User Experience News

Here’s a collection of user interface news, as aggregated by AllTop. I take no responsibility for the content, but it’s usually very good.

Free UX Videos That Will Change the Way You Work and Think for the Better.

In the midst of planning this year’s User Interface 20 Conference in Boston November 2-4, we thought what better way to share the conference experience than giving you last year’s videos – for free. Watch them with your team, at your lunch break, wherever you want, whenever you want. No strings attached. All you need […]

On Our Radar: The Empty Space That Is Not Empty

“Being in tech and not caring about tech culture is a luxury, only affordable to those with enough privilege to ignore it and too little empathy to care.”

In her beautiful, award-nominated “A Talk About Nothing” at the 2015 .concat() web development conference, Lena Reinhard delivers a luminous exposition of how tech’s version of meritocracy is a brilliant system—for the people who get to define what merit is. When we overlook entire groups of people who could be making fantastic contributions to our future, we all end up with less. Don’t miss this talk. It’s full of stars. —Rose Weisburd, columns editor

Your weekend reading

  1. “Hold on a second. I’m like a two-out-of-ten on this. How strongly do you feel?” In The Sliding Scale of Giving a Fuck, Cap Watkins shares a useful framework for communicating how strongly you feel about a topic you’re debating with colleagues. I appreciate that it’s intuitive enough to use without explanation, and provides a way to engage on opposite sides of a subject without needless drama. —Aaron Parkening, project manager
  2. You may be intimately familiar with a typeface like VAG Rounded from (until recently) Apple keyboards. Or perhaps you’ve chosen a rounded sans like Process Type’s Bryant for a project. But how well do you know the history of these letterforms? FontShop’s Ferdinand Ulrich recently published the second part of his comprehensive survey of rounded type. (Part 1 appeared in March, and Part 3 is on the way.) —Caren Litherland, editor
  3. I’ve been doing some research into virtual reality (VR) and, although this is a few months old, I’ve just stumbled across it and wanted to share it. Mozilla has a team working on virtual reality and the open web. Their video presentation, Virtual Reality & The Web: Next Steps, is a fascinating introduction to how VR works, with demonstrations on how to build experiences for it using HTML and CSS. —Anna Debenham, technical editor
  4. “Progressive enhancement just works.” Aaron Gustafson compares two real case studies—one built to progressively enhance and another built to degrade gracefully—to show how progressive enhancement from the ground up can save considerable amounts of time and money for a project in the long run. —Michelle Kondou, developer
  5. I can’t say that I’m 100 percent sold on my own lifelong vegetarianism, but I like to think that it lends me a small amount of objectivity in hamburger-related matters. As such, I’m on the same side as the BBC when it comes to hamburger menus and their inscrutability for the average user: just because we designers and developers have a taste for them doesn’t mean they should always be on the menu. —Mat Marquis, technical editor

Overheard in ALA Slack

“What kind of bears are we talking about here, exactly? The article is light on the details.”

Your Friday Vine

Conference Call: Design Anthropological Futures

Design Anthropological Futures conference Organised by the Research Network for Design Anthropology August 13-14, 2015 Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts – School of Design in Copenhagen, Denmark The Design Anthropological Futures conference explores future-making from a design anthropological perspective. The concept of futures relates both to the creation of visions and practices of the […]

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Recipes for Cooking Up a Successful UX Team

If I asked a room full of people what their favorite dish is, I’d get a roomful of different answers. An extra spicy, four alarm, have-to-sign-a-waiver-before-eating chili may be someone’s idea of a good time but most likely wouldn’t please everyone. Similarly, if I asked a roomful of companies about what their perfect UX team […]

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The 7 Rules of Caring for Junior UX Designers

May 21, 2015

From start-ups to big business to agencies, everyone has had their own unique pleasures and pitfalls when it comes to handling the more junior members on the UX team.

A stark memory I have as a junior experience designer (JUXD) at a London-based digital agency was being treated like I had absolutely nothing of value to contribute. One definite low was being asked to add a box to a wireframe—my only job all week! That particular stint sent my confidence to rock bottom and it took me a long time to build back up again in a more supportive environment.

Unfortunately, it seems that it’s a consistent truth that there are many lead and senior UX designers who have no idea how to care for their junior designers, as well as many JUXD’s who feel unfulfilled and stifled in their current role.

We need to do a better job of educating our seniors about how to care for more...read more
By Yael Levey

             

Joanna Gruesome’s Peanut Butter

2015-05-21-joanna-gruesome-peanut-butterJoanna Gruesome is not a person but a band from Wales, and their just-released second record (titled “Peanut Butter,” okay whatever) clocks in at just twenty-two minutes. Allowing for commercials, that’s basically a sit-com’s worth of your time, but it will yield you much more pleasure than any episode of “The Great Bang Theory” because…

Job Opening Spotlight on Digg

DiggThis is the second installment in my ongoing series highlighting interesting job openings for designers. (See the first one on Toca Boca’s opening for a design director here.) This spotlight focuses on the social news site Digg, which in its hey day was a breakthrough hub for news discovery that drove tremendous traffic. By the…

Mark Llobrera · Professional Amateurs: Instant Web

Instant Articles are here, and the announcement is all about speed. From a user perspective, I think that Instant Articles are a good thing. But I bristle at the implications for the open web. Implicit in the sales pitch (and explicit in much of the commentary that followed) is the familiar criticism that the traditional HTML/CSS/JS web stack is too slow to deliver a first-class experience. Facebook may have been throwing shade, but others were more overt in their criticism.

John Gruber put it in stark terms:

I worry that the inherent slowness of the web and ill-considered trend toward over-produced web design is going to start hurting traffic to DF.

I don’t believe that the web is inherently slow, although I do acknowledge that over-produced web design could give rise to that assertion. But that’s a fine distinction, because in practice it might as well be true—as Scott Jehl says so very succinctly:

So yeah, I think any criticism of the web’s terrible performance is totally valid. We can choose to do better, but our focus is elsewhere.

— Scott Jehl (@scottjehl) May 14, 2015

That the performance of bloated websites is the norm is profoundly disappointing, all the more so because we’re the ones who made it that way. Users of all kinds need the open web, because it serves everyone—including people without a Facebook account and people without access to the latest mobile devices. But even without the Instant Articles bar to measure against, we’ve been shipping slow sites and thus failing those very users. Tim Kadlec gets to the heart of the matter in his post “Choosing Performance,” and it’s simultaneously simple and complex:

It’s not because of any sort of technical limitations. No, if a website is slow it’s because performance was not prioritized. It’s because when push came to shove, time and resources were spent on other features of a site and not on making sure that site loads quickly.

This goes back to what many have been stating as of late: performance is a cultural problem.

I think Tim’s point is dead on. Later in the piece he points out how culture change usually moves more slowly than technical solutions, and that’s specifically true for the folks building the web.

In my experience, the biggest barrier to a high-performance web is this: the means of production are far removed from the means of delivery. It’s hard to feel the performance impact of your decisions when you’re sitting on a T3 line in front of a 30 inch monitor. And even if you test on real devices (as you should), you’re probably doing it on a fast wifi network, not a spotty 3G connection. For most of us, even the ones I would describe as pro-performance, everything in the contemporary web design production pipeline works against the very focus required to keep the web fast. Unless you make some fundamental choices and set up clear constraints, you can—and will—build and ship beautiful sites without feeling a single ounce of the pain and frustration that your users encounter when all of that beautiful imagery, CSS, and JavaScript comes trickling down their mobile network.

My family and I are big fans of cooking-competition shows. I love how the judges save their harshest criticism for chefs who let their dishes leave the kitchen without tasting them. “Did you taste this dish before it went out?” they ask, and the chef can do nothing other than hang their head in shame and reply, “No chef, I did not.”

That’s my biggest takeaway from Instant Articles: we (designers and our clients) have to start tasting our work. Not just in our proverbial kitchen, but where our users actually eat the stuff. How do we do this? Some of it is tactical. Dan Mall has a great primer on setting up a performance budget. Scott Jehl’s Responsible Responsive Design has a lot of good, practical advice on tooling and testing to make things fast, in both absolute and perceived respects.

But again: we can’t just engineer our way to a faster web, because for every bit of extra speed we wring out, we’ll find a way to fill the gap with even more over-produced design. M.G. Siegler’s analysis of Instant Articles comes to this conclusion:

Not only is the web not fast enough for apps, it’s not fast enough for text either.

It’s a funny line, but it also rings a bit false to me. Because it isn’t just text, is it? Our sites feature more and more images, webfonts, CSS, and JavaScript layered over the basic text and markup. Siegler’s line raises a particularly difficult question, though: why? Of late it seems that many of those elements layered on top of the content are an attempt to emulate the slickness and behavior of native apps. And to an extent that can be a good thing—the web has always been great at absorbing and expressing characteristics of other mediums: books, magazines, movies, video games, apps—anything and everything, really. But that impulse needs a counterbalance: we can do this on the web, but should we, if it means users won’t even stick around to see the content?

I don’t want this to be tantrum trigger, where we throw up our collective hands and yell, “We can’t do anything cool on the web! Fine! Just make it all text! ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?” I think we do have to be better at weighing the cost of what we design, and be honest with ourselves, our clients, and our users about what’s driving those decisions. This might be the toughest part to figure out, because it requires us to question our design decisions at every point. Is this something our users will actually appreciate? Is it appropriate? Or is it there to wow someone (ourselves, our client, our peers, awards juries) and show them how talented and brilliant we are?

Lara Hogan’s Designing for Performance might be the most useful resource in this regard, because it talks about how to educate and incentivize our teams toward a performance-focused culture. If you, your team, and your client build that culture with your user in mind, then the sites you build can be beautiful and immersive without negating the accessibility and reach that makes the open web so vital.

What’s exciting about this user- and performance-focused mindset is that it will still be valid and useful even if we see some much-needed advances in browser-based capabilities. I hold out hope that components like HTTP/2 and service workers will allow us to build smarter, more performant sites. But we have the means to build sites faster right this minute. If nothing else, Facebook just turned that into a higher priority for the entire web community. And that’s a good thing.

Links for light reading (21/5/15)

CSS Getting Dicey With Flexbox An Introduction To Graphical Effects in CSS Automated Tests for Visual Responsive Layouts Understanding CSS Counters and Their Use Cases CSS Basic User Interface Module Level 3 (CSS3 UI) – W3C Working Draft, 19 May 2015 General The state of web components An Introduction to Responsive Images — DrupalJam Why […]

Suiting Up: How One E-Commerce Retailer’s User Experience Design Made Swimsuit Shopping a Breeze

Summer is quickly approaching and swimsuit season is almost upon us. Customers are increasingly turning to online shopping as an alternative to the bright lights and busy dressing rooms at mall stores. Swimsuitsforall.com has incorporated a number of usability best practices to make the shopping process a breeze – from descriptive, ordered navigation to allowing […]

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