Redefining Hick’s Law

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Cogniton on March 16th, 2012 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Jason Gross, Redefining Hicks’s Law, 2012

The human mind has trouble choosing between several options unless one clearly stands out as the best. When you water down a design with widgets and secondary content, you reduce the value of the primary content and force a harder decision on the user. The process of eliminating distracting options has to start here and should be carried on throughout the design process. The more choices we eliminate, the more enjoyable the experience will be.

Requirements-Driven Software Development Must Die

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Process, Project Management on July 25th, 2011 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Fred Beecher, Requirements-Driven Software Development Must Die, 2011

The process by which most enterprise software is developed is fatally flawed. There are flaws in any software development process, but in the past 13 years I’ve seen one approach produce more bad software and blow more budgets than any other: requirements-driven software development. Thankfully, I’ve also had the opportunity to see the success of an alternative type of process, a process in which user experience design drives what gets developed. This type of process helps teams deliver good software on time and within their budgets.

Requirements-driven software development fails mainly due to communication issues. Huge spreadsheets of detailed requirements, by themselves, are simply not an effective way to convey what an interactive system needs to do and how users need it to work. What does work, however, is validating those requirements with an interactive prototype.

Procedural Literacy: Educating the New Media Practitioner

Posted in 2000s, Articles, Process, Programming on June 29th, 2011 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Michael Mateas, “Procedural Literacy: Educating the New Media Practitioner” (2007)

Procedural literacy, of which programming is a part, is critically important for new media scholars and practitioners, that its opposite, procedurally illiteracy, leaves one fundamentally unable to grapple with the essence of computational media. In fact, one can argue that procedural literacy is a fundamental competence for everyone, required full participation in contemporary society, that believing only programmers (people who make a living at it) should be procedurally literate is like believing only published authors need to learn how to read and write; here I will restrict myself to the case of new media scholars and practitioners.

By procedural literacy I mean the ability to read and write processes, to engage procedural representation and aesthetics, to understand the interplay between the culturally-embedded practices of human meaning-making and technically-mediated processes. With appropriate programming, a computer can embody any conceivable process; code is the most versatile, general process language ever created. Hence, the craft skill of programming is a fundamental component of procedural literacy, though it is not the details of any particular programming language that matters, but rather the more general tropes and structures that cut across all languages.

Why Angry Birds is So Successful and Popular

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Cogniton, Game Mechanics on April 24th, 2011 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Charles L. Mauro, “Why Angry Birds is so successful and popular: a cognitive teardown of the user experience” (2011)

What makes a user interface engaging is adding more detail to the user’s mental model at just the right time. Angry Birds’ simple interaction model is easy to learn because it allows the user to quickly develop a mental model of the game’s interaction methodology, core strategy and scoring processes. It is engaging, in fact addictive, due to the carefully scripted expansion of the user’s mental model of the strategy component and incremental increases in problem/solution methodology. These little birds are packed with clever behaviors that expand the user’s mental model at just the point when game-level complexity is increased. The process of creating simple, engaging interaction models turns out to be exceedingly complex. Most groups developing software today think expansion of the user’s mental model is for the birds. Not necessarily so.

The Perils of Persuasion

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Ethics on March 3rd, 2011 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Cennydd Bowles, “The Perils of Persuasion” (2010)

Persuasion design doesn’t share UCD’s ethical neutrality. Instead, it makes an implicit but undeniable judgment that certain behaviours are preferable to others. We need only look at the vocabulary of persuasion design to see this. Jon Kolko’s infamous Johnny Holland article talks of design’s contribution “to the behaviour of the masses, [helping to] define the culture of our society.”

While I respect Jon’s intellect, I find this to be dangerous rhetoric from which we can draw uncomfortable parody: Fear not, huddled masses – the design elite will lead you to the promised land. Persuasion design’s assured ethical superiority is unfortunate. Although some of the cases put forward are compelling – guiding people toward better macroscopic decisions about environment, health etc – we must recognise that, for all the good deeds behaviour change can encourage, it is prone to murkier applications.

What privileges the designer to dictate desired behaviour? And since we’re for hire, does that mean we’re ethical relativists, bending people toward whatever agenda lines our pockets?

Whomever the paymaster, the common pattern I observe in digital persuasion design is that its values are uniformly technocratic. Science is better than faith. Action is better than reflection. Progress is better than the status quo. These values strike me as practically Futurist and, at the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, I’m concerned that radical persuasion design is vulnerable to similar autocratic pitfalls.

An Archive for Interaction Design

Posted in 2010s, Articles, History on February 18th, 2011 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Khoi Vinh, “An Archive for Interaction Design” (2010)

Designers are terrible at saving what we do. Most of us know that we should take the time to document what we’ve done for our own portfolios, if not for posterity. Yet few of us take the trouble. We usually wait until we leave our jobs and a portfolio becomes an imperative, or when a potential client spurs us to write a case study of a finished project.

It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating that digital media is a conversation. To design for digital media is to design systems within which wildly varying kinds of interactions can happen, virtual systems that are conducive to great conversations. Conversations, however, are notoriously difficult to fully capture.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Posted in 2000s, Articles, Hardware, History on February 14th, 2011 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Paul Atkinson, “The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men: The Computer Mouse in the History of Computing” (pdf) (2007)

The history of the mouse raises a number of interesting questions: Why did it take so long to become a mass-produced item? How did people react to the introduction of the mouse? What did the mouse represent, and what does it represent today? How and why did it become the single most accepted interface technology?

There is no denying that the computer mouse is a phenomenally successful product in its own right – a success which can be measured by how ‘natural’ a product it has become as an everyday object. So familiar, that it disappears from our observational and analytical ‘radars’ to become an object people do not stop to consider. Yet, despite this success, few people are aware of its full history, of the way in which it was first conceived and then appropriated by the computer industry, or of the ways in which it has been used, intentionally and unintentionally, to shape our social and technological worlds.

The A-B-C of Behaviour

Posted in 2010s, Articles on January 24th, 2011 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Jodie Moule, “The A-B-C of Behaviour” (2011)

We all seem to be talking about changing behaviour through good design…but changing behaviour is actually really hard. Working as a psychologist in a detox unit at the start of my career has admittedly shaped my view of what it takes to change someone’s behaviour; and whilst I learnt it certainly isn’t impossible, it often takes time. Combine this with the fact that most human behaviour is not considered to be overly planned, with ‘conscious thought’ playing, at best, a small role in shaping our choices…things start to become a little tricky for us as designers. So how do we start to make sense of what influences someone to change their behaviour, given we are often charged with creating designs that are ultimately intended to encourage, if not drive, some form of behaviour change?


Posted in 2010s, Articles, Ubicomp and Internet of Things on January 24th, 2011 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Ben Bashford, Emoticomp (2011)

Interaction designers are used to using personas (research based user archetypes) to describe the types of people that will use the thing they’re designing – their background, their needs and the like but I’m not sure if we’ve ever really explored the use of personas or character documentation to describe the product themselves. What does the object want? How does it feel about it? If it can sense its location and conditions how could that affect its behaviour? This kind of thing could be incredibly powerful and would allow us to develop principles for creating the finer details of the object’s behaviour.

I think you could develop a persona for every touchpoint of the connected object’s service. Maybe it could be the same persona if the thing is to feel strong and omnipresent but maybe you could use different personas for each touchpoint if you’re trying to bring out the connectedness of everything at a slightly more human level.

The Uncanny Valley

Posted in 1970s, Articles, Robotics on December 12th, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Masahiro Mori, “The Uncanny Valley” (1970)

Apparent Usability vs. Inherent Usability: Experimental analysis on the determinants of the apparent usability

Posted in 1990s, Articles, Interface Design on December 2nd, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Masaaki Kurosu and Kaori Kashimura, “Apparent Usability vs. Inherent Usability: Experimental analysis on the determinants of the apparent usability” (1995)

Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework

Posted in 1960s, Articles, Visionary on November 29th, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Doug Engelbart, “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” (1962)

Semiotics in Product Design

Posted in 2000s, Articles, Theory on November 17th, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Sara Ilstedt Hjelm, “Semiotics in Product Design” (pdf) 2002

Response Time in Man-computer Conversational Transactions

Posted in 1960s, Articles, Cogniton on November 6th, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Robert Miller, “Response time in man-computer conversational transactions” (pdf) (1968)

Places to Intervene in a System

Posted in 1990s, Articles, Inspirational, Theory on October 7th, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Donella H. Meadows, “Places to Intervene in a System” (1997)

Regarding “leverage points” in a system.

11 Principles of Interaction Design Explained

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Basics on October 5th, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Paul Seys, “11 Principles of Interaction Design Explained” (2010)

Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking: The Drivers of Design Synthesis

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Design Research, Theory on October 5th, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Jon Kolko, “Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking: The Drivers of Design Synthesis” (2010)

User Experience Matters: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From ‘Objectified’

Posted in 2010s, Articles, Basics on October 5th, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Om Malik, “User Experience Matters: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From ‘Objectified’” (2010)

Introduces the “Of Course” Factor.

Creating Persuasive Technologies: An Eight-Step Design Process

Posted in 2000s, Articles, Process on October 5th, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

BJ Fogg, “Creating Persuasive Technologies: An Eight-Step Design Process” (pdf) (2009)

Controls are Choices

Posted in 2000s, Articles, Basics, Interface Design on October 5th, 2010 by Dan – Be the first to comment

Dan Saffer, “Controls are Choices” (2009)