Archive for the ‘Interaction Design’ Category

Awesome International Startup Festival experiences

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Last week saw the first ever International Startup Festival here in Montreal, and it was wicked.

I learned a whole lot, met some amazing people, and came away terrified and inspired all at once. Personally, my biggest takeaway was the amazing energy and professionalism of the speakers and presenters. It was awe inspiring to see so many young, enthusiastic people, with so much stage presence and speaking talent, taking the time to share their experiences and insights with us. Thanks to everyone involved – it was a thoroughly nourishing experience.

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User research is cheap and easy

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

OK, so I’m clearly one of those people that’s been living under a rock for the last couple of years: I’ve only just realized that the user research industry has gone online and social.

A couple of the services that I’ve tested in recent projects include User Testing: http://www.usertesting.com/ - an easy-to-use online service that lets you create simple tests that are distributed to their testing resources who may be selected according to various demographic parameters (age, experience, income, etc.). (more…)

Six strategies for Agile UX

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

User experience design in the context of Agile development seems, for some reason, to remain a hot topic. There is a perception that design and agility are somehow in conflict, which seems odd to me – I’ve always though of design as a naturally Agile process (if only due to it’s inherently iterative nature – all design solutions are always open to improvement).

I tend to think of design as something that begins before development in order to, first of all, validate the business hypothesis, then provide context and frame the problems being addressed during an Agile iteration cycle. Business and customer feedback from deployment of the cycle (sprint, whatever) subsequently helps inform future design efforts.

Even when the overall strategy is as banal as to simply throw shit at the wall and see what sticks, I have found that costs can always be mitigated to a signficant degree by having a little more customer insight and knowing, to extend the metaphor, which bits of wall are likely to be sticky.

Austin Govella has six useful points to bear in mind, touching the importance of on modeling, collaboration, and communicating effectively, amongst other things: http://www.thinkingandmaking.com/view/agile-ux-six

The importance of user experience

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Here’s a great concept map by Bryce Glass on the importance of user experience. It’s been around for a while, but I’ve only just come across it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bryce/106972762/ It’s particularly cool because it frames ux in terms of a users expectations and the consequences of their experiences.

Interaction design for startups

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

The folks over at Startup2Startup have posted a very interesting video from a recent panel session with Kate Aronowitz (head of UX at Facebook), Jason Putori (ex-Mint) and Garry Tan dealing with the challenges of delivering effective user experiences in a startup context.

I was very pleased to see Kate Aronowitz making a strong statement emphasizing the importance of qualitative user research – even in the early stages of a startup (comment begins at 18:15).

Check it out here: http://startup2startup.com/2011/04/10/april-12th-interaction-design-for-startups/

Ipad – the Iforma review.

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I bought my first iPad at the SF Apple Store a day or two after the launch. I loved it from day one, despite not being a Mac user. It’s the first truly personal computer, in that it is small enough to be always part of my personal space, while powerful enough to serve 90% of my daily computing needs (I’m writing this blog post using the WordPress app).

After 2 weeks it became part of the family. After a month, it was clear we were going to need another one. Now, half a year later, it’s likely that we’ll be getting a third at some point. My three-year-old daughter can now recognize most of the letters of the alphabet, knows her animals, her colours, and assumes all computers have touchscreens.

This is computing for my Dad, who never got comfortable with the Mac/PC flavor of computing. I’m sad that he’s not here to see it. It would have turned his world on it’s head and opened the internet up to him.

It’s not perfect. Much of the net still thinks it’s an iPhone and serves it mobile web pages, although more and more sites detect it and increasingly serve it appropriately formatted media.

Apple are idiots for blocking flash videos. It fundamentally weakens the iPad experience, making it much easier for Android-based and other devices to compete favorably. Eventually, there will be HTML5, but in the meantime, everybody suffers because of Steve Jobs’ hubris.

Typically, Apple didn’t really do any market research – their assumption is that they can design for themselves and that is what everyone else will want. Rookie mistake: Self-referential design results in missed opportunity. As a result, the iPad needs a case because the ally casing doesn’t let it sit comfortably anywhere; Despite being the ideal kids computing environment, it’s not really kid-proof, not is it oriented towards kids. A quick look in the app store to see how many kids apps there are tells you just how much of a marketing mis-fire that was. Maybe overtly doing stuff for kids just isn’t cool enough?; The iPad is great for watching movies – and it would be much better if it came with a stand. As it is, you have to prop it up on something. Don’t even think about the Apple flip-case with the built-in stand – it falls over all the time. In fact, ignore the Apple cases altogether – get a 3rd party one. They’re cheaper and and better designed.

Overall, the iPad is a wonder that has fundamentally changed our family’s computing habits. We surf and read email wherever we want to be in the house – something that laptops somehow never managed to enable. We browse and share web pages by passing the iPad around the table. We watch on demand movies in bed, iPad propped on a pillow. My daughter nagivates apps and menu systems like a pro, even though she is barely beginning to learn to read.

But the we-know-whats-best-for-you-better-than-you-do Appleness still drives me nuts.

Is Google the new Microsoft?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

googlesoftJust as Microsoft seems at last to be struggling out from under the weight of it’s own mediocrity, and is finally, albeit under palpable threats to it’s survival, starting to put usability and desirability at the forefront, Google appears, in turn, to be reaching that tottering, preponderant level of product-portfolio obesity where corporate arrogance begins to seriously outweigh business sense. (more…)

Is interaction design finally going mainstream? ;-)

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Windows Phone 7For many years, north america’s hi-tech behemoths have had a tendency to favor engineering over design, leaving the art of creating products that are at once useful and desirable to the likes of Apple. Now, finally, the era of mainstream interaction design is upon us, or at least, that’s the impression I’m getting as 2010 gets underway, particularly after watching today’s launch announcement from Steve Ballmer regarding Microsoft’s latest refresh of their mobile platform.

Windows Phone 7 is a major clean-up, but it had to be. Apple has rightly poured scorn on Microsoft’s previous design mis-fires and Redmond was heading for redundancy in the mobile space. Design-wise, the Zune player was a step in the right direction, but is an irrelevant product in a market that has already been lost. Mobile is a far deeper space, and one in which the race is still open – certainly for a number 2 or 3 slot. (more…)

“In The Bubble: Designing in a Complex World” by John Thackara

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex WorldHappy New Year!

We took a couple of week’s holiday over the new year, and I finally had the time to sit down with John Thackara’s profound, although somewhat disturbing, book “Designing in a Complex World” and give it the attention it deserves (much to the consternation of my 2-year old daughter, Rosie).

Thackara, design guru and consultant extraordinaire, runs the “Doors of Perception” series of conferences (and blog, linked to by this site) amongst a great many other things. His range of experience is incredibly broad, and this is reflected in the book, which explores topics including (but not limited to) manufacturing, architecture and social media, but nevertheless carries with it a couple of predominant themes – that of ‘human-centeredness’, and that of ‘lightness’. (more…)

Interaction design could (should?) rule the future of news.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

AlltopAlthough I continue to subscribe to The Economist, it’s an exception that essentially lives in the bathroom; in general I read all my news online. If The Economist online service was a little less awful, and there was a convenient handheld reader with a large, color screen, I would certainly switch to that. (more…)