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.

Where We Are Today with UX Prototyping Software

If there’s one reason why the category of design tools feels so rich with possibility right now it’s because UX…

Something's coming 6

A Few Fits about the Flawed UX of Fitbit Flex

August 27, 2015

In the age of wearable technology, Fitbit has taken center stage and in many ways stolen the show in the health and fitness category.

I finally shuffled to the top of the hill at 40 this year. I have suffered from chronic back and neck pain as well as acid-reflux disease for over a decade now. Something had to give, and Ben & Jerry certainly weren’t helping a brother out. I’ve lost nearly 30lbs in the past 6mos since I stopped—or at least significantly slowed—my consumption of refined sugars and started actually exercising. Imagine that.

One of the welcome additions in my new lease on life has been the ability to measure my fitness goals using the Fitbit Flex. One of the setbacks is that I’ve developed something of a love/hate relationship with the device. I’d like to share my experience with Fitbit Flex because:

  1. I care about users and...read more
    By Jason Ogle
                 

ZURB Wired 2015 Has Begun!

It's GO time! We've just kicked off ZURB Wired 2015 with Downtown Streets Team! You can keep up with our progress in real-time as we publish our work through blog posts, photos and videos on our ZURB Wired page over the next 24 hours. You can get involved too! Keep an eye on the blog because we'll be posting Notable sets asking for your feedback on our work as we go.

You can help keep us pumped by cheering us on! Tweet us using our @ZURB handle and use the #ZURBWired hashtag and we'll be sure to share it with the teams here.

Lastly, every few hours we're going to hop on Periscope for some live video streaming. Keep an eye on our Twitter feed to be alerted when that happens!

So be a part of the action and follow along over the next 24 hours as we race to help Downtown Streets Team create an amazing marketing campaign!

Interview with Daniel Hooper, Creator of Principle

PrincipleThe steady stream of new UX prototyping software continues. Last week saw the widely praised release of Principle, an OS…

Can old world be more modern than new school?

I’ve got two machines on me.

One’s strapped to my left wrist. The other lives in my pocket.

The one on my wrist can tell me the time (precisely in 12 hour format, roughly in 24), the day of the week, the month of the year, which year of the leap year cycle we’re in, and the current moon phase. But that’s its limit. There’s no software, only hardware. It’s programmed in springs and gears and levers and jewels.

The one in my pocket can tell me anything and do just about everything. It knows my voice, it responds to my touch, and it even instantly recognizes my fingerprint out of fourteen billion fingers. This machine even knows the angle, velocity, and distance it travels when I swing it around. And it always knows exactly where it is anywhere on the planet.

But sometimes I wonder which one is more modern.

The one in my pocket can do more, but only for a limited time. And then it can’t do anything. It dies unless it can drink electrons from a wall through a cable straw for some hours every day. And in a few years it’ll be outdated. In ten years it might as well be 100 years old. Is something that ages so fast ever actually modern?

And then there’s the machine on my wrist. It’s powered entirely by human movement. No batteries, no cables, no daily dependency on the outside world. As long as I’m running, it’s running. And as long as one person checks it out once a decade, it’ll be working as well in 100 years as it works today. It’s better than modern. It’s timeless – yet it keeps time.

As time goes by, my pocket will meet many machines. My wrist might too. But when I look down at the machine on my wrist today, and know that in 50 years my son will be able to look down at his wrist at the same machine ticking away the same way it ticks today. That’s a special kind of modern reserved for a special kind of machine: the wonderful mechanical wristwatch.

Nishant Kothary on the Human Web: Buy Him A Coffee

My first job out of college was as a program manager. Program Manager is one of those job titles that sounds important because it implies that there exists a Program, and you have been anointed to Manage it. Who doesn’t want to be boss!

As with all impressive-sounding things, program management job descriptions are littered with laughable bullets like:

Must be proficient at influencing others without authority.

Which may as well be written as:

Life is.

Or:

Thing is Thing.

Pretty much every freshman PM ignores that qualification, and interviewers rarely test for it. We take for granted that the ability to influence people is important (true), and that we are all acceptably good at it (false).

For most of us, the first time our ability to influence people is truly tested is at our first job. And most of us fail that first test.

When I first realized I was terrible at influencing people, I projected the problem outward and saw it as a product of the environment I worked in. “It’s not me, it’s them,” I’d tell my friends at work and my management chain. As I wrote in my first column, my boss would say to me, “It is what it is.” This would instantly make me want to either have at the world with an axe or drive my Outback straight up into the North Cascades, hike until I ran into a grizzly, give her cub a wet willy, and submit to the fateful paw of death.

I also blamed my nature. If you are to believe the results of the informal quiz I took in Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, my score of 18/20 suggests I am as introverted as they come. And while I come across as an extrovert now—behavior I’ve practiced over years—nothing about interacting with people feels natural to me. This is not to say that introverts (or I) dislike people. It’s more like like what Dr. Seuss said about children, “In mass, [they] terrify me.”

My first breakthrough came when a colleague at work saw me having a particularly difficult struggle to convince an individual from another team to expedite some work for mine, and suggested, “Buy him a coffee.” The kind of advice that feels like it fell out of a Dale Carnegie book into an inspirational poster of two penguins holding hands. PENGUINS DON’T EVEN HAVE HANDS. But I did it anyway because I was at my wit’s end.

I met him at Starbucks, and picked up the tab for his latte. We grabbed some chairs and awkwardly, wordlessly stared at our coffees.

Panicked at the mounting silence, I tried the first thing that came to mind. What I didn’t know then was that it’s a cornerstone technique of people who are good at influencing others: I asked him something about himself.

“So, are you from Seattle?”

“Indiana, actually.”

“No way. I attended college in Indiana!”

Soon enough, we realized we had far more in common than we’d expected; including cats that, judging by their attitudes, probably came from the same satanic litter. While I still wasn’t able to get him to commit to our team’s deadline, I did walk away with a commitment that he’d do his best to come close to it.

More importantly, I’d inadvertently happened upon a whole new set of tools to help me achieve my goals. I didn’t realize it then, but I had just learned the first important thing about influencing people: it’s a skill—it can be learned, it can be practiced, and it can be perfected.

I became aware of a deficit in my skillset, and eventually I started working on it proactively. It’s been a decade since that first coffee. While I’m still (and suspect, always will be) a work in progress, I have come a long way.

You can’t learn how to influence people overnight, because (as is true for all sophisticated skills) there’s a knowledge component that’s required. It often differs from person to person, but it does take time and investment. Generally speaking, it involves filling gaps about your knowledge of humans: how we think, what motivates us, and as a result, how we behave. I keep a list of the books that helped me along the way, including Carnegie’s almost-century-old classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People. But as Carnegie himself wrote, “Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.”

What will ultimately decide whether you become someone who can influence others is your commitment to practice. Depending on your nature, it will either come easier to you, or be excruciatingly hard. But even if you’re an extrovert, it will take practice. There is no substitute for the field work.

What I can promise you is that learning how to earn trust, be liked, and subsequently influence people will be a worthwhile investment not only for your career, but also for your life. And even if you don’t get all the way there—I am far from it—you’ll be ahead of most people for just having tried.

So my advice to you is: instead of avoiding that curmudgeon at work, go buy them a coffee.

3D Scanning Helps Make Better Parts

3D Scanning Helps Make Better Parts

Quality Control

One of the most important aspects of manufacturing is quality control.  Quality control (QC) refers to an established process whereby manufacturers review the quality of all factors involved during production. ISO 9000 defines quality control as "A part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements.”

There are three aspects that fall within the scope of quality control:

Extra Drawings for The Distance

Last year I shared some extra drawings I made for the Basecamp marketing site that for a variety of reasons never went live or were seen by anyone outside of Basecamp. There have also been many drawings for The Distance that have never seen the light of day until now.

For just over a year, The Distance was dedicated to longform articles about long standing businesses. Under the editorship of Wailin and the art direction of Mig, I made a header illustration for each article and a building drawing that served as the footer. In recent months, The Distance has morphed into a podcast. I still illustrate the cover for each issue, but the header illustration is no longer needed. I like to tell people that I illustrate a podcast, and then I wait to see their reaction. There were a few issues that were both a podcast and a longform article. Here are some of the extra drawings made for those articles and then a link to each corresponding podcast. I’m also hoping to show some of the collaborative process and how we use Basecamp together as a team.

World’s Largest Laundromat

The finished header looked like this. I got a creative brief from Mig with some of the concepts of the story that he wanted to see in the header, and he also shared some visual inspiration, including some anthropomorphic washers and an animated gif of spiraling bubbles. The theme that I latched onto was that this is the world’s largest laundromat, so I knew I wanted to draw a big washing machine. The first image I drew was of a washer amidst a field of bubbles, but that didn’t read well and it didn’t really say anything.

I tried another one with a washing machine looming large on a street with residential buildings. Drawing buildings is my jam so I was playing to my strengths here, and I thought it worked conceptually. I shared it on Basecamp and…

I was ecstatic that they liked the drawing, and that the header came together so quickly. As you will see, it doesn’t always happen that way. I colored in the drawing and that became the final image. I had some time and I was still thinking about washing machine people, so I made the additional drawing of a washer with a top hat!

Ideal Box Company

The final header looks like this.

This article is about a box company that makes a lot of point of purchase displays. I kicked off the to-do with a drawing.

Wailin shared a copy of the story then and she broke down some of the key points and themes. She also shared a few ideas for me to try. I did this drawing but I knew that it didn’t hit on many of the themes (even though I initially tried to champion it).

Mig then chipped in with a winning idea followed by some other points, but I latched on to his origami concept.

Even though I’m relatively inexperienced in editorial illustration, that doesn’t always stop me from being overly opinionated about their purpose. I ranted about that on the thread a little bit. Artists are the worst. In the end Mig is usually right.

Victory Auto Wreckers

The final header looks like this.

I got a copy of the story and some thematic ideas from Wailin: the afterlife of a car; use every part of the animal; from junkyard to recycling center; and new commercial. That gave me enough to sketch out some ideas.

Mig liked that idea but he wanted to see it more dense with car parts.

Mig wasn’t sure about the car in 3D space, so he wanted me to try one flat but with more parts.

I drew up this, and it evolved into the final image.

Richard Bennett Custom Tailors

The final image looks like this.

Once again, we kicked it off with a copy of the story and a creative brief from Wailin. She pointed out the theme of pieces making up a whole, and of heritage, legacy, and preservation.

At the start I didn’t really have an idea, so I just started out by drawing the tailor and his tools.

I wasn’t crazy about any of these ideas and I was researching what men’s suit patterns looked like, but I hadn’t found a direction. Mig sensed that I was stuck and he came up with an idea: “Let’s try this instead. Imagine Iron Man’s suit coming together in midair, but instead it’s a bespoke suit, shirt, and tie combination piecing itself together on one of the headless mannequins.” He provided me with a sketch as well.

I ran with that idea and…

I colored it in and we had a winner. Jason Fried even chimed in on the thread, “Love how this graphic turned out!” Boom.

Grado Labs

The final image looks like this.

This was the last written story for The Distance and I really wanted to get this header right. I got a brief from Wailin with some key points about the company and a few illustration ideas.

I first came up with this.

Wailin thought that this image was too coldly clinical. I came up with something completely different.

Mig pointed out that the guy is rather scary looking and that we usually don’t have the headline re-written in the header.

One of Wailin’s ideas was to riff on the iconic “blown away guy” from the Maxell ads. I didn’t really want to go there because I thought that image was one that that is so heavily associated with another brand, but I started thinking about how I could show a listener totally immersed in sound while focusing on Grado’s two products: headphones and turntable cartridges.

I sketched out some ideas of a guy floating in a sound pool.

Mig liked the idea and asked for a more refined version. Wailin liked the direction as well and asked that the headphones look like the Grado headphones with mahogany ear cups. I took a picture of my own turntable for reference and drew a new image on the same idea. I came up with this heavily shaded idea, before we landed on the more minimally shaded drawing that we used for the final image.

The Distance is exclusively a podcast now, so there is no longer a need for these types of header images, but doing these was a great learning process for me, and collaborating on these images in Basecamp shows how it can be such an effective tool for teams. Go listen to more stories about long standing businesses!

UIE Newsletter: Preparing Organizations to Become Design-Infused

In this week’s UIE newsletter, I define a design-infused organization as one where every decision is made with design at the forefront. Here’s an excerpt from the article: It takes a long time to become a design-infused organization. Many have yet to make the transition. Some organizations are approaching it. These organizations value design enough […]