Interaction Design

How does the product do it?

Thoughts on An Event Apart San Francisco

AnEventApart Logo

We just returned from An Event Apart San Francisco and I am trying to put down notes and ideas while they are fresh in my mind. It was three full intense days of information — some great, some good, some not so much. But overall, it was a valuable experience (and they do conference right — great food, comfortable location, endless supply of coffee and sugar). My take is always unique — I overheard some people who were ecstatic over the presentations that I felt were completely off — but I have been in the business for over three decades now and I want ideas that are new to me. So here are my notes from the presentations. “The Fault, Dear Brutus (or: Career Advice From a Cranky Old Man)” by Jeffrey Zeldman A lot of what Jeffery spoke about resonated strongly: the need to force ourselves to get rid of disdain for our clients that just “don’t get it” — mutual respect is the foundation of designer-client relationship in conversation about design, focus on purpose and use and stay away from esthetics — every person has their own sometimes, people (clients, bosses) are incapable of seeing our growth as…

Fun, Creativity, and Good Design

springy bed frame

The best product designs not only work well, they make us smile. They solve problems we as consumers haven’t even consider yet or realized we had. Take a look at a selection of product designs below. The springy bed frame is not only functional, but a conversation starter — don’t you want to try it out? The “selfy stick” helps us take better photos of ourselves. Our arm reach is no longer a limitation or a liability — I like my portraits taken from the top to reduce that double chin! It’s fun to be elegant… until it all crushes down around us. Finger tip tray is the solution! Finger food will stay safely on top of the tray with this cool design. And again, it’s a conversation starter — a perfect tool at a party. While I’m not sure I would advertise my waist size with this imaginative belt, it could serve as a powerful reminder to keep to a diet. Serving tea to your aunt? Wouldn’t this put a smile on her face? In one of my design classes, a student proposed a bed light that would adjust to awaken the sleeper gently. This one does it with…

Review eBook: Affordances and Design

Manches a Gigots

Victor Kaptelinin, a Professor at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway, and the Department of Informatics, Umeaa University, Sweden, just published an eBook with Interaction Design Foundation: “Affordances and Design.” I was asked to write a review of this book and provide some insights into using affordances in interaction design and HCI. Let me start by providing the definition of affordance as given by Donald Norman: In his eBook, Victor Kaptelinin provides the history of the idea of affordance from its initial introduction by James Gibson in 1977 to the present day. The eBook’s bibliography and reference section is a great place to start the exploration of this topic for anyone new to these ideas. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t help much if an individual is looking for some guidance on how to apply these ideas in practical situations during interaction design or HCI design. For clarity’s sake, allow me to give a very brief explanation of affordances, from their roots to the present time. When James Gibson first introduced the concept of affordances, he focused on physical environment — what actions are possible? And the set of these action were invariable — just because…

When Design and Interface are Dictated by the Technology

You’ve probably heard: If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This is a commentary on how our problem solving perspective is influenced by the tools we happen to have in our hands at that moment. The tools, of course, don’t have to be physical. They can be systems, or lists, or a set of approaches that we’ve learned at school or that are enforced at work. And they can also be digital tools that we feel particularly comfortable using. These “tools” constrict our metal models, limiting the possible solutions to the design problems we face at work (or at home). It’s not a surprise that if we Google “WordPress Templates,” all the results look more or less the same. This is partly because of the tool — WordPress is a great tool, but as any tool, it limits the final creative output to what is easy. (Especially, if the designer is not a programmer.) Here’s a look at Google Image results for “WordPress Screenshots”: What’s interesting is the flip side of this phenomenon. Once we see a lot of nails, we expect nails as the solution. So it is not a surprise that not only do most…

Design for Social Good

Social engineering is way of designing products and situations which actively encourage people to behave in a desired way — Nudging for Good. EDF Challenge “Sharing energy in the city, 2030” seems an ideal circumstance for social engineering for the greater social good. The basic question is how do we as designers find ways to incentivize individuals to save energy? How do we make a bit of personal sacrifice an attractive option for most? How do we “nudge” people to behave in a socially responsible ways when it comes to energy use? First, it makes sense to break up the problem into several user categories: personal energy sharing, family sharing, neighborhood or community sharing, city or village sharing. At each level we expand the circle to involve more and more individuals, and so we need a different approach for each category. Each category has a set of pressure points on which social engineers can apply pressure to achieve the desired changes. Once we identify the user groups targeted for “nudging”, game theory can be used to find the most attractive options. While there are numerous strategies that can be borrowed from game theory to incentivize the desired energy sharing behavior,…

Building and Sustaining Online Communities

Pope Francis said an interesting and insightful commentary on online social media: “The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity… The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression. … The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests.” In other words, communities have the power to limit the range of views to only those that they seems culturally appropriate — a small subset of active users can completely change the group dynamics of a community. The responsibility of the managers to find their way to create and sustain healthy communities. I’ve been building and supporting communities for a while. It happened organically — I needed to help a client start a project and build a following around it; then another client needed something similar; after a dozen years (or more), I’ve found myself creating guidelines for communities and the people who help manage them. Below is some of my “wisdoms” from…

Changing Profiles: The Missing Edit Button

  Social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have changed the nature of digital identities. The anonymous or pseudonymous online profiles of the 90s have been eschewed for real and “verified” identities. However, why do websites force us to conform to variables that describe our identities according to inflexible database fields? Identities are fluid by nature and change over time. We adopt nicknames and change them. We marry and change our surnames. We remarry and change them again. We endure ordeals in life and change our names to distance ourselves from threatening people or violent events. We change our names to avoid responsibilities. We even play with identity and names as an expressive art form. Though government agencies are adept at tracking the various forms of our identities, the common social media and web services that we use daily are not so willing. For example, Facebook has name standards. Their standards limit personal expression. They encourage people to use “real names” but names are subjective and contextual. In fact, the California law that governs identity recognizes that a name others use for you, even if not your “real name” can be legally valid. Furthermore, the “usage method” of the…