The Curious Case of “Are you sure?” – the Usecrime That Just Won’t Die

by on July 22, 2017

  The reasons why confirmation dialogues are inferior to “undo” (perhaps better termed “delayed triggering”) are pretty clear, well understood, and accepted by anyone who has taken the time to read something about HCI. Undo has also featured in usability heuristics since time immemorial.  No serious designer should therefore be specifying confirmation dialogues for significant CrUD operations […]

Is a “Graphical Drop-down” Better than a Row of Icons?

by on June 4, 2016

a graphical dropdown

At the trainspotting end of the UX spectrum of activity lie articles like this, from Information Architects Inc., which for some reason I find myself reading. While IA’s article is far too long and badly needs editing, the following occurs to me: Icons take up minimal space and look better than plain text, so they tend to […]

My move to TES Global

by on November 29, 2015

Having re-designed the UI for MailOnline’s content publishing systems (currently producing close to 1,000 stories daily), my work there is now done. I’ve always been interested in how organisations work, and it was a great experience doing UX at the world’s biggest news site. I worked daily with journalists and editors of all kinds to understand how […]

The Decline of Process and the Rise of ‘Good Enough’

by on June 4, 2015

Designing and building software is at least as complex and demanding of intellectual labour as the building of ships, large buildings or suspension bridges. If the number of failed software projects is anything to go by, perhaps it’s is even more difficult than these. In modern history at least, the underlying assumption when performing complex […]

Content Creator: The MailOnline CMS

by on December 13, 2014

A few months ago, the New York Times wrote about “Scoop”, their new publishing system. Scoop, they point out, is more than just a means of facilitating their editorial processes. They see it as “…central to our ambitions to innovate on all platforms”. They also point out that the capabilities, ease of use, and competitive edge of content management systems is an […]

“Irregular Verbs” in Software Design

by on March 16, 2014

(This post implements my new year’s resolution of sub-titling my sections so as to make me look like I know what I’m talking about.) At MailOnline, we have no development process. Well, that’s not entirely true, we use Programmer Anarchy. The developers decide for themselves which “table” they want to work on, and can then […]

The UX Asset Management Challenge

by on June 9, 2013

When multiple designers work on multiple assets or across multiple projects, it gets very difficult to manage files over time. Which files are the latest versions? Which files are even relevant any more? Which files contain things that may be affected by the contents of other files? Yet with a few short-term exceptions, I have yet […]

The State of Google Glass

by on May 7, 2013

Now that Google has released Glass to external developers, it’s approaching the point where if you work anywhere near information technology, you are going to need some kind of opinion about whether Glass will be the mass-market success Google wants it to be. Glass deserves a fair assessment, if only because Google has the software muscle and […]

What’s Worse Than A Pie Chart?

by on January 4, 2013

I dislike pie charts. I may even dislike people who use them. But even worse than a pie chart is a quite recent device that doesn’t (I don’t think) have a name. These are the circles that appear mostly in newspapers and magazines to illustrate some quantitative comparison – here’s an example of what I mean. This technique […]

Is This The Most Elegant Map Ever?

by on October 31, 2012

I was having a look at the state of Japanese web design today (we’re doing some customer research there at the moment)  and saw this towards the bottom of the home page of the Yomiuri Shinbun site. For those who don’t know, the Yomiuri is the world’s largest newspaper by circulation. I would imagine their website is also read […]

The User Experience of Digital Signatures

by on July 29, 2012

How about that for a boring title? But it’s something that bothers me quite regularly. Why is it that “asymmetric encryption” appears to be fundamentally beyond the understanding of anyone who doesn’t work directly with computers? It’s now become such an issue for me that I’ve written to my MP about it. But before you […]

Are 37Signals Getting Real?

by on June 4, 2012

A recent post on 37Signals’s blog is interesting. Jason wants somebody to help them with customer conversion and retention. One of the reasons why I like 37Signals is that they truly subscribe to the model laid out by the Cluetrain Mainfesto. 37Signals have without doubt turned their organisation “inside out”, as the Manifesto predicts modern […]

Sketchy Debate

by on February 25, 2012

It seems like not too long ago, many IA/UX designers fought endless battles on mailing lists and Usenet about whether Visio was better than Freehand which was better than Omnigraffle which was better than Excel (no, really, I’ve seen people use Excel to express UI ideas). There was always some software or other that totally […]

Approaching Test-Driven Design

by on October 26, 2011

At Hotels.com we’ve been doing multi-variate testing (“MVT”, or sometimes “A/B testing” if you’re variant challenged) for a while. This means we typically build a number of different designs, then let them duke it out on the live site to see which one performs the best. Recently, however, I’ve been increasingly aware that while we […]

Finding a Good Hotel with Chernoff Faces

by on February 20, 2011

I’ve been wondering whether using Chernoff faces might be a good variation of the “advanced search” pattern in the context of finding a hotel to stay in. Choosing the right hotel requires a number of quite complicated things to be considered. But which things you place the most emphasis on depends very much on the […]

Movement and Change in User Interfaces

by on January 8, 2011

Several months ago, we made some changes to the search results of hotels.com, and among these was the creation of a “pinned header”. As you scroll down through the list of results, a portion of the page header stays with you. Here’s the UI before scrolling. And here it is with the header pinning (linking […]

How to go back

by on December 22, 2010

Ah, synchronicity. No, not the 80’s album by The Police, but the fact that I was recently thinking about “back” buttons and software states in the design of our forthcoming Android and iPhone app. And so was Aza Raskin. Raskin suggests an improvement to the much-improvable experience of using the Apple iPhone’s ultra-simple, yet rather […]

Stamping Out User Experience

by on December 4, 2010

I think I’ve been a user experience designer for about 10 years now. I say “I think”, because I regularly read descriptions of methods of working and relationships between people in multi-disciplined web and software development teams that I don’t recognise. It is of course with great interest that I like to find out about […]

Scrum Didn’t Work For Us

by on September 25, 2010

Last year, our fearless team of interaction designers, creative designers and interface engineers (about 20 of us at the time) took the decision to embrace Scrum, the “agile” methodology for project management. We were all given training courses to attend, and I myself volunteered (along with several others) to become a certified Scrum Master. As […]

Perhaps the Only Way is Up

by on September 23, 2010

Lately I’ve been rather depressed about the state of user experience design. Both my own (management overheads, inability to sweat the details, lack of self-belief…) and that of the wider community. So it didn’t help that one Cameron Chapman delivered a further kick in the teeth the other day with 10 Usability Tips Based on […]

Google’s Incremental Search Results

by on August 29, 2010

New in Google’s live testing is what Jef Raskin described as “incremental search” (also jokingly referring to the dominant search pattern as “excremental search”) about 10 years ago. He predicted it would be usually the best way to perform free-text queries like this. At the time, few systems were really able to implement it, so […]

TabCandy Good

by on July 25, 2010

Examples of good functional design in the digital space (as opposed to good ways of making existing ideas look nicer), are so damn hard to find these days. It follows that good designers are also very rare. So thank heaven for Aza Raskin, scion of the late great Jeff Raskin, designer of Firefox mobile, and […]

Worst Infographic Yet: Colours in Cultures

by on June 24, 2010

David McCandless is an interesting person doing interesting things. Interesting to me, that is, because his work exemplifies something I find deeply mysterious in the way people regard information visualisation. His pursuit of “beauty” seems to be a licence to override clarity, truth, and even common sense. Yet he is widely lauded (here he is […]

Naive Users May Not Be What You Think

by on February 11, 2010

Here’s a fascinating incident. In a nutshell: net news site readwriteweb.com posts a news article about some Facebook business development with AOL. Nothing remarkable about that. But then something strange starts to happen. Hundreds of people start posting comments complaining about how their beloved Facebook has changed and they can’t log in … to readwriteweb.com. […]

Piechart Badness. Corrected.

by on January 29, 2010

Lovemoney.com has a free personal finance dashboard that I thought I’d have a look at. It’s really an early beta, and they’ve been soliciting feedback and generally being very receptive. So, I’ve just sent them the following email. By the way, I’ve decided that OpenOffice Presentation, with which I did the mockup, is rubbish. Apologies […]

Some Notes on 10/GUI

by on October 25, 2009

Robert Clayton Miller‘s 10/GUI desktop multi-touch idea wafted out of the ether towards me last week, and I’ve been giving it some thought after watching the video a few times. 10/GUI is unusual in that Miller describes himself as a graphic designer. Unlike people such as as Jeff Han, he is not approaching the issues […]

User Experience in the Real World

by on May 28, 2009

I’ve just been mailed by a company called Zetetic about their mobile password storage application called Strip. Zetetic are interesting in that they are a small, cutting-edge software development house specialising in RoR and .NET. They appear to be principally a consultancy, but also develop and and sell their own applications. This is very similar […]

An Information Theory

by on January 31, 2009

Quoting a single statistic to support an argument is rarely very impressive, regardless whether the numbers themselves are right or wrong. I would say that most  statistics are nothing without context. Context is the air that statistics breathe and the engine which powers them to make a point.  Yet far too many people simply pluck […]

Where Will Content Lead Us?

by on October 23, 2008

Nothing is completely new, it just evolves.  So it is with content on the web: the traditional free print model of allowing access to content as a way of getting readers to do something profitable has been transmogrified under the influence of SEO and Google’s all-powerful PageRank algorithms. It now doesn’t matter how good your […]

Calendars and Date Range Selection

by on June 13, 2008

One thing that bothers me about “design patterns” is that they don’t always seem to be the best method of solving a design problem. In many cases, patterns are patterns simply because they are popular. This of course is a phenomenon not limited to design (music, for example, is another case in point). However, it […]

Persona Insight? You Decide

by on March 2, 2008

At last, people are openly acknowledging that persona development, or at least the dogma that comes with it, is weird. I’ve been rude about Alan Cooper before, but this is another chance to stick the boot in. I blame Cooper for coming up with the wonderful idea of personas. They’re great for summarising research. They […]

Vimeo.com – Nice Design

by on November 19, 2007

Only just discovered Vimeo.com. I like the overall design very much. It’s pushing the the stereotypical “web 2.0” conventions on rather well: desaturated colours, rounded corners, etc., but it’s very well thought out – everything is there for a reason. I also note some interesting things going on: no scroll bars (just up/down arrows), no […]

Vodafone Broken Calling

by on September 25, 2007

I was in Spain last week, on the Vodafone ES network, and dialled a wrongly-constructed number. The call didn’t connect (just went dead, no ringing) and I got this message. That number at the bottom is the number I was calling, properly formatted. If the system knows how to format the number – why not […]

Euro IA, Barcelona

by on September 22, 2007

Eric Reiss mentioned that at conferences in the States you have pre-conference workshops, whereas in Europe you just have lots of drinking. At the start of Day Two of Euro IA – I’m feeling rather sleepy after the cumulative effects of the the pre-conference party, and all the tappas last night. Hope I can hold […]

Going to Euro IA

by on July 14, 2007

I submitted an idea for a talk at this year’s Euro IA in Barcelona a few weeks ago (just met the deadline). The anonymous review process has now taken place and the results are out: they’d like me to do it as a poster. While I would have preferred a talk to be able to […]

The Rights and Wrongs of Tag Clouds

by on June 23, 2007

I’m not obsessed with tag clouds, really I’m not, but I think they are the single most useful, yet criminally misunderstood and mis-applied UI device out there. I’ve written about tag clouds before, but this time I’m turning up the heat. Controversy time: writing about “best practice” for tag clouds in terms of what fonts […]

Submission to Euro IA 2007

by on May 15, 2007

Here’s an idea for a Euro IA submission I was thinking about (eh Barcelooona!) to fulfil one of my annual HR objectives: the one that says I need to ramp up my public profile to attain the status of European Experience Emperor. Some prodding about seems to indicate that people do see this as a […]

Those Tag Clouds Again

by on January 5, 2007

Just posted this to Sig-IA in reply to somebody wanting some examples of good tag clouds (see also my earlier venture). I’m sure the following will be wonderfully arcane in about 10 years time. I was looking at movietally.com the other day. While it’s not exactly a shining example of good design overall, the use […]

Graphics and Relevance

by on November 14, 2006

This graphic “explaining” what the BBC’s honeypot might have been employed to do had it been hijacked (which I assume it wasn’t – how boring) is all but pointless. While rather an extreme example, I think it highlights rather well what I’ve realised recently is the biggest single problem I have with graphical representations of […]

User Experience 2006

by on November 6, 2006

Originally uploaded by Gilgongo. I’ve been at User Experience 2006 (London). Don Norman looks even more like Capt. Birdseye than normal, but he had some good things to say along with bashing Microsoft and spending rather too long talking about cars. A good day out I think – and one that also might need to […]

Seven After Five Years

by on October 19, 2006

Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 was released in August 2001. This week, one of the biggest and most damaging private monopolies in human history relented, and fully five years after, we now have their MSIE 7. I installed it today. Coincidentally, a couple of days before I heard that the 7 was out, I happend to […]

Tag Cloudy

by on October 16, 2006

I’ve become a bit of a tag cloud hawk recently, looking for examples of their use and what I think is abuse, or just plain old misunderstanding. My definition of a useful tag cloud is something that allows you to get a feel for the “mood” of the information tagged on a site. On the […]

Online Payment Form Patterns

by on October 8, 2006

When designing an e-commerce site, it’s hard to avoid the payment form. For an industry barely a decade old, the payment page has a powerful mystique – associated as it is with high technology like i-frames, fraud, mysterious loss of life savings, and alien invasion. I was thinking about this last week after reviewing some […]

Giving RIAs an STD

by on September 24, 2006

I’m sure there’s a wittier subject line for this, but it’s hardly worth the effort. The project I’m currently working on has some “wizzy” interactivity planned, and verges on being a proper “rich Internet application” sometimes. As mentioned here before though, people like me working in the stultifying confines of a web development agency are […]

A Problem With Search Forms

by on September 9, 2006

Golly – it’s about time I wrote down something about user experience design, seeing as this is what this blog is suppose to be about. I’ve been doing some work for a site re-design, starting with user testing 24 people over two weeks. We asked them (a wide demographic) to use some currently live sites […]

Being Rude About Alan Cooper

by on July 31, 2006

Alan Cooper: feted genius, father of Visual Basic and giant of user-centred design. Jonathan Baker-Bates: pitiful, microscopic nobody. But at least I’ve designed a few websites…

I assume Alan Cooper hasn’t designed any significant web sites because Cooper Interaction Design only lists one in its case studies, and that is HP Shopping. Cooper (or more likely his acolytes) identified a needs-based persona and presumably designed for that and not any others, as per the methodology handed down by the great man. HP then ditched that design for a solidly features-based Endeca boilerplate a couple of years later. Oddly, the only thing Cooper says about the project in terms of results is that most users would have recommend the site to others. The lack of any reference to sales, or even traffic, speaks volumes to me about Cooper and their work for HP.

Stovepiping The Future

by on June 24, 2006

Any normal person will of course have heard nothing about the recent merger between LBIcon (business consulting, branding, communication and technology services) with Framfab (web marketing, design and production) into the largest digital design, marcomms, branding and technology firm in Europe. Indeed, the newly-merged entity will rival that of the super giants of Digitas, Omincom and others that currently graze among the lush forests of digital media in the States and Asia. This is surely a tectonic event.

Thirst for Truth in Card Sorting

by on April 8, 2006

I know the phrase “card sorting” either baffles, bores or does something else beginning with ‘b’ to almost everyone that hears it. Perhaps the most vocal source of information and critique of card sorting techniques recently has been the force that is Maadmob’s Donna Maurer. I recently caught her attention on this subject via comments on the blog of another Australian IA, Leisa Reichelt.

Leisa had been blogging about her negative experience of card sorting in the context of “validating” an information architecture. I’d been thinking about this and the wider issue of whether related techniques might be better or worse, and under which circumstances.

fool.co.uk

by on December 5, 2005

I’ve just posted a rant on www.fool.co.uk about their awful site design. Hm. Feel a bit guilty. A bit soiled to be honest… I actually think the site’s content is fantastic. But the form of that content really, really stinks. The last straw was their announcement of some forthcoming “layout changes” which (I assume) have now gone live. In classic 1995 style, they’ve just made things worse. The site needs major surgery.

Words and Pictures

by on November 24, 2005

I just spend my life specifying stuff. There’s just no time for anything else. Creativity, research, even design (always an afterthought…) is pretty much a covert activity when you’ve got the offshore crews to keep happy. But once in a while I feel I’ve made some headway somewhere, however microscopic.

Her Heart’s In the Right Place

by on September 6, 2005

This blog post shows how chaotic the discipline of IA is (see the comments in particular). There’s not even a pretense of union, agreement or even polite tolerance of divergent views amongst the practitioners. I look at designs by other people and I feel almost bound by duty to pepper them with criticism. I even expect it in others: a senior colleague recently reviewed some work I’d done and drew large rings around some elements, writing the words “awful” in large red ink next to them. Two months later, and after much fruitless experiment, the same interaction he so abhorred has now been deployed. The belief that there’s a mythical “true way” promotes the idea that the one who puts their idea across with enough force wins. We’re no worse than cowboy builders or politicians. Oh, and Euro IA rejected my application to give a presentation. Bastards.

It’s Difficult – So Let’s Leave the User Out of It.

by on August 29, 2005

For too long, login, registration and online point of sale processes have been designed either by IT business analysts who see users as UML symbols, or worse by developers who don’t want to think about users at all. More often than not, information architects get frozen out. I’ve worked on loads of sites that had ecommerce or registration processes that for some reason were deemed out of our scope for us. So we deliver a great experience up until the point the customer actually wants to engage with the site, whereupon it’s all “enter your 15 digit user name with no spaces or diacritical marks.”

Going Postal

by on July 25, 2005

I’m selling a shower rail on eBay, and a bidder has asked me how much it might be send to Germany. That should be easy to find out (indeed, why don’t they look it up themselves the lazy buggers?) I’ve got a vision of a nice form to fill out: dimensions, weight, destination, insurance, etc. And with this in mind I go to the Royal Mail. I go to City Link. I Google.

Functional Specifications

by on July 6, 2005

I’m three weeks into a brand new project, and my mind is on requirements and specifications. Like every project I’ve ever worked on, this is unique. This time, it’s unique because it was half documented and thought about, and was then mothballed. Now it’s back from the dead a year later, and I’m on the case trying to make sense of what was done. There’s one person in my department who worked on it before it was frozen, but the others (who wrote most of the docs) have gone.

A Trouble with Folksonomies

by on June 29, 2005

Had an informal presentation today about folksonomies. A lot has been said about them recently, and I don’t think anyone’s thinking of them as really serious tools to rival more traditional systems or techniques, but some things that came to mind about the long term future started with that Killing Joke track.

Content Mapping

by on March 8, 2005

Sometimes I think I’m the only person who lies awake at night worrying about content. Well, I don’t literally do that, but it feels like I might be sometimes. I’m certainly gaining broken record status on the issue and thinking crying-in-the-wilderness thoughts at times.

Part of the problem is that it’s hard to articulate what the problem exactly is (well, I find it hard at least). It’s certainly made harder by the fact that according to the content management software industry it’s not a problem that exists if you use a CMS. How could it, since such software “manages” content! And who indeed could possibly have a problem with managing content after they’d spent half a million bucks on the latest enterprise XML format-agnostic end-to-end solution?

Remote Card Sorting

by on February 24, 2005

Back at the grindstone this week with an interesting foray into card sorting, but this time using a web application while facilitating users (one to one) over conference calls. It’s thrown up some issues, and almost fallen apart at the seams at one point, but I think it’s going to be helpful in the next stage of working out the site’s taxonomy.

Friends Provident’s Customer Registration

by on January 15, 2005

When I started this blog I told myself it would be a good place to critique online experiences of various kinds. I’ve actually done very little of this, mainly because it’s unexpectedly difficult: you only realise you’ve got a badly designed experience on your hands when you’re some way into the journey, and back-tracking to record the process is usually not possible. I’ve half caputured this mess of a customer registration journey though – it’s really terrible though.

Illuminated Scrolls

by on November 8, 2004

Busy this last week doing “pixel-perfect wireframes” (don’t ask). I dunno. With seemingly the whole world going with Jakob on this one: low-fidelity, fast iteration prototyping with rapid whatnots; we’re plodding away with Freehand documents and hardly even a whiteboard sketch between them and the A3 colour printer that lovingly prints them out. All this after Visio purgatory and the dreaded “user journeys” as well (the latter not done by me, luckily). All we need now is some site map psychosis and the madness will be complete. Still – if the client’s paying, I’m all for it. And I’m sure it’s good for me to do this… somehow (grits teeth…).

Flow Diagrams

by on October 25, 2004

For the past couple of weeks, I have been doing flow diagrams in Visio. These are supposed to describe the “flow” of pages that a user goes through when ordering certain things on our client’s site. They are exhaustive representations of every permutation of that journey, showing the exceptions, error screens, diversions, etc. that are encountered. And sweet Jesus are they boring to do. Not only that, but they’re frustrating, confusing, relentless and needlessly time-consuming. Let me count the ways…

IA Research Shorts

by on September 28, 2004

There’s some interesting stuff here, including summary of some research showing that changing navigation in subtle ways actually helps users navigate (and aids their understanding of the depth of the site), thereby seeming to contradict the standard guideline that navigation should be kept consistent. Also talks about other things such as classifying information toward the end of the process, not the beginning. It’s a presentation but has some citations worth following.

Then there’s some page-scrolling stuff that’s good to counter the nay-sayers.

Usability and Understanding

by on July 31, 2004

User testing in London and Milan last week. The scripts we’re using for this are pretty complicated, and the client wants us to cover off a lot of very specific questions about the system, which was pretty tough to do while making sure the user was relaxed enough to give us reasonably truthful answers.