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May 2006 Issue

By Dirk Knemeyer

Published: May 8, 2006

“The mobile Web is largely overplayed hype—the clumsy extrapolation of the behavior and use of a basic set of interfaces from one environment to another incompatible one.”

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the mobile Web is largely overplayed hype—the clumsy extrapolation of the behavior and use of a basic set of interfaces from one environment to another incompatible one. As a result of this broken mental model of mobile computing, we are not taking advantage of the real potential this technology offers.

The genesis of my thesis began innocently enough today, when I was reading Good Morning Silicon Valley and saw this quotation from Gartner analyst Daren Siddall:

“Most mobile users still see their mobile phones primarily as a communication device, although they're beginning to experiment with using their phones to access Internet content. It will take another step for most users to become comfortable with the idea of buying actual products using their phones.”—Daren Siddall

Siddall is identifying a relatively linear continuum of the evolution of mobile device adoption and use:

Communication Tool Web Interface Transactional Device

Read moreRead More>

By Luke Wroblewski

Published: May 8, 2006

“I work with the product team to balance user goals, business requirements, and technical considerations to create a product design.”

During my years as an interface designer, I’ve worked with lots of different development teams. From big companies to small startups, the interactions between me—the product designer—and developers have been pretty consistent. We work through what interactions and features are possible given our timeframe and resources. We discuss edge cases and clarify how specific interactions should work. We debate product strategy, information architecture, target audience, front-end technologies, and more. We also frequently encounter the same issue: the need to consider what’s not there.

The way we get there is always the same. I work with the product team to balance user goals, business requirements, and technical considerations to create a product design. That design gets vetted, iterated, and ultimately documented.

Because I mostly work with fast-paced Web companies, I frequently have to create my design documentation under aggressive timelines. This means there is not a lot of time for creating detailed design specifications. Nor is there an opportunity for me to provide templates in HTML and CSS for every part of an application. So I turn over mockups and workflows—in the form of stories or task diagrams—to the development team. What I frequently get back is half of the design. Read moreRead More>

By Dan Saffer

Published: May 8, 2006

“For interaction designers, who create products and services that can be digital (software) or analog (a karaoke machine) or both (a mobile phone), the design elements are more conceptual.”

Other design disciplines use raw materials. Communication designers use basic visual elements such as the line. Industrial designers work with simple 3D shapes such as the cube, the sphere, and the cylinder. For interaction designers, who create products and services that can be digital (software) or analog (a karaoke machine) or both (a mobile phone), the design elements are more conceptual. And yet they offer a powerful set of components for interaction designers to bring to bear on their projects.

Motion

In much the same way that inert gases don’t mingle with other gases, objects that don’t move don’t interact. An interaction is some sort of communication, and communication is about movement: our vocal cords vibrating as we speak, our hands and arms writing or typing as we send email or instant messages, sound and data moving between two entities. Read moreRead More>

Review by Pabini Gabriel-Petit

Published: May 8, 2006

Organization 4 stars
Content 4.5 stars
Copyediting 3 stars
Illustrations 3.5 stars
Book Design 3 stars

Carolyn Snyder’s Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design and Refine User Interfaces provides the only complete guide to paper prototyping. It teaches you everything you need to know to successfully do paper prototyping and offers many practical tips. However, only about a third of the book is actually about doing paper prototyping. The majority of the book’s content comprises a basic reference on usability testing. While some of the information on usability testing describes how to test paper prototypes, most of it is applicable to any type of usability testing. If you’re already an expert in usability testing, you may not find this information as useful, but Snyder has honed her approach to usability testing over her many years of experience as a usability professional and provides a wealth of practical information.

Many pages in the book are devoted to arguments for justifying paper prototyping and validating the approach. I find it hard to believe anyone would need all of that ammunition to justify such a common-sense approach. The author had me convinced in a very few pages that paper prototyping is one of the most useful tools available to UX professionals. Paper prototyping is a simple technique that lets you quickly communicate your user interface design ideas, test designs early and economically, and iteratively refine your designs—even during a usability test. Read moreRead More>

By Russell Wilson

Published: May 8, 2006

“The discussion … began with early schools of design including the Bauhaus Curriculum, the evolution of product development and its drivers, and the recent involvement of designers in the product development process.”

South by Southwest (SXSW) began as a music festival in 1987 and has grown to include festivals and conferences for the film industry and interactive media. It is a colorful event, held each year in Austin, Texas, and drawing an eclectic crowd. (Need I mention the roller-derby girls handing out flyers outside the main entrance?)

Dogma Free Design

Panelists: Kelly Goto, Joel Grossman, Dirk Knemeyer, and Luke Wroblewski

One of the sessions I attended at SXSW this year was “Dogma Free Design.” I expected a relaxed, informal atmosphere with world-class presenters who were interested in discussing what design really is and was happy with what I heard.

Dirk Knemeyer got everyone’s attention by holding up a large sheet of paper with examples of current dogma such as:

  • 99% of Flash is bad.
  • Learn Ajax or you’re dead.

Read moreRead More>