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Month: June 2009

The UX of Geni

This morning I received an email from my cousin that I was added to his family tree on a service called Geni.  It said it was private and I was intrigued so I clicked on the link.  It showed a segment of my family in Flash and immediately satisfied me in multiple ways.  It was personal, accurate, well designed and had a bunch of actions I could click on.  I didn’t need any training.  It presented me with a modal asking for my relations. (Siblings, wife, children, etc). I added in those people and realized that I had just emailed…

Crop rotation on the soil of Creativity

I don’t know if this is something that affects other people.  However, I find that if I spend too much time on a single thing, my creativity levels go down.  I start to run out of inspiration and general energy.  When I can rotate my crops, and work on different things each day, then my energy level goes up and my creativity levels are much higher. I think it is because of how I like to make connections between different worlds.  For example: Fixing someone’s computer helps me switch my context enough so that user interface design becomes easier.  Lately,…

The UX of the word “Bing”

Microsoft named their new search engine “bing”.  I don’t think they realize how lame that sounds.  Every time I hear it, I think of this scene from Groundhog’s Day. (Great movie) I imagine Steve Balmer saying, “Yeah, i love it.  They search for something and BING! they found it!”  This is the same man who thought this entrance was a good idea. I can’t watch it without feeling really bad for the world. This is a billionaire.

The UX of Presentation Zen

I just finished reading Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  It should be mandatory reading for anyone who presents anything, ever.  There is so much goodness in this book about communication and it’s so short.  I would classify it similar to Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.  A quick read that gives immediate value.  Highly suggested. My favorite part is about the beginner’s mind, which I posted about previously.  I think it’s brilliant. I think I am going to change my slides in my presentations to use full screen pictures instead of using the PowerPoint frames and shadow effects.  I…

Miracle Tree Saves World – Almost

I just love, love, love the ingenuity and creativity of the human mind.  Well, I also hate, hate, hate the ingenuity and creativity of the human mind when it’s applied to torture and cruelness, but that is another issue. In this case, it is applied to something dear to my heart, the environment. Check out this story about a synthetic tree that sucks up carbon dioxide 1000x faster than a normal tree.  It costs $30,000 to produce one currently.  However, if the U.S. government funded it, I imagine it could be brought down in price dramatically.  If the government spent,…

Great engineer – Crash Tung

I work with some great engineers.  One in particular is fantastic, named Crash.  He is a backend guy, doesn’t touch the UI much.  A demo to him is all accomplished at the command prompt.  He said something yesterday that was abaolutely brilliant and summed up my admiration for him. When I add a new feature, I try to leave the code base smaller than when I found it. How awesome is that?  It speaks to the Zen principles of simplicity.  Less can yield more. Once I asked Crash for the letter X.  He provided me the whole alphabet in multiple…

FixOutlook.org

I love the feeling one gets when they realize they are not alone. July 26, 2007, I was at Ajax Experience and asked the presenter Chris Wilson from Microsoft a question: Outlook 2007 doesn’t use the IE renderer and seems to be much less standards compliant, “Why did Microsoft do this to me?!?” While Chris isn’t part of that team, he sees what they were trying to do: increase consistency between what is used for rendering received email and what is used for creating outgoing mail. He believes that team does realize that it’s a problem and will be working…

The Beginner’s Mind

I am reading Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  So far, its fabulous and I would suggest it to everyone.  Early on in the book, there is a small section on The Beginner’s Mind. Some summarize the concept this way: In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few. I think I am fairly good at this and it has been one of my core traits, my entire life.  It got me thinking how one would get good at this.  It got me thinking how I became good at this.  I believe practice makes perfect,…

Teaching to Fish

I was helping two co-workers the other day.  One wanted to present information in an email and the other in PowerPoint to be used with customers.  (Pretty common tasks, you think?) The tricky part for me was to avoid just “fixing it”.  I wanted to teach them to fish, not just give them a meal. I explained how in PowerPoint, you shouldn’t repeat the words you are saying.  It actually makes it harder to understand when people hear and see at the same time.  For instance, have some read this paragraph aloud and then you try to read it at…

The UX of Catharsis

Somewhere in my childhood, I forgot exactly how to cry.  I can remember exactly two times crying and it was such a tremendously powerful feeling.   I was watching a movie this evening and there was a really sad, sad scene.  I wanted desperately to cry.  I could feel the lump in my throat; I felt terribly sad, yet no tears could be summoned.  Eventually, the feeling passed and I was left with this annoying itch in my mind.  I couldn’t have a catharsis.  Release-denied. This is a really complicated UX topic.  How do you provide catharsis in the things you…

The UX of Squidoo

I have been reading (and really enjoying) Seth Godin’s book, Small is the new Big.  His blog is chock-full of these little insightful nuggets of wisdom.  He produces them at a crazy fast rate.  In his book, he talked about Squidoo, which I have heard of but never checked out. I made my first Squidoo Lens on UX Design.  A lens is a specialized page on a certain subject. You can have ads on the page, where the money generated is shared with you personally or with a charity.  I chose NPR. Setting one up took about 20 minutes or…

My Least Productive Time

My least productive time of the day is 20-30 minutes before a meeting. I know that the meeting is coming, so I don’t want to be deep in the middle of something when that moment to leave my desk comes.  So I end up doing a bunch of small things that are somewhat productive, but not the big kind of productivity I like to have.  Meetings should be back to back, so you can free up other time for larger blocks of work. Although at Intuit, I remember being in back-to-back-to-back meetings and never had time to actually produce anything.…

The UX of Firefox 3.5

Recently, Mozilla Firefox has been challenged on my desktop as the default browser.  I keep flip-flopping between Google Chrome and Firefox 3.5.  I was really excited to see Aza Raskin taking the UX reigns at Firefox to see what someone with creative mojo could do with such a powerful program.  At first, the ideas were flowing out like a raging river, but there has been a strange outcome.  Firefox 3.5 is about to come out and I see virtually zero new UX features from 3.0. Sure, the HTML and JS  rendering is faster with TraceMonkey and they support new elements…

Waterfall vs Iterative development

Recently, I was in some conversations about development practices.  I believe the methodology used in a technology company has a huge impact on the quality of the product.  I drew up a little diagram to show the differences under ideal conditions.  To be as fair as possible, I had the product launch on the exact same date.  This is not a look at specific coding practices, but rather how the product is defined and built. The main difference is that in the waterfall approach the specification is heavyweight and goes through as many details as possible.  By doing this, the…

The UX of Office 2010 (first look)

I couldn’t help myself.  I downloaded and installed the Office 2010 technical preview.  It’s definetely not baked all the way through, but it clearly shows the direction Microsoft is going. The big news is that Outlook now has a ribbon.  Additionally, they have made some significant changes to the Outlook UI.  There are two very welcome features that I noticed.  First is that there is automatic threading of messages now. I didn’t realize I needed this until I used it.  Now it’s much easier to keep an entire thread together.  I used to have to search to find the related…

The UX of the new Kodak Gallery

Check out this example of the new Kodak Gallery.  Lightboxes have been done and done and done again, but for some reason, people keep  improving (thankfully) on the technique.  This example really impressed me.  Some details: Nice mirror effect under the image to make it look like it’s on glass. Small thumbnails of the next and previous image afford easy clicking. I wish the keyboard shortcuts (arrows, spacebar) worked to move it.  Seems easy to add in.  Also, clicking directly on the current image should either zoom or go to the next slide.  Right now, it does nothing. The animation…

Books for UX

A friend asked me for a list of books that are required reading for a User Experience developer.  Specifically, this friend is a graphic designer and might want to branch out to UX in general.  Feel free to add to my list here. The Design of Everyday Things and Emotional Design.  Read these twice.  They are the foundation for any good UX Designer.  Don Norman is my hero. Universal Principles of Design is a great book to get a common vocabulary about design.  It helps to explain to business people why something works (or doesn’t).  On this score, Don’t Make…

Puff the Magic Dragon by Matthew

I need to upload one of these to YouTube.  Which one is better? Matthew singing Puff the Magic Dragon with me on Ukulele.  Click each to listen. First Take: Second Take: Matthew is alot of fun to be around.

Ethan’s Art (3rd Grade)

I had referenced this piece of art in a previous post.  I scanned it in. It’s a little hard to tell, but the layers are made out of tissue paper.  There is a third wave of waves that is faint in the picture.  It looks best on a window with natural light coming through.  Anyway, I am proud of him and this piece captured my imagination.  (Click to see higher res)

Outlook to Gmail formatting annoyance

This is going to be a little esoteric, but if you are one of the 6 people in the world who do this sort of thing, you will be interested. We made an outlook plugin for Marketo.  It will pull HTML Email templates out of Marketo, so you can send them from Outlook.  The first interesting thing is that Outlook, when it sees HTML that has a direct reference to an image like: <img src=”http://www.site.com/images/foo.gif”> Outlook will not respect this tag.  It will actually EMBED the graphic into the page and change the markup to something like: <p class=”msoNormal”><img src=”cid:23490234″></p>…

Ajax Experience presentation on Adobe TV

Just coincidentally, I saw my presentation from Ajax Experience on Adobe TV.  The sound is excellent.  Original Page.  Embedded below.  Hmm, the embedded version didn’t show the presentation.  Oh well, just click the link. 🙂 I always hate listening to myself.  I sound like my brother and stammer way too much.  I also say “like” too much.

Shaved my Head

For years my hair has been slowly sneaking away, as if I wouldn’t notice if it went slow enough.  Maybe it’s a third-life crisis.  Maybe it’s a stroke of genius.  It might even be the silliest thing I have ever done.  Whatever it was, I shaved my head.  Matthew was very excited and wanted to do it to his head too.  (I didn’t let him do it) It feels really strange.  My head is much more sensistive than I realized.  It gets very cold without it’s hairshirt. From 2009-06-06 I see myself in the mirror and think, “Who is that?”…

Biking to Power your Home

I think I have a good idea. The government is paying currently to winterize hundreds of thousands of homes.  The energy savings are enormous.  I propose two things.  First, that when they winterize the house, they also add a battery system.  The battery system would have a universal input that companies could build products to plug into it like solar panels or wind turbines. Specifically, the product I am interested in is a stationary bike.  I want to bike in the house and generate power.  This is similar to a hybrid car that uses the battery if it can and…

Stalled on Flash Catalyst

After seeing Flash Catalyst, I thought it looked really sweet.  So on my current design project I stopped making the prototype directly in PowerPoint and started making it in Photoshop CS4 instead.  From Photoshop, the plan was to move them into Catalyst and add interactivity.  However, I have yet to launch Catalyst at all. The reason is that I really don’t actually make prototypes, nor do I want to.  What I make are storyboards.  I tell the product story through a series of screens to describe the interaction and experience details.  So adding interactivity would be antithetical to my needs…

Blog Moonlighting – Emotional Marketing

I have never, as far as I can tell, blogged on another site.  Well, there is a first time for everything, I guess.  I just posted on the Marketo blog Modern B2B Marketing.  The subject was Emotional Marketing, which drew from Don Norman’s book Emotional Design. Please check it out.  Also, I clicked on the reddit.com button.  I figured this is a good day for first attempts.  Here is the home of the reddit page for the blog post.  I don’t much like reddit’s interface versus Digg, but I need to try it a little more. I tried the same thing…

Vibram Five Fingers Shoes

I was just talking with a friend about a product he thought had an excellent user experience.  It is the Vibram FiveFingers shoe.  These are really cool looking to me and I can easily see how they might be very comfortable.  My friend said that they changed his life.  He walks more now, hikes more.  He feels more comfortable. I imediately called my wife and told her that I wanted to buy her a pair.  She balked!  “No way!  They look riddiculous”.  I tried it on another woman and got a similar response.  Apparently this product, although innovative and interesting,…

More Gmail Spam Recently

Lately, alot of spam has not been getting caught by Gmails filters.  I get a TON of mail that ends up in the Spam folder.  So much that I don’t even check for false positives.  But lately a bunch has been sliding through.  The weird thing is that it’s totally non-sensical mail.  Take this one for example.  I get stuff like this every day. Obviously, I cant read this, so I click the View translated message link.  I end up with this: Office rent in Moscow??  Seriously?  Someone who has office space in Moscow feels like he needs to send…