UX Week 2007 Slidecast, Audio, PDF

September 6, 2007 | Permalink | 6 Comments

The audio and PDF from my talk on Learning Interaction Design From Everyday Objects is now up live on the Adaptive Path site. Check it out.

But even better, I’ve created a slidecast of the talk, hosted on SlideShare. Pretty easy actually to sync the the audio and slides together. Sweet little synching application at SlideShare.

Let me know what you think of the talk. I’d like to hone it and present it again in the future. Enjoy.


Slow down and think it through

September 5, 2007 | Permalink | 7 Comments

How easy is it to overthink a design solution? Quite easy. Slow down and think it through. Just remember ABXY.

As we’ve covered before with alarm clocks, technology found in hotel rooms is often poorly designed, likely purchased from the cheapest possible source. They buy cheap, they get cheap.

For example, here is a game controller designed by LodgeNet, a company trying to keep you inside your hotel room, tethered to the entertainment system, when you should really be outside exploring the new city.

LodgeNet game controller

Notice the cluster of four buttons on the right-hand side. They are labeled A B X Y. But which button is which? Is the Y button on the top or on the left? Is the A button on the bottom or on the right?

What I find most impressive here is that the labels are almost perfectly centered between the buttons. This is not an accident. An actual person out there (I apologize if you are reading this) made a conscious decision to center those labels. They probably thought, wow, this will look better. Sure enough, it’s pretty. Pretty hard to figure out!

Labels are one of the easiest things to mess up. Poor choices of words. Misplaced, or just missing. Heck, look at the orange button. It’s both Reset and Order. Reset is a button of Noncommitment, Forget It, Go Back. Order is a button of Commitment, Do It, Go Forward. They have opposite characters, yet they are doubled up on the same schizophrenic button.

I know somebody out there is thinking, there is a light blue pair and a dark blue pair. X and Y must go together, as must A and B. Therefore the light blue pair is X and Y and therefore the Y button is on the left. Well done! You solved the code.

But anytime someone has to think through and deduce an interface, that interface has failed. More accurately, the designer has failed by forgetting that someone is supposed to use this thing.

Every little design decision we make adds up. In every product we make, there are probably hundreds of little areas that can potentially cause confusion and hesitation. The lesson here is, slow down. Notice the little things. Think it through.


King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

August 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comment?

Last Friday, we went to see King of Kong, A Fistful of Quarters, a brilliant documentary about two guys battling for the world record at Donkey Kong.

King of Kong

At the simplest, it’s a classic Good vs. Evil story. The characters are stunning. They’re real people. Determination. Hypocrisy. Persistence. Deception. Dedication. Love. It’s all there.

Billy Mitchell is the “Gamer of the Century”, world record holder in Donkey Kong, BurgerTime and achieved a perfect score in PacMan. Now he sells hot sauce and lives off the glory he once achieved 25 years ago. He loves the image of himself of being the king. He has acolytes. He has big hair. He’s an ass.

Steve Wiebe is a normal dad, laid off from Boeing, finds solace playing Donkey Kong in the garage after the kids have gone to bed. He’s despondent, but finds a simple thing to do. Get the world’s record in Donkey Kong. His confidence rebuilt, he becomes a junior high school science teacher.

Walter Day is the self-proclaimed Official High Score Record Keeper. And that’s what happens when somebody takes on a task and does it consistently. They become The Expert. Walter is That Guy, the earnest person who grabs a task that nobody else thought to, or wanted to, and really owned it.

Billy’s high score for 20 years is over 874,000. Steve breaks that record at home, films it and submits it. The High Score posse tear his machine apart to verify the record. Steve is undaunted. He flies to Florida to break the score at Twin Galaxies, Walter’s arcade. If he breaks it there, in front of witnesses, he would then own the record.

Steve reaches out to Billy. It’s just a friendly competition, right? We all appreciate the same things. Can we be amiable about this?

Billy, who lives minutes away, breaks the World Record of the Snub.

Does Steve break the record? What does Billy do about it? Will Billy’s acolytes see through the muck? The end does not disappoint, even into the credits.

You have to see this movie.

(Cities and theatre locations are listed at BillyvsSteve.com).


TurboCool or ExpressChill?

August 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comment?

You just bought a fancy new refrigerator. You then brought home a six-pack of frosty tasty beverages, but they’re at room temperature. The horror! You need to reduce their temperature, now!

What do you choose, TurboCool or ExpressChill?

Turbocool or Expresschill

By the time you find the manual for your fridge, you give up and settle for a nice glass of water.


Lessons from a hotel alarm clock

August 22, 2007 | Permalink | 5 Comments

During my talk at UX Week last week, I picked on the alarm clock in my hotel room.

Alarm clock

Technology found in hotel rooms is notoriously poorly designed. Why? Too cheap to buy the good stuff? For example, here is where you set the alarm type, on the side of the radio. You can choose either BUZ or RAD or OFF.

Alarm clock, alarm settings

Now, really. What is the point of shortening Buzz to Buz, or Radio to Rad? Obviously, there is plenty of space for the extra Z I and O. All you’re doing is reducing readability. What’s the gain?

Another example: Notice the big fat button. Repeat Alarm. My assumption is that the big fat button is the Snooze button. And that’s true here too, at least functionally. But instead, they decided to call it Repeat Alarm. Why?

Alarm Clock, repeat alarm

Look up to the left corner. Notice the Slumber button, which is usually called Sleep. That’s why Snooze is called Repeat Alarm. If you have both Slumber and Snooze buttons, what’s the difference? So by being clever and adding a Slumber button, they sacrificed the clear meaning of the biggest button on the device, Snooze.

But now, here’s something pretty interesting.

Alarm clock, weatherband

Weatherband on or off. Notice the obvious finger divot so you can find it easier by feel alone. At first I was skeptical of this button. When would you ever need that fast and immediate access to the weather? But then I remembered, I’m from the West Coast. We never get weather changes so rapid that we need the weather report NOW. But there on the East Coast (I was in DC), hurricanes can move rather quickly. Here, it made a lot of sense.

Is this a button that is regionally-based? Do they make different models of this alarm clock, and sell them only in bad weather areas?


Martin Luther King Jr.’s transistor radio

August 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comment?

Wow. Here is the transistor radio owned by Martin Luther King Jr. Not exactly a history of the button, but a cool piece in the history of technology. I can picture him listening to a baseball game, Hank Aaron up to bat.

MLK Jr. transistor radio

Saw this in an exhibit located in Terminal E of the Atlanta airport. They also had his marked up copy of Gandhi.

I’d like to see Buckminster Fuller’s radio.


Hello UX Week!

August 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comment?

I’m speaking this morning and looking forward to it. The slides will be up here shortly. Until then, feel free to browse around.



Interview for UX Week

August 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comment?

Dan Saffer recently interviewed me in prep for my talk at Adaptive Path’s User Experience Week.

An excerpt:

Interaction designers, of course, should be trying to deconstruct everything around them to better train themselves as interaction designers. And the fun thing about that is we’re completely surrounded by examples, it’s all the devices in our daily lives. It’s the cell phones, microwaves, ATM machines, computers, printers, and so on. We’re surrounded by buttons and icons and little blinky lights that can give us examples of how people think about devices and interaction design because there’s one thing that’s definitely true, people don’t approach the product from a void. They’re taking the learnings that they’ve experienced with other products and they apply them to a new product: that’s why you tend to see the same icons over and over that mean the same thing; they have a stock meaning within the language of interaction design. An arrow tilted on its side and pointing to the right means play because it always means play, and because people know it means play when they approach a new device and they see that, they think, “That’s play.” It’s such a simple thing, but it comes down to the core of a visual language that we all share, and I think it’s important to try to deconstruct that language so we know how people are approaching a new product, a new device. So we can make it intuitive and they can tap into what they already know.

Check out the full interview.

UX Week promises to be a great event. I’m looking forward to a ton of sessions there. If you’re interested in attending, you can register with a 15% discount if you use my UXBD code.


Shooting Watch

August 1, 2007 | Permalink | 3 Comments

You have 10 seconds to push that button as many times as possible. Go!

Sometime this summer in Japan, the Hudson Caravan will be driving around with some type of touring festival.

Hudson Caravan bus

Part of this extravaganza is Button Pushing Contests! Yes. Contests that use this device called the Shooting Watch. They are only making 10,000 of them. If you have any connection whatsoever, you know I’d love to get my hands on one!

The Shooting Watch

It simply counts how many times you can push the button in ten seconds.

I’m speechless.

You can also try it online here. More at the official 16 Shot site, including a store and blog. If you read Japanese.

I can now begin my day.

(Via Kotaku, via Gizmodo.)


Press button, receive bacon

July 23, 2007 | Permalink | 8 Comments

Press button, receive bacon

Yep, that’s exactly what it says.

(Via Smell of the Day.)

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