Yahoo’s new logo

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After 20 years, Yahoo! finally decided to change their logo. Sure they tweaked it a couple times, but it always looked cheap, like someone phoned it in. It was so indicative of the 90s internet companies, a time when people pointed to Yahoo!’s success as proof design didn’t matter.

Think they added the anti-aliasing some time around 2004.

Think they added the anti-aliasing some time around 2004.

Today, it looks like they took the same approach with the new logo design. Granted, they’re not minting money they way it used to, but they could have splurged a little bit.

Seriously?

Seriously?

I find it ironic that the current CEO of Yahoo! is given a lot of credit for the design ethos at Google (another company with a meh logo). And yet, after she left, they’re stuff is now starting to actually look designed! In fact, it looks really good. It’s looks like there may actually be some trained designers working there now.

Slow going gogo

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I was on a flight yesterday that had gogo inflight wifi. It’s not the first time I’ve used it, but it might be the last. It’s so slow, it’s not worth it. I was only using it for email and that was taking forever. Meantime, I grabbed this ironic screenshot from the log-in process.

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Note the code letters are bigger than the “Visually Impaired” link.

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I suppose this wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to wait 10 minutes just to get to this point.

 

Methodolatry

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Demonstrating an intense and deep affection for process over results and outcomes.

“Tobias’ is such an asshole. He thinks I don’t understand his ‘process’, but it’s his methodaltry getting in the way of understanding what we’re trying to do!”

When A Kickstarter Campaign Fails, Does Anyone Get The Money Back? : All Tech Considered : NPR

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When A Kickstarter Campaign Fails, Does Anyone Get The Money Back? : All Tech Considered : NPR.

So I call Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler, and ask: What if Uhrman isn’t able to deliver the consoles? Would Kickstarter get involved?

“You know, that would be new ground,” he says. “I don’t know. I mean, no, I don’t think that we would. But certainly, the kind of thing you’re talking about is not a bridge that has been crossed yet. Someday it will. And you know, I think if something did go awry, it would be — it wouldn’t be my favorite day.”

Whoa, back up. After all the hype I’ve been hearing about Kickstarter, I had no idea they had such an incompetent person at the helm. Even if “crossing that bridge” is official company policy, you shouldn’t say it out loud. Regardless of whether I think the world needs another iPhone case, graphic novel, or farm-to-table Podcast, they are still dealing with intellectual property. 

I find most of the stuff on the site contrived, and pointless, but there are some cool and worthwhile projects (think SparkTruck). However, I wouldn’t invest in any of them.

VCs will tell you, they don’t fund ideas, they invest in people. They also know there’s a chance they could lose their entire investment. If Kickstarter wants to be funding platform, that should be part of their message even if it might put a damper on things. Until then, they’re just a marketplace for ideas and ideas are cheap. Implementation is where the money is at. 

Crowd funding is compelling. I think it’ll come into it’s own like e-commerce. When it does, I just don’t think it’ll look like Kickstarter. 

Great user interfaces aren’t just a matter of taste

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I pulled the following from a Crain’s Chicago Business article about the many bold moves the Sun-Times is making here. While I think it’s great to challenge the Trib, there was one line that stuck out at me.

With regard to his digital strategy, Mr. Ferro said he’s trying to create a “great user interface” for a tablet application that is in the works. On that front, he praised the example set by the New York Post tablet application.

Maybe what he meant to say was their app is consistent with their brand. Like the New York Post newspaper, their app is sloppy, rude, and just slapped together, but it’s not a great user interface. The thing that bothers me, is that someone in a leadership position is saying the user interface (a very specific term) is an important part of their digital strategy, then cites one of the worst possible examples of a tablet experience.

Has anyone else seen the New York Post iPad app?! It’s a hot mess express. It doesn’t follow any of the conventions of most iPad apps. Not that it needs to, there are plenty of great iPad experiences that don’t. The NYPost app, on the other hand, looks like a mistake. It’s like someone tried to Xerox the entire newspaper onto an 8.5 x 11 sheet at the Kinkos color copy sale.

Look at this mess

You literally get an experience that leaves stories cut off on the edge.

I’m may be splitting hairs when I say he should have used a term other than “user interface”. However, it’s not uncommon for someone higher up the food chain to insert their opinion on the UI as if it were just a matter of taste.

By now, every exec has read the Steve Jobs bio, so they get the user interface matters. Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily understand how it actually happens. So the lesson here is don’t let all your hard work and critical thinking get pissed away because someone thinks it’s subjective. Spend the time comparing and contrasting the dos and the don’ts. Show your work. Don’t just build something and say, “here it is, what do you think?”

Take the time to explain why it’s important, don’t assume they’ll know.

via Sun-Times owner: ‘We’re not buying the Trib’ – Consumer News – Crain’s Chicago Business.

B is for Benefits

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When I talk to clients about experience design, or UX design, I tell them it’s all about the emotional response people have when they interact with your product, brand, or service.

Most people think emotions just happen, like they’re not something you can design for. So they just put something out there and hope for the best. They think one can’t control how people react to their products. While some of that’s true, you can stack the deck in your favor by simply asking the who, what, where, when, and how as it applies to end user benefits.

People need a reason to use and keep using something, so think about the benefits your product provides to the end user. By the way, don’t confuse benefits with features and functionality. The latter two are tangible attributes, whereas benefits are an outcome, the positive feelings one develops from interacting with your brand, service, or product.

When developing and designing something, it’s easy to get so bogged down in the minutiae that one doesn’t see the forest for the trees. We start to perceive benefits to the end user where there aren’t aren’t any. Products get larded up with bells and whistles that no one needs. Or worse, we get  another “me too” also-ran that’s no better than what’s already out there.

If you’re not providing your customers with some advantage over what already exists, then you’re not really designing an experience. You’re just putting out some product.

Why Publishers Don’t Like Apps

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via Why Publishers Don’t Like Apps – Technology Review.

They allowed themselves to be convinced that producing editorial content for the apps and developing the apps themselves would be simple.

We have several clients in the publishing industry and see first hand the pain they go through when it comes to developing apps.

According to a study by Miratech, people prefer apps over mobile web. Even if that’s not totally true, another study estimate some 30% of US adults own an E-Reader / Tablet now. Even if publishers don’t love apps, it would appear their customers do. So they need to do something about it.

The problem is adding another format, like an app, to your workflow is non-trivial. Unfortunately, if I’m a customer, that’s not my problem. We see great user experiences coming from other companies, in some cases small and obscure, and wonder why these big corporate publishers can’t follow suit.

Publishers have to figure this stuff out and make some hard choices in order to survive. Hopefully, they’ll err on the side of a creating a better user experience and not on a form that is easier for them to deliver.

A is for Affordances

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When designing with the end user in mind, consider how people will figure out what they can do with your product. Since you can’t be there hovering over their should barking instructions, the product itself will have to let them know.

Affordances, or the easy discoverability of actions, are how products communicate and engage with people.

A simple example is a button. The affordances of a button are touch and push. So when people see a button, whether it’s hardware or software, they know what they can do with it even if they don’t know what function it performs. Affordances don’t account for the action itself, but without them people have to revert to other means to figure things out.

If you need to provide instructions on the interface of your product, it probably has poor affordances.

Knowing that affordances, as a concept, exist will improve your ability to anticipate and avoid common usability flaws when designing a product.

Example

Let’s use a simple object with many affordances. The primary purpose of a milk jug is to hold liquid so it’s easily transported. Since glass is a relatively flexible medium (at least until it hardens), you can provide additional affordances such as a hand grip on the side, a flat surface for writing, a funneled spout for a steadier pour, and a collar for holding onto the red handle.

  

Some products, on the other hand, have terrible affordances. It’s impossible to tell what you can do with it unless someone shows you. Restroom hand dryers without buttons are a great example of things that do a poor job of communicating what you can do.

 

 

 

 

Prioritize their problems over your solution

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As designers, we tend to get wrapped up in our own little worlds. Forgetting that design is problem-solving, we only seem interested in sophisticated tactics or cool solutions.

Last year I was invited to take part in an event called UX for Good. The concept was that we could save the world by applying user-centric methodologies to solve problems like homelessness and urban violence. I know a bit grandiose, but I think there is a kernel of truth there.

I was in a group with people from Ceasefire, an organization that uses a public health model to reduce violence in high-crime neighborhoods. Their model is very successful at the local level because their people know who’s who and what is going on. More importantly, they’ve seen first hand what works and what doesn’t.

The group split up into teams to come up with ways to help Ceasefire indirectly so they don’t need to change their own tactics and focus.

One thing that works well is when there is a safe haven, a neighborhood place where kids can get away. It works because Ceasefire staffers negotiate with gangs to ensure they’re off limits. So our task was to come up with ways to increase the number of safe havens.

First, we assumed these safe havens need to be compelling to attract kids. One idea was to create a place where they could express themselves with activities like creative writing, street art etc. It was like a little cultural center. Our contact (or stakeholder) just nodded. He seemed indifferent. So I asked him what kinds of things he’d have. He said, “hot water, video games, and a TV.”

It was so mundane, that it literally turned off a couple of my teammates. But it dawned on me then and there. The problem with safe havens isn’t that they’re boring. It’s that there aren’t enough of them. The discussion really wasn’t going anywhere with our stakeholder until we started exploring ways to make safe havens easy to replicate.

As designers, we need to spend less time trying to impress with technique and more with outcomes.