Blog

Graphic Design for Human Interfaces

Do me a favor and pay a visit to the web site for the <a href=”http://www.dk-designskole.dk/”>Design School in Copenhagen, Denmark. You probably won’t understand the words, but you’ll still get my point. It looks great, but it doesn’t help you get your job done.





A few examples: You have to click through a splash screen to get to the meat. The navigation is visual only: You have to either decipher or remember what those little icons mean. You can’t...

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Stuck on Stock Photography

Say you wanted to open up a stock photography business. You have thousands of photos that your customers can search and browse, until they find and buy the one that’s just right for them.





Meat at the Fairway Market, New York City



What medium would you choose for your catalog? Would you print books? No. They’re expensive to print and ship, and don’t have very good search tools. Would you open up a physical store and display them in the window, like real estate brokers? Narh, much too expensive to have all those...

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Microsoft's Widgets

I’ve spent too much time developing web applications recently, and getting fed up with the constraints of designing user interfaces on the web. Try imagining having to write Microsoft Excel for the web to run in Netscape, not using Java, and you’ll know what I mean.





So in order to compensate, I’ve been toying with some Windows application development, just for fun. And it struck me how Microsoft have always been really, really good at writing complete, solid UI widgets....

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WUI Woes

Which would you prefer to write a letter to your grandma: A word processor, such as Microsoft Word, or a text entry widget in a browser? Or which would you prefer to read your email: Microsoft Outlook or web-based Yahoo! Mail?





There’s no denying it. Despite the many advantages of web-based user interfaces, or WUIs for short, they’re generally a major step back from the desktop application GUIs (graphical user interfaces) that came before.





It’s not that the...

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Turnstile Trouble

Turnstiles, New York City Subway



You can always tell an out-of-towner in New York’s subway. He’s the person that has to swipe his card five or six times through the turnstile, jamming the whole weight of his body against the immovable bar, until it finally works.





Real New Yorkers take pride in operating the turnstile as smoothly as possible. They learn through bitter experience at exactly what pace the card must be swiped, and manage to do the walk-up-swipe-and-walk-through maneuver in one smooth, yoga-esque...

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Microsoft .NET

Has control of the desktop, including the browser. Extending this to other devices, such as palms (pocket pc), cell phones, and gaming boxes (xbox).





Expanding on the server side, with features that make software running on MS servers (dot-net) better able to exploit the MS clients (Dot-Net UI stuff).





Expanding this into services, such as Hailstorm, that they can charge for.

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Registration Rules

Accept Contributions Up Front



A lot of users turn away when they see a login or registration screen. On my site, the number of is around 94%. Part of the reason is probably that people are just tired of going through registration forms, and they don’t bother when the benefits of doing so is dubious. Part of it, most likely, is that they’re wary of handing out their email address, because they’re more scared of spam email than they are of junk mail, even though the time and...

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Contracts Everywhere

I recently handed over my car to a valet parking at Venice beach in Los Angeles. Just before I let go of the key, I noticed a sign saying



This contract limits our liability. Read it.


The intention was clear: By handing over my keys, I was implicitly agreeing to the contract. The contract was printed with small type, on a poster, sitting in floor height. So in order to know what I was agreeing to, I’d have to get down on my knees, take out my glasses, and spend ten minutes reading it....

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User Interface Fashion

Looks Are Deceptive



When I bought my last car, I thought it looked slick, fresh, cool. But then, a couple months later, a friend of mine bought a new car that looked even slicker, fresher, cooler. I could never look at mine with the same eyes again. It didn’t have the same freshness anymore. I have to get a new one, now!





What does this have to do with software? Well, software’s got to look fresh, too. You may think that you buy software on pure rational merits, but often, the...

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Subway Sounds

New subway cars were recently put in service in New York city. I had my first ride with one of them today, on the 6 line from Astor Place to 59th st. And I don’t like them. It’s not that I generally hate the MTA. In fact, I love New York’s subways. It’s just that I use them every day, so when the MTA does something stupid, I feel compelled to comment on it.





The new cars have many usability problems: The light’s terrible, the materials used are sterile and...

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