Several items from EuroNews

None of this has direct connections to user interface design, but they all show us that users are everywhere and of all types and the design of the interfaces between users and information devices are as imaginative and as widely varied as one could imagine. The text of the narration of the eight minute videos is on the page, but the videos themselves give a real sense for the experience.

The first one is about virtual reality environments. Note how the user interacts with the environment.
Virtual reality is entering a new era of touch-sensitive tiles and immersive animations. Researchers in Barcelona have created a unique space at the cutting edge of digital immersion.
The second is about the restoration of stained glass. The interesting part for me was to consider how the designers came up with the user interfaces that the restorers are using on what seems to be a generic windows box.
We can work with this microscope with a very high resolution, so that we can observe the very small structures. This is important to visualise the fine cracks of the glass. You can see it here, in this image: Here you can recognise the cracks that we are interested in. And the newly developed consolidation material will fill these cracks.
The third is about research on building energy efficient cities. In this segment, one can see that the researchers/users are dependent on physical models of reality to envision larger scale activity. How might their work be translated into user interfaces that residents of these new cityscapes might use to make their buildings work better?
Developing truly energy efficient city buildings also requires input from the people living and working in them

User Experience Is More Than A Trend

By way of synergy, while preparing for my public library seminar, I stumbled across this posting in a public library blog. Apparently the idea of talking to users about the design of anything is something that hits home with users. Reading the blog entry, User Experience Is More Than A Trend, though reminds me again that designers both have to listen with an open ear and think with a theory-informed mind. Users know what they know, but don't always understand why they "know" what they "know."



I understand affordances better after thinking about what a friend euphemistically called "flat surface disease": the tendency to accumulate clutter. Of course, that's what flat surfaces are good for, and anywhere you put a flat surface, you have to think about this possible use of your treasured surface.

"Avoid asking why questions"

This is an excerpt from a general psychiatric textbook about psychiatric interviewing:

"In general, avoid asking questions that begin withwhy.” Patients may not know why they have certain experiences or feelings, and can feel uncomfortable, even stupid, if they believe their answers aren’t “good.” Asking why also implies that you expect the patient to provide quick explanations. ... When tempted to ask why, rephrase the question so that it elicits a more detailed response. Alternatives include “What happened?” “How did that come about?” or “What thoughts do you have about that?” (emphasis in original)

Of course this is in extreme conflict with theory-based models. But it recognizes the limitation: we don't know why, we only know what.

Interaction Types

In the readings for todays class (section 2.3.4, P64, Interaction Design) the authors discuss how before designing one should consider how the user will access the information. This reminded me of an article recently published in the Technology Review about TouchPads.
Scrybe has created software that makes navigating in a computer easier by using gestures with the TouchPad. The layout of an interface might be more or less conducive for a person navigating with such software. With new technologies and software the mode of interaction changes and so should the interface.

Synaptics, Inc, who developed Scrybe has also incorporated gestures and touch for interacting with mobile devices much like an iphone.

Fuse™ Next-Generation Mobile Phone Concept from Synaptics, Inc. on Vimeo.


The Restaurant Game

While thinking about constructing personas and the responsibilities & challenges designing for others entails, I was reminded of a project at the MIT Media Lab. The Restaurant Game offers a unique approach to user interface design and explores methods of modeling human social behavior. In short, the end result of the project is that the researchers will use the experiences and input of thousands of players over the course of a few years to create a single-player game.

You can read about the project here, and watch a short gameplay video here.


Letter to a Young Interaction Designer

Today I came across an email response from Christopher Fahey, a professor in the Interaction Design program at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, to an aspiring web designer. I thought his insights into the relationship between “web design,” “interaction design” and “user experience” would be of interest to others in our class ...

Particularly, he states:

"The fundamentals of interaction design aren’t about HTML and CSS, nor even about hard drives and keyboards. It’s about human beings, our relationships with each other (socially, business, culturally), with media, and with technology."

You can read the full post over at his blog, GraphPaper.

Go Texas

Here's a post that chronicles the persona-based development of "Don't Mess with Texas".

Seattle Public Library

The new Seattle Public Library was completed in 2004, and the library world was a twitter over the Spiral, a ramp which allows visitors to walk a multi-floor non-fiction and reference section without taking the stairs. The ramp is marked with the Dewey call numbers so one can quickly orient themselves to where in the collection they are and the stairs are central - the core around which the spiral wraps. The building is full of open spaces, signage is large and most of the building navigation (stairs, elevators, escalators) are the bright yellow-green you can see at the right of the video below.

Seattle Public Library, Nonfiction Section from timothy vollmer on Vimeo.

Or at least, it is that bright color and obviously marked until you get to the end of the Spiral. Once you get to the bottom of the non-fiction section, the stairs disappear. They are no longer in the center of the building, but rather, are hidden behind a bland-colored fire door. With all of the color and labeling gone, a visitor who wishes to walk between floors is disoriented, and he most go back to taking the elevator.

My complaint? Navigation sets up user expectations in one way, and then disrupts expectations without an obvious cause for the change.


Something old, something new

My wife showed me this set of images loaded to Flickr in which an image from the past is superimposed over a scene from the present and a new image, coupling the old and the new is created.

One wonders if one could do the same with old websites from the Wayback Machine.

Charmr project

I stumbled across the Charmr project by Adaptive Path a while ago. I think it's an interesting example of user-centered design. It was created as an exercise rather than a viable product. Despite the fact that it is not technically possible at this time, the prototype illustrates a system that incorporates the needs and desires of individuals with diabetes, more than currently available systems do.

Now here's a use for the WII

In interesting presentation of imagination and insight together. TED talks video of Johnny Lee "demonstrating his cool Wii Remote hacks, which turn the $40 video game controller into a digital whiteboard, a touchscreen and a head-mounted 3-D viewer."

One can learn more about it at his web site.



Interface of this week's primary reading

After the discussion yesterday about the textbook, this week's reading is driving me up the wall. There are boxes everywhere, interrupting text mid-sentence. The boxes themselves aren't even on single pages. The worst example of this is the box for "The Cast" on page 18. This box interrupts a sentence. The box is then interrupted by ANOTHER box. Continuing on to the next page, the text resumes at the top of the page, followed finally by the rest of the text from the first box. I'll admit I'm reading an article online as a pdf that was originally designed for print, but I'm not sure I would have liked it much in print, either. Additionally, the back and forth layout of the text seems to have led much of the information in boxes to have been left out of the html, text-only version. This makes me wonder if print designers these days should have digitization in mind. Do you ever consider digitization when you are creating print documents? Does anybody even create print documents anymore?


New Library Journal Column on "User Experience"

via The Library in Black.

LJ is launching a new blog by Aaron Schmidt, Digital Initiatives Librarian at the DCPL, covering user experience design. Seems like it will cover slightly more library-, analog-based angle of what we're talking about in UID... Should be interesting to see what he has to say.


IDEO and What is design?

In our text for class on Monday a few design consulting firms were listed. In my efforts to learn more about the field in general I visited their websites. IDEO was among them. Under the heading "Top Picks" on their home page I saw a link to this video (16:50) which discusses some of the same ideas that have come up in our readings. (skip the first 5.5 min if you are pressed for time)

In particular, when watching the video, I am reminded of the three parts of the design process common to all areas of design:(Sharp Rogers and Preece, P416)
  1. Understand requirements
  2. Build a design (prototype)
  3. Evaluate design
Perhaps a designer/design team will cycle through these steps many times before landing on the design that works in the particular place and time where the problem exists.


Let me repeat this from my initial posting

Don't forget to label your posts with your last name and some descriptive term that applies to your posting.

The tags make things easier to find. I can use the labels in this note to find all that I have posted, for example.

Bacon: Usable Privacy and Security

For those who are interested: Carnegie Mellon University has a lab dedicated to "Usable" Privacy and Security. And they've done a pretty good job so far (tho I may be a little biased).

Check out this article to get a glimpse of what they've done. Also, Lorrie refers to users as "humans", which ties in nicely with today's reading.

People as People

I'm in Medicine: where people are discussed in terms of patients and doctors.

I have done/said things to/about patients that I would never do/say to/about a person.

And I have done/said things to/about doctors that I would never do/say to/about a person.

Not just in terms of pelvic/rectal exams: when a patient started to bleed to death thru her urethra, there was nothing more appropriate as a person than to put my hand right there to stop it. The lack of awkwardness was stunning.

My regrets are when human-ness is lost to formality.

My most meaningful experiences are when I have been what everyone is: a person.

And not just a person, but my person: when I have known "the fate of one is the fate of all" (link: look right, press play).


to the email-design, and people as people articles, an explanation of spimes...
oh, and the rest of the class resources...
just in case you clicked through to the blog without trying the other link in the other email.


Bacon: thoughts via Pre-Intro reading

While reading M. Wadlow's article "Design as a way of life" there is a question of whether we "design" emails. This made me think of a cartoon my advisor once sent me from PHD comics.
I tried posting it here, but in case it doesn't show up, you can view it here.
The cartoon is commenting on the amount of effort that different types of people (students vs advisors/professors) put into their email construction.