures throughout the computer is the imposition of inappropriate structures on the things we want to do in the human world."
— Ted Nelson, creator of hypertext

For more context, I recommend that everyone visits — or revisits — the site. The grand takeaway is that we can and should build something greater/better than than web pages. Not only can information be represented differently, but I think we are just barely touching on how flexibly it can respond to, and be interact with users. Laying back in a metaphorical Summer meadow with arms behind your head and eyes tracing the clouds, I could come up with wilder takes on a new Web, but it may be practical to focus on some softer, more accessible points.

Soft Revisions

Web content should branch off into more applications. While this already happens in mobile environments (perhaps too much so), the trend is inverted on desktop. As a service reaches a critical mass of content+popularity, or if the interaction is constrained by browsers, then it should live in more software than just a handful of browsers. Facebook is a great example of this thinking. Most people are using the app on mobile, but there is only a web interface on desktop. In the early days of twitter, I used the website and SMS to send tweets, but as soon as a desktop application appeared, that became my primary interface with the service. In that respect, it’s almost crazy that Facebook is just a website.

I’m not advocating for a fragmentation of the Internet into hundreds of desktop applications — that would be disastrous on many levels. When user adoption is no longer a huge issue, it could make sense for some sites tomature into internet-based software. Specifically to Facebook, as many people use it so frequently and often for long periods of time, it deserves an option to break out of the browser.

I think there’s a big opportunity for Finance; not necessarily a single bank, but perhaps a broader service (yes, MS Money tried that but I don’t see newanswers). I’m hesitant to list other recommendations, and can already see the counter-arguments, but I prefer to see that as a point of discussion.


Medium Revisions

No pun intended, but…

It’s already apparent that some sites are innovating how we share and interact — Medium.com being one of my favorites, for the side-line commenting that other sites are starting to adopt.

Hyper-specific sharing

I’m putting this in the bucket of “medium” revisions to the Web because it would require a bit more work than what already exists. With this idea I’m taking a note from two existing functions:

  • With Medium’s comment system, you can highlight a string of text, write a comment, and any user that reads the comment also see the same text highlighted again. This is the digital equivalent of pointing your finger to a point on the page that you’re referring to in a detailed discussion, or a well-loved book borrowed from a friend that shows underlines of passages that directly affected your friend.
  • Anchor links are a classic HTML tag that is seeing interesting use in contemporary websites. Long scrolling pages will use anchor link navigation to push users down to a segment in their single page site. Articles will reference specific explanations in a foot note. A List Aparttakes a subtle, but very useful approach by segmenting their articles so that an HTML literate user can share a specific section of the page to someone else. If you visit an article (example), and hover your mouse on a section title, it will display gray #anchor text that you can’t click but — with an experimental mindset — can append to the article URL as a bookmark you’re referencing when shared (example).

Combining the two features above would be a very interesting, and more personal method of sharing. Posting an article link on your social media account might interest a portion of your friends/followers, but it’s open-ended; a suggestion that “hey, you might be interested in this topic.” If you can highlight a paragraph or sentence, and have the page generate a dynamic anchor link to share with someone, that’s direct and suggests more intention. Akin to reading a book across from a friend, and handing it across the table so they can read just that one pithy paragraph, dynamic anchor linking and highlighting the referenced text is an excellent way to rekindle the human connections that seem to be fading away in our “social” media culture lately.


Hard Revisions

This the domain of true revolutionaries

Having been invited — so to speak — to think about an internet that doesn’t run on HTML, PHP, CSS, or any of these languages it has been raised on, I am starting to dream in abstractions. There must be alternative representations of our information-rich landscape, and most of us can only iterate or improve upon the existing system. These scrolling pages with various media buckets — usually requiring some kind of chrome/framework — that fit inside of a screen (if: responsive web design) are our current maps, representations of information.

What about the integration of more user info? Contextual browsing, listing, etc.? This implies some things that exist (foursquare), some things that don’t (the local paper where you’re online), and might be horrible ideas (who wants to read the local paper), but a very thin slice of that implication might be the turning point of something new and amazing.

Break the rules. If you can!

February 5, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Facebook Paper’s Pinhole Browsing

Read on Medium

Introduction

The following comes from my response to a company email (below) that asked designers for their opinion of FB Paper. I have not spent so much time as to give a critique of all aspects of the app. There are things I’d like to say about post creation, browsing profiles, and the new user onboarding for example, but simply didn’t take the time to go there. This is a hot topic for the moment, and I might continue to write/think about it, but there are a lot of intelligent people sharing diverse opinions out there. I think this can suffice for me.

The Prompt

TO ALL:
I used Paper for about 30 minutes tonight and felt there were some interesting interactions but overall was a bit frustrated. Definitely felt the “hook pain” the author here writes of… What do you guys think?

My Response

The design podcast, On The Grid, talked about their first impressions of Paper in this episode.

Opinions seem pretty polarized. A lot of people love it because it is agreeably much more polished than the regular functional Facebook app. I think if they had replaced their primary app with this one, there would be an uproar; but as a supplemental experience people, seem to like this new lens of the news feed (and other stuff?).

I’m not so kind in my opinion. I had high hopes of Facebook waning enough to go down a slippery slope of MySpacey death, but this app seems to appeal to the masses initially. As mentioned in the podcast and other sources, Facebook’s intent was to slow down our consumption of content with the hope that we pay more attention to each post. I believe these are smart guys, and they undoubtably understand their users better than I do, but I just can’t fathom slowing down Facebook without also reducing the amount of content.

Matas hopes that you’ll flip through slowly. “You really want people to spend a little bit of time with it and appreciate that content,” Matas says, “almost like when you go to a museum and you spend a little bit of time with each thing.” The Verge

I think that’s easier said than done. By only showing two whole thumbnails at a time, I am instead frustrated by the pinhole scope of content that I can browse. Perhaps they’re designing for the future, a vision of Facebook with much more interesting content, but the present feed I get from my connections is a 95:5 crap-to-interesting ratio. Slowing down and smelling the digital roses is not what I want from Facebook. I want to quickly skim frequently updated, vast amounts of content, until I land on an interesting picture, link, or juicy argument to read. Much like trying Windows phone for a week, I felt like my hands were tied. I wanted to zoom out.

This approach might work best for the other editorial sections they’ve vaguely collected (‘tech, culture, cute, etc.’) where content and curation is better. My complaint on this front is the lack of context. Looking at the Tech tab for example, what should I expect to find? Articles from TheNextWeb, NYTimes Tech, Engadget, A List Apart, The Verge? There’s quite a difference in the quality of writing and topics covered between sources. I don’t know how each of these channels are curated, how or if they’re connected to my account, and have no ability to customize them. At least with Flipboard, you can customize your content sources (note: I don’t use that app either).

The one thing I did like is vertical the swipe navigation. It’s nice that I don’t have to stretch my thumb across the screen to hit a specific region that has the link or CTA. I can hold my phone in one hand and a broad gesture moves me up or down in the hierarchy of channel, thumbnails, article preview, article detail. I agree the horizontal motion would get tiring. Maybe if they moved that row of thumbnails to the top of the screen it would be more comfortable, but I don’t like this browsing mode in the first place.

— whew —

Sorry for all the negativity.

I prefer ease of use, and am quickly skeptical idealistic presentations.

This app hinders my personal browsing preference of Facebook content, and does not seem to achieve the ideal they put forth. It might be a nice RSS reader, but then it would just be yet another RSS reader.

Note: This is also a Medium post

January 31, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Critter & Guitari

December 7, 2013Comments are off for this post.

UX Myth #22

UX MythsSource: UX Myths

When you copy, you don’t know the reasons behind a design, you’re not responding directly to your customer needs, you’re devaluing your own data.
Joshua Porter, Copycat Design

I will admit having looked to Amazon, and other high-traffic sites as a point of authority on certain design patterns. If I might not know where to start - with a product page, for example - then I begin with a reference, but remain en garde about what I choose to carry over to a wireframe. I always try to take a slice of design that I suspect is effective and boil it down; deducing what it is that works about a page element that catches my eye. I make it a point of practice to audit other designs of the same category and see what is repeated among the most effective. Typically the point I eventually arrive at is a "best practice" or slight variation. This may be a roundabout approach to design discovery, when you could just research best practices alone, but I feel this circumspect method gives me more context of how a certain "best practice" can take form, and eventually feel more confident about its use in my own design.

I know that's a really long way to say that I actually do research, instead of steal, but I think it's important to say that you shouldn't avert yours eyes per se from some sites with the longevity of Amazon. A huge user base will let them get away with poor design decisions, but it also means that the same large group of users have also been exposed to certain design patterns several times. Some designers want only to innovate, and I can understand that desire to leave your mark and constantly improve, but I'm of the Steve Krug camp that believes some innovation to be good, but different for the sake of different will leave users confused.

You'll likely shoot yourself in the foot if you just pull something straight out of an Amazon or Facebook, but look at the design and ask yourself "why is this better than this?"

December 6, 2013Comments are off for this post.

Observation of the day

Just because something is thorough, that does not make it good.