I have an app on my phone that can identify any song just by listening to and analyzing a few seconds of the melody. If I did not understand how the underlying technology works it might be tempting to imagine that it operates by magic. How about if I know how the technology works? If I know how the songs fingerprints are created, stored and identified? If I know all that and still find myself amazed every time I use it, surely there must be something larger at play?
I am very excited about Heavy Rain. Not on the pretence of the game being the next step in interactive storytelling or a more mature gaming experience. Besides what looks to be a good story set to beautiful visuals and a dynamic score there is a promise of better interaction. This game will tackle the issue of the dreaded Quick Time Event. Quick Time Events are best described as cut scenes where the actual gameplay is limited and the interaction is often of simple nature, e.g. press a button repeteadly at the right moment. The ambitions where originally even higher as the develepors had Sonys upcoming motion controller in mind. What Heavy Rain will try to do is create unique interactions for moves and actions and have them map more naturaly to physical actions from real life. The game will make use of all available inputs of the six axis hand controler and make use of multiple simulatinious inputs to create these more natural mappings. How well they manage to execute this remains to be seen but it would be good for the console game industry as a whole if Heavy Rain changes the traditionaly unimaginative QTE and replaces it with something a bit more immersive.
As Ajax, JQuery and other technologies have enabled more dynamic states in our designs. The consequences of this is often overlooked. Changing states on mouse interaction and using varied forms of animation to guide users through these transitions requires planning and proper execution.
UI animations are good for clarifying what is happening, avoiding jerky/disruptive changes of state and allowing the user to comprehend the new state faster. To do this properly means setting the right values for your animation and defining good hit areas. This is not only crucial for the experience at the point of interaction but will also set the overall feel for your site as a whole. I have jotted down a few basic guidelines my work tends to follow.
The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.
-Ancient Chinese Proverb
While numbers in proper context will speak for themselves UX-terminology does not. It is ugly, has diverse definitions depending on approach and is many times unnecessarily technical or in worst cases a smug acronym (just look at the title of this blog). If you like me do not live in an english speaking country add to that an unnecessary language barrier. Most often your own language (swedish in my case) already has perfectly adequate terms to match its english/techno-based counterparts. Markus Weber recently posted a few thoughts on the subject. Continue reading if you are curious to my approach.
Twitter has partially positioned itself as the social networking, idea and news spreading platform of choice for professionals. Even more so with the recent LinkedIn integration. Creating a separate Twitter account for your work related activities can be a good idea. In my case splitting work from private was an easy choice due to the obvious problems of mixing languages. Having a second account has also taught me something else. I´m beginning to see a pattern in the tweets by people I choose to follow out of professional reasons.
Most often I will look up people whose work I find inspiring in hope of them sharing some of their wisdom. However great work alone or working for a respected agency does not make much of a difference when it comes to clicking the follow button. If the sum of your recent tweets don’t have a certain balance or feel to them it´s just not going to happen. So what makes you interesting to follow? There are a lot of great guides out there on how to and how not to tweet. The emerging pattern I´m looking at consists mostly of my gut feeling which is not necessarily a bad thing after reading Malcolm Gladwell´s Blink and learning about the concept of thin slicing. Keep going for the full breakdown.
Apparently I´ve been living in a cave during 2009. Just now have I found out that drop-down menus are all the rage. Not your ordinary everyday drop-downs mind you. This years model is non other than the Mega Drop-Down Menu. I reacted to a particularly large one earlier this week when Norwegian oil company Statoil launched their new site. Curious as to why they choose this type of navigation Google and designfollow led me to an article about these navigational menus at Jakob Nielsen´s Alert box. Although my initial reaction was not entirely positive (to put it mildly), surprisingly Nielsen´s usability studies show that these drop-downs work. Have a look at Soh Tanaka´s excellent post on how to build one if you feel the urge to create something “mega”.
While reading Jessica Enders articles on Zebra Striping at A List Apart I made a couple of observations. Fairly obvious ones as the formatting of table data is not rocket science but still perhaps worth a few minutes of typing.
In the user experience field, the small details that go beyond expectations and make the difference when it comes to an enjoyable experience, are often called delighters. Many times delighters spring from a single team members will to show off their talent, out of love for a project or love for the end user. Activities that make your site more enjoyable should however not be left to chance but rather be planned for in advance. Planning for and thinking about enjoyability throughout your project can set your site apart from the competition and engage your users emotionally.
There has also been some talk about playfulness lately. Playfulness is another example of how to achieve enjoyability. Emil Ovemar UX Director at Bonnier R&D recently wrote a good post on playfulness.
Whatever you choose to name your attempts at making your site enjoyable, delightful or fun to use, you should approach these activities with some caution. Trying to make your site enjoyable may never come at the cost of the foundations of good web design (structure, interaction design, usability, etc). Creating enjoyable experiences must also be aligned with your clients design strategy, brand and identity. Without this, doing any of the following will likely only help you waste time. Read on for some examples.
Looking back at my past ten years in the Internet industry I have changed job roles a few times. In the past as I have evolved professionally it has always been gradually and more or less without much afterthought. Moving forward there has not been a clear road map which has suited my spirit but also made it hard to see when I have hit a dead end. Ultimately at my own varied pace I have now reached my next step. This time it´s a deliberate and more prepared shift. It feels like a larger leap, slightly scary as I am partly expected to perform on a higher academic level than before. It is also exciting and energizing as I do not doubt having the practical experience needed and I know I have the support from my employer to reach my goals. Continue reading if you’re curious as to what I´m up to.