So, I have finally finished up at Bloomberg. I’m very happy with everything that I have accomplished over there. What a lovely experience. The design team is top notch.
I’m eager to see how the world reacts.
So, I have finally finished up at Bloomberg. I’m very happy with everything that I have accomplished over there. What a lovely experience. The design team is top notch.
I’m eager to see how the world reacts.
I’ve been so busy at Bloomberg I haven’t had the chance to write anything new, even though I have a few things cooking already. I got this email from a reader and asked her permission to post. Enjoy.
I’ve been reading your articles about OCGM and found them quite interesting, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was intrigued by your statement, saying that you were
“not a fan of UI DESIGN PATTERNS”.
“When designers could and should be thinking outside of the typical experience, they rely on a “crutch” called a UI pattern.” Say you are to implement a login feature to your application/site, couldn’t you rely, at least partially, on what’s already been done ? And so on for search, breadcrumbs etc.
“Those patterns were developed by City Engineers because there were only so many different ways you can put 3 buildings on a city block.”
Are there many more possible solutions in HCI? Isn’t one of those solutions better than the other (id “the pattern for this problem”) ?
In my opinions design patterns are like having an HCI expert team at your side (don’t remember where I read that). You are not compelled to use them everytime, but it’s nice having them for some tasks.
I’m genuinely interested in hearing your opinion on the matter. I hope my bad English doesn’t sound angry, I assure you that’s not the feeling.
The problem with patterns are they do not exercise the mind or further the experience. Having a book of patterns at your side is very unlike having an HCI Expert on your team, because those are just cookie cutter solutions. HCI is not math. There is not one simple solution to every problem. My main point is to reach further than what has been seen so far. Just because its the most popular, or most successful at the time, does not mean its correct.
The primary difference between math and HCI is that HCI contains people, and people change in expectations, considerations, and needs, among other things.
Design patterns will never substitute a person that has been trained in the field and is willing to challenge the norm to find something unique and innovative. Design patterns are the antithesis of innovation.
If it’s ok with you, I would like to post this on my blog with my answer. Ive been meaning to write something new.
“The problem with patterns are they do not exercise the mind or further the experience.”
This is a very valid concern.
“Just because its the most popular, or most successful at the time, does not mean its correct.”
So very true (isn’t it even called “the Smashing Magazine Effect”?).
Yet I cannot help but notice that conventions people are used to, physiological stability of the user, recurrence of problems (again, a login form) make for a quite repeteable set of constraints, thus theremust be some repeatable solutions, be it patterns or another artifact.
You say that patterns are numbing creativity. After reading your answer, I agree, but partially : pattern overuse (eg relying on others work to solve every problem) is nefarious. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a look at whats currently the best practice ; you cannot push the enveloppe on every component on a given project. Or maybe sometimes you just have to get it done for yesterday. Or you need an overview of available solutions before diving in. Or you need to share knowledge. In those case, patterns are well suited (imho).
After a bit of pondering on your message, I’ll keep that: there’s a place and time to use patterns, it’s not a solution ex machina. But it doesn’t mean knowledge reuse is never appropriate. What’s your opinion? Is there any form of reuse that fits you better, or do you take them all for dumbing practices?
In any case, thank you very much for taking the time to answer, it is much appreciated. It’s totally ok to post the whole thing as you wish. Last of all and on a totally unrelated matter : would you recommend any resource pertaining to touch/multi-touch interfaces (I’m talking rugged tablet PC rather than iPad)? Thanks in advance!
Thanks so much for writing in Jocelyn!
Well it’s been a chaotic few weeks here in wonderful Microsoft Land. I have been getting tons of questions about some things I said at CHI. Apparently, unknown to me, a few people overheard me talking to some SOFTie colleagues and telling them that I was planning an external move soon. What that means is I was planning on getting another job, but not at Microsoft.
ProTip: A “move” just means you are shifting teams, an “external move” means I was going back into the world. Its rare that a Microsoftie goes back out into the world. It really is an incredible place to work.
Here is a small “guide” to Ron.
So where does that leave us? Well, I’m trying to lead up to where I am going to next. My last day at Microsoft was Friday and I am busy preparing to move across the country.
So what is my next challenge? I think it is the most complex problem in the User Experience world at the present time and just thinking about it gets my brain pumping.
This interface is complex, rich, and mind-blowing in size and scope. I think this article really sums up a few of the problems, but also makes some wrong assertions as well.
I think the best line in the article is this,
“Redesigning the Bloomberg Terminal would be any interface designer’s dream.”
You are correct, and if I have said it once, I’ll say it again… I am living the dream. See you in New York!
Currently looking for a full-time/on-site Senior Interaction Designer to work at Microsoft. You will be working on a product team on a new product offering going into the Office Suite. Your impact could be substantial, to say the least. The product is a Silverlight Product, so your knowledge of Silverlight should be high, including capabilities, application experience, and pushing the limits.
I know this is a bit late, because my co-author has already reported it, but I am very happy to announce that some ears have been listening. The CHI ’10 Workshop, “Natural User Interfaces: The prospect and challenge of Touch and Gestural Computing” has granted an audience to the new metaphor for design.
The workshop is going to be an all day event on Saturday, where each of the authors will present and offer discussion about their position papers. The real benefit of this is that in such a narrow expertise, you really get amazing peer reviews and leave with amazing new ideas. These types of scoped interaction gatherings are a wonderful thing to foster innovation and creativity. It’s like a specialty conference inside of a specialty conference.
One of the most interesting things, as I read the position papers that were accepted, was a cite from my writings. In the paper, “Natural User Interfaces: Why We Need
Better Model-Worlds, Not Better Gestures.(PDF)” the authors argue the need for separation between “symbolic gestures” and “manipulations.”
Manipulations are not gestures.
We believe in a fundamental dichotomy of multi-touch
gestures on interactive surfaces. This dichotomy
differentiates between two classes of multi-touch
interactions: symbolic gestures and manipulations.
They go on to define each specifically.
For us, symbolic gestures are close to the keyboard
shortcuts of WIMP systems. They are not continuous
but are executed by the user at a certain point of time
to trigger an automated system procedure. There is no
user control or feedback after triggering.
The opposite class of multi-touch interactions is
manipulations. Unlike symbolic gestures, manipulations
are continuous between manipulation initiation (e.g.
user fingers down) and completion (e.g. user fingers
up). During this time span, user actions lead to smooth
continuous changes of the system state with immediate
It is a lovely way to differentiate the two and I couldn’t agree more. As the crevasse between the two interactions widens, we begin to see many more differences. I have gotten a few emails from bewildered Interaction Designers, both young and old, asking “why do we need this separation?”
The answer is not quite as apparent as it will be in the next few years. We need this distinction because designers and developers need to think about experiences differently. We need to plan and design for interactions in a fluid and responsive way. Arbitrarily throwing a manipulation on a destructive action, could have dire consequences for the user. Using a complex gesture for a simple help menu, would create a pause in your user’s experience.
You have a pile of sticks.
Think of the sticks as Objects. Think of the table as a Container. Now let’s examine the relationship between the two. The container contains many objects, therefore operations executed on the container will have multiple effects on each of the singular instances of the objects.
Now, let’s give you a few things to do those operations. First, let’s give you a hand, which we will call a Manipulation. Then let’s give you a chainsaw, which we will call a Gesture.
To move the sticks, to rearrange them, to take them in and out of the container (on or off the table) we can use a hand. It might not be the most efficient, but it gets the job done and we can do these methodically. All the while, we can always undo our actions easily.
If someone comes up and talks to us, we don’t hesitate to respond because there is nothing really at jeopardy here. In fact, it might be nice for someone to come up and interact with us while we are doing these chores.
This also puts us at ease. We can do these things and if we get interrupted, we have no stress. Why? Because everything is undo-able. Things are easily moved back and forth with no real consequences. Even if we push the entire stack to the ground, we can easily pick them up and put them back. One handed.
This is the physical realization of a manipulation.
Now, we take your chainsaw. This is a complex piece of machinery. This is going to take focus, intent, and possibly a plan to implement. The things we can do with this are destructive, irreversible, and should be taken with care because they could damage other things around the single container or multitude of objects.
We consult the manual, don safety gear, check the gasoline in the chainsaw, pull the handle, and then fire it up. Each one of these actions were simple and were not harmful, until they were combined. Combining all of these harmless manipulations results in a gesture that could do harm.
Let’s think about what we just did though. We had to do things in a certain order, we had to do each of them, and they were predetermined by something other than us.
Now could we take our gesture chainsaw and destroy the Container and all of the objects inside? Yes. Could we also affect other containers and things in the vicinity? Yes. There is no undo, when its done its done.
This is the physical realization of a Gesture.
So I digress….
Why is it important in interface design to distinguish between the two? To promote a better experience through expected interactions and results. Do you want your users concentrating on the most mundane of tasks? Let your user relax when they can. Do not make them concentrate on these details of where to move an object when they don’t have to.
I hope some of you are as excited as I am about this recent discovery.
One of the biggest drawbacks to a public mounted touch screen is the transfer of germs from bystander to bystander. This is not as much as real as it is a psychological boundary we have encountered. In exit interviews from User Experience tests we consistently get feedback about the cleanliness of the surface and the other participants hands. We had to put antiseptic baby wipes near the Surface units to help alleviate this problem.
Cleaning touch screens is an odd process. Depending on the material used, be it a rough or smooth material, it usually had special instructions about cleaning. The typical monitor has a special non-glare coating and recommends using soap and a damp cloth. Using non-glare finishes on touch screens have similar recommendations. Do not use cleaners or antiseptic solutions because they will damage the finish and possibly remove the protective coating.
What this amazing discovery gives us is something that will innovate the market in the eyes of the public.
Here is the main article about the glass.
Spray-on liquid glass is transparent, non-toxic, and can protect virtually any surface against almost any damage from hazards such as water, UV radiation, dirt, heat, and bacterial infections. The coating is also flexible and breathable, which makes it suitable for use on an enormous array of products. (via physorg)
This is amazing. This gives us the ability to spray a coating on a touch screen and then the ability to clean it with antiseptic germ killing chemicals without the harmful side effects of destroying the surface or the experience. It is also so thin it allows the transference of touch to the unit.
Long live physics!
One of the prevailing themes of my writing is the ability for everyone to gain common grounds when discussing interactions. I believe one of the keys to this is a common metaphor, OCGM (Objects, Containers, Gestures, and Manipulations) as well as a set of icons for use in design. When sketching out the user experience it’s important to note the interactions. This is especially true in state diagrams, specs, and other interaction design documents. In my first installment of Gesturcons, I present to you the Gesturcons : Touch Pack 1.0. These are being released under the Creative Commons License and I hope that you all find some good use for them in your designs and experiences.
This is the first batch, for touch. I also have Spatial, Voice, and a few others in the works.
I’m using a simplistic graphic design language to represent the actions by a user. If we use OCGM to boil down each action, we get just a few basic actions that all can be constructed from. To combine these actions together I use only two different states. They either happen at the same time, or they happen consecutively.
After we have established exactly when the action takes place, we can then talk about the specific actions. I use only a few different types of basic actions as well. The only addition you see here is the Location Specific Icon. That means that the exact placing of that particular input is predetermined by the system for the manipulation or the gesture to be successful. As an example, the Red X at the top right of Windows is a location specific manipulation.
The path icon is pretty straightforward. It means that the path the user has to take to accomplish the goal is specific and is going to be bound by guidelines. Those rules are what you have devised, but the path is specific.
The rotation icons are dual purpose. They can mean an actual spin of the input or a spin of the action. This could be boiled down to a Path, because they have to follow a certain pathway to achieve success. I find it easy, but others find it difficult to also put a rotation as a simple path. So I added it here for ease of use. Notice the use of Twin when its dual simultaneous inputs.
To sum up the use of the Gesturcons, I present an example of how you could build your own gestures using this language. In this example I demonstrate the visual identifiers to show a gesture of the question mark.
Here is the ZIP, which contains all the PNGs, the Illustrator File and an EPS as well. These are being released under the Creative Commons, which means you can use them internally as much as you want but you cannot package them, redistribute them, or include them in any professional product.
I get this question quite frequently, so I thought it best to address it in its own post. Here is the question.
Any advice for someone with tons of experience as a designer and developer, but stuck in upstate NY with a dearth of telecommute opportunities?
The first thing I would tell you to do is to watch and read everything from Daniel Pink you can get your hands on. If you are like me and you just want the lazy route, atleast watch this video of a talk he gave at TED (embedded below).
I’m a big fan of Daniel and the things he has to say. Basically, he sums up the threat of telecommuting and how innovation and decision making will solve many problems. Anything that can be done by telecommute, WILL be done by that method. If it does not require decision making, it will be done by telecommute. It’s cheaper, easier, and faster. Many of the offshore development houses have an unlimited amount of resources they can throw on the project, so scalability is never an issue.
The key to success in this day and age is in design and decision making. Put yourself in the position to make decisions that directly affect the product’s success. Being a designer that can actually shape the product is the key to accelerating your career path. Make an impact and ensure it’s success.
Development is a great skill, but you only need to know enough to make good design decisions. The ability to work out a specific worker algorithm to accomplish a task is beyond the scope of your needs. If you are talking about web design, then development plays a much higher need. The ability to understand and incorporate web development into your designs will save you, your team, and the development team tons of wasted cycles.
Know enough development to propel your designs to the front of the pack. Concentrate on a specific part of design or interaction and own it. Become it.
I have been getting a few emails about the blog being down. It’s rather silly when my blog is being linked from international news sites and they get a memory error instead of content. I’m getting tired of the lack of performance. The dreaded “Out of Memory” error is because my current host cannot handle the load from the readers on WordPress. I have moderate traffic and run a few websites. I’m currently paying $30 a month, which seems outlandish for what I’m getting.
I usually begin with definitions to gain a common vocabulary. This article begins with two stories.
You are a monkey pet owner. You have several monkeys. When you begin adopting monkeys you give them names and remember them by their attributes. As you begin to amass your monkey army, some of the monkeys do not interact with you that often and therefore begin to be second thought in your mind. The ones who interact with you the most are the closest to you. You recognize them from a distance, you know their names as well as you know what day it is. Those monkeys that are close to you, your intimate circle, are what we will call your “Monkeysphere.”
The psychology question is at what point will you start forgetting their names? When will you begin to start thinking of them as “the other monkeys” or “the monkeys that don’t come to me when its feeding time.” What’s happening is the monkeys are being established in your mind in 2 initial sets. You have a monkeysphere and an extended circle of monkeys. The extended monkeys, even though they are close, are more distant in your emotional response and interactions with them. The answer to the question, “When will you start forgetting their names?”, we have had several studies based on that exact question. We think we know the answer.
As a cave-person you understand that living and moving about the bountiful plains in a group is much safer. You are a member of a tribe for support and safety. In this tribe you also have your immediate family and close friends. You have daily interactions with your family and friends. That group we will call your intimate network.
The intimate network you have around you is a small subset of your tribe. You have daily close interactions with them. You might groom each other, talk about the day’s events, share food, protect them with your life if need be, care for them when they are sick. This group is small and tightly monitored. One of the reasons this group is small is that it is made up of people just like you in some manner or they are relatives, who you feel a connection with. What keeps them in your intimate network is the constant actions with them. You are always reminded of their presence and well-being. Much like the monkey pet owner, if you have constant interactions with them, the closer they get to your emotional well-being.
You also look for them as your own personal support network. You will ask for their opinions, affirmations, and look for guidance as well. You may borrow things from them knowing they will say yes, and that you will return them in good order. You take a less critical eye to what they say and they do likewise to you as well.
Your extended network are those in your tribe. You have interactions with them, but not necessarily daily. You conduct or attend ceremonies with them, you might support them from a distance by donating food to the group, and you may attend tribal council meetings to help shape or establish rules for all to follow. Your extended network is important to you, but they are not crucial. You may look at them with a slightly more critical eye than you do to your intimate network, but not like a stranger.
The interesting thing is that we believe there is a set number you can have in your intimate network and your extended network. That number is based on brain size and species. How big is your tribe and how big is your intimate network? We think we have a good idea of that answer as well because it is the same as the first story. The answer is 12 for intimate networks, and 150 for extended networks.
Dunbar’s number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restricted rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar’s number, but a commonly cited approximation is 150.
Primatologists have noted that, due to their highly social nature, non-human primates have to maintain personal contact with the other members of their social group, usually through grooming. Such social groups function as protective cliques within the physical groups in which the primates live. The number of social group members a primate can track appears to be limited by the volume of the neocortex region of their brain. This suggests that there is a species-specific index of the social group size, computable from the species’ mean neocortex volume.
In a 1992 article, Dunbar used the correlation observed for non-human primates to predict a social group size for humans. Using a regression equation on data for 38 primate genera, Dunbar predicted a human “mean group size” of 148 (casually rounded to 150), a result he considered exploratory due to the large error measure (a 95% confidence interval of 100 to 230). [via Wikipedia]
This is important because using this theory, we understand that there will only be about 12 very intimate people in someone’s network and about 150 total. When someone says “How many friends do you think our customers will have?” that is a great starting point.
If this is true, why do people have thousands of facebook friends and have hundreds of people they consider “great friends”? What we see through research is that people have augmented their extended network because in modern civilization people have gotten more secluded. Yes, more secluded through technology. When you wake up you don’t have to interact with anyone if you don’t want to. The sizes of communities have gotten smaller and more niche. We do not have to interact with people like we used to. You probably feel close to some online friend than you do to your neighbor that lives 4 houses down. This is the crux of modern society. We have gotten more lonely.
To maintain our extended network, because we find that people really do need an extended network, we use other avenues to look for affirmation and guidance. These can take the form of online groups, message boards, or another place that you may frequent, such as a grocery store. You may go to the gym to work out and then afterwards sit and talk to the people that work their or others that work out there, because you show similar interests as them, and therefore consider them a part of your extended network. This is the same reason people gossip about celebrities with each other.You and I don’t know any celebrities, but it is a way for us to have a common ground to discuss something. Therefore we reaffirm our morality and our views based on them with each other. Through the use of this dialog we struggle to maintain our values, our principles, and our extended network.
Well, the full meaning of this to design is well beyond the scope of this article, but it can be boiled down to a few things. First we know that most people will have a very close circle, a monkeysphere, of about 12 people. That will be a group comprised mainly of your close friends and family. We also know that most people will have an extended network of about 150 people. Using those two numbers you will have a great start at designing the features and functions of a social network. You can limit features and functions based on those numbers to save on development and iterations. We know that you will not need 50 functions for 500 people, but you may need 50 functions for about a dozen. Of the next set, you will not need 25 functions for 500 people, but you may need them for 150 or so.
When you design for a social experience always keep in mind ‘what is their monkeysphere?’ and ‘where will this play a part in it.’ Most social designers fail to realize this and try to design a small amount of functions for everyone, thereby leaving out the intimate network and leaving user’s wanting more.
This is just a light skimming of the theory and I hope it has motivated you to go out and read more on it.
The original Monkeysphere article, which is a great article and where I got the first story from.
The ultimate brain teaser from the University of Liverpool, which discusses the more technical reasons for Dunbar’s studies.