Tag: design

The thought before the click: the locus of attention

This is the second in a series of fundamental user experience concepts useful for understanding people’s behaviour when using the web and mobile.

Scrabble Pieces VectorLet’s play a little game.

  1. First, think of your first name.
  2. Now, think of the last letter of your surname.

Neither of these are difficult tasks, but it takes longer to complete the second than the first. This is an illustration of the difference between conscious and unconscious thought. While your first name springs to mind immediately, you had to work a bit harder to come up with the last letter of your surname.

Meanwhile, when you were completing the tasks you had to switch your attention from this page to the task and back again. In doing this, you had to adjust what’s called your “locus of attention”.

Continue reading “The thought before the click: the locus of attention”

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The paradox of the active user

This is the first in a series of fundamental user experience concepts useful for understanding people’s behaviour when using the web and mobile.

The paradox of the active user is a concept that was first articulated by John Carroll and Mary Beth Rosson in 1987 at IBM’s User Interface Institute [PDF].  It describes a phenomenon that is ever-present, and still relevant to the way that people use the web and mobile devices today.

Continue reading “The paradox of the active user”

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” *

ios7 screenshots

This week on t’internets the Twitterati have been set alight by the hype surrounding the “design” of Apple’s new iOS – version 7. I say “design” because many of the commentators have been quick to highlight the aesthetic qualities resembling those of Apple’s key competitors, whether they be Google’s Android or Microsoft’s Metro UI schemes. To my mind these debates are inevitable but unfortunately lack much in the way of value.

The debate lacks purpose because after a while, and specifically for interfaces that are often used, aesthetic aspects become secondary to utility. It’s also been proven that UX designers themselves are very poor judges of the quality of an interface based on looks alone (see Dillon and Black, Aesthetics and user performance [PPT]). That is not to say, however, that aesthetics are not important. It is more that aesthetics are just one element of the experience and should not be assessed in isolation.

Aesthetics and emotion in digital interfaces is a topic that is endlessly debated in UX circles. Stephen B Andersen in particular makes a good case for how aesthetic excellence creates a more emotive bond between your product and your customer, and how brand also plays a role in helping people forgive disappointing functional design or lack of utility.

And while aesthetics are important, there are so many more important topics to focus on. It’s a shame, for example, that the aesthetics debate around iOS7 will most likely cloud the very interesting direction Apple is taking towards integrating its mobile devices and its laptop and desktop machines. For me, these are the new parts of the Apple user experience that will have lasting impact once the new OS appears. There aren’t so many pretty pictures to accompany those, unfortunately.

And so, the blog and tech journo hype machine rolls on to the next big launch. We will have to wait until the autumn to see whether iOS really improves the user experience.

* Quote from Steve Jobs, 2003

Good/bad design – a response to a response

I got in this evening to find this in my Twitter feed:

Now, as regular readers will know I’m no stranger to a bit of polemic.
Nevertheless, read Mr Howells’ post first.

My response:

If web design is not the designer’s responsibility then what is a designer’s responsibility?

You say that “design” is too easily equated with “style” but then you equate responsibility for “navigation” and “content” with an information architect’s role. Something wrong there.

At the end of the day, even Gov.uk (which you think is great) has someone leading the effort and I can guarantee that person has a strong idea of what they want. Design-wise, IA-wise, editorially, technically and so on. Good design (and user experience) needs to be orchestrated.

Are you saying you’d rather not have that role? Well, then you’re wimping out, and you’ll be the “stylist” on many projects to come.

Antiquated CMS systems do not lead to badly-maintained websites. Bad design does.

So, as a designer, once you’ve finished your shiny visuals in the halcyon design phase of a project, you wander off to the next client, with your fingers crossed that all goes well. Then, 6 months later you return to the site to find that all is not well, and that your perfectly-realised designs are not being carried through. *Welcome to the real world!*

Design in the real world means design that works in the real world, operated by real people. If you’re not following your efforts through so that real people can use them, then you’ve only done half the job. If real people don’t understand your design or can’t fit their content into your design, then you’ve failed. If you can’t figure out how to train people to use a CMS, come on, this is child’s play!

I currently am responsible for a number of pretty well known travel websites that bring in hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue each year. None of them has a CMS.

A CMS doesn’t equal success with design or with content.

I look forward to your response.