Have a nice day

Don't let anyone tell you that the tools you choose are wrong or inappropriate. Find the right design and keep winning.

Occasionally I'm asked to provide an opinion about a topic that people think I should have some authority to comment on for some reason. That topic, as you might guess, is wireframing.

I enjoy pointing people towards good resources, or helping them with a problem using a tool that I'm familiar with. I also love to give my own design resources to peers, or to teach techniques that I think will help people perfect their craft. In the end, I benefit from that exchange the most.

When asked to comment on slanted opinions that throw a stake in the ground and tend to confuse and divide the community, I abstain. Navel gazing and defining the damned thing became an uninteresting use of time to me long ago. It took some time immersed in those conversations to know that I have nothing to contribute. I'd rather be making stuff than talking about it. I just say call yourself whatever you like, and do whatever works.

Interface design tools are as good as you make them. When I started out, I had to use Visio to communicate UI specs. It wasn't awesome, but I made it work. Later I found Omnigraffle. It was not designed specifically to enable interface designers, but we made it awesome. We learned how to use it to make our documents communicate design ideas.

We are the ones who determine what's useful for us after immersion in tools. We've debated what we want in the ultimate IA tool, we've found parallels in other industries and fields of practice and made them our own. We've experimented with forward-looking low-fidelity prototyping projects like Denim, and pondered what the right suite of tools are for our work. Some of us built them and shared our work. Some of us are still building them.

Over years of working and watching others work, I've noticed that some attributes are common among the people whose work I admire. The people who are the most effective seem to continue to study their practice, and perfect their craft. After long hours of use, they find the way to flow within any app at their disposal, and become as fast and effective as they can using it. The key is what they do with the app once they've become expert at their craft, expert in finding the right design, expert in communicating, and expert in refining. There's some kind of maker/doer tenacity I see in people, and it doesn't have to do with any one tool.

There are no good or bad tools for finding the right design. Paper prototypes are your thing? Awesome. If you want to sketch and go right to building in HTML? Go for it! I've done it. You want to craft gray box schematics in OmniGraffle, Photoshop, or Mockups? Godspeed you wireframer. Maybe I can help you with that. You want to use a tool that generates interactive prototypes? Have a nice day. :)

All the side-taking is useless to me. If you've ever interviewed people for an IA or IXD position, you know that beautiful documents and prototypes are meaningless if in the end they don't demonstrate good problem solving and good design decision making. I don't care what people use. They can use finger puppets and crayons if they help them.

I say use whatever makes sense or is at your disposal. Your tools are only as effective as you are at using them to accomplish goals. But don't let anyone tell you that what you choose is wrong or inappropriate. Find the right design and keep winning.

MORE/REAL Stylus Cap

Don Lehman’s MORE/REAL Stylus Cap is a cool iPad stylus project looking for funding via Kickstarter. The idea is to create a cap with a conductive tip that will fit over a Sharpie, Bic, or Fineliner pen. Lehman’s introductory video below shows the stylus cap at work.

Looks fantastic and simple, and you’ll have one fewer thing to carry with you because it acts as pen and stylus. Sweet. You can help fund the project and reserve a cap by heading to the Kickstarter page.

Via Core77 and @jenniferhogan


iPad Dry Erase Board

New sketching goodies hit the shelves at UI Stencils, from our good friends Design Commission. They’ve created an iPad dry erase board with dot grid, and updated their awesome iPhone sticky pads. Definitely want to get my hands on the dry erase board.

Mine arrived and I have to say that this is the nicest dry erase board I have now. It's made on hard particle board, similar to what you'd find on a clipboard, so it feels great in the hands. There's an interaction key laminated to the back with gesture symbols and common icons, to help you while you sketch. It comes with 2 fine point dry erase markers with eraser heads that work well.

I'm loving it, and so is my son, who plans to use it for stop motion animations. I'm not working on iPad design right now, so I'd love to have a few screen and browser dry erase boards, or a 6-up/8-up sketchboard for thumbnail sketches and storyboards.


New Blinksale payment options

Freelancers and design/dev shops have some better invoicing options at Blinksale. They just announced a new feature called BlinkPay that will allow clients to pay invoice by credit card without you having to pay for an expensive merchant account. It’s a nice alternative to PayPal. Some beautiful interface design work by Jared Christensen in there.

Disclosure: Blinksale is one of Konigi's advertisers.


Sketch, sketch, sketch

The sketch is not the end goal. The end goal of the drawing process is what you learn while sketching.

I'm slowly getting back into the groove of reading blogs and updating this site after some time off to enjoy the first month with our new baby. I found 52 weeks' recent post about sketching, and loved the encouraging reminder for UX designers. I'll quote, because Joshua Brewer says it so well.

[D]on’t worry if you can’t sketch. In fact, if you’re too good you might just fool yourself into thinking your sketch is a deliverable. It’s not. The real value of sketching is that it allows you to explore and refine ideas in a quick, iterative and visual manner with little overhead or learning curve. Rapid ideation around flow and interaction, layout and hierarchy, can be quickly established, rearranged or discarded wholesale—all without ever touching a computer.

I like the reminder that sketching is thinking. For me, it is the thought process, decision making, and learning, not the quality of the product in this activity that makes sketching an important part of the design process. For me it even continues from sketch to wireframe. The lines blur when you can discard and start over easily and repeatedly in whatever medium.


Sketchnotes 2009 & 2010: A book by Eva-Lotta Lamm

This is pretty incredible. Eva-Lotta Lamm’s self-published book contains 2 years’ worth of illustrated sketchnotes from dozens of UX / Design events and conferences, featuring talks from over 100 speakers and panelists.

Some of the events covered in the book are UXweek 2009, d.construct 2010, Flash on the Beach 2010, UXcamp Europe 2010, offf 2010, UXcamp London, Internet Week Europe 2010, various London IA events and RSA talks.

The book contains notes from talks by Edward Tufte, Scott McCloud, Jesse James Garrett, Ryan Singer, Tim Berners-Lee, Stephen Fry, Dave Gray, Whitney Hess, Stephen Anderson, Andy Budd, Richard Rutter, Eric Reiss, Giles Colborne, Mr. Bingo, Julien Vallée, Matt Pyke, David MacCandless and many more. You can see examples of Eva-Lotta's sketchnotes on flickr.

More info about the book here at her book site. I just purchased a copy for myself.


What Makes Them Click

I just started reading What Makes Them Click, Susan Weinschenk’s blog for people who want to learn how to apply psychology to understand how people think, work, and relate.

"The blog focuses especially on applying the latest research in psychology to make you more effective, be more successful at your work and in your career, and get to know better why you and the people around you do what you do."

Susan wrote the New Rider's book, Neuro Web Design: What makes them click, which applies the latest research on unconscious mental processing and persuasion principles to the design of web sites. Read more at the What Makes Them Click site.


Refactoring for designers

Ryan Singer at 37signals explains code refactoring to designers so that they can use it correctly in a design context.

Designers sometimes use the word “refactor” in a loose way. I think they overhear the word from programmers without getting the precise meaning. This article will introduce the term to designers so they can gain the same advantages that programmers have from a clear understanding.

How do designers loosely understand refactoring? Many take it to mean “rearranging” a design or “adjusting without completely rethinking” it. Refactoring actually means something else. It means changing the way a design is built without changing the way it looks from the outside.

Read more at svn.