John Maeda on Simplicity at Apple, and the Future of Design

John Maeda wrote a short article for Huffington Post about simplicity and humanizing design, what it has meant for the software developed on Apple products, and what it means for the future.

The respect so many designers have for Apple is possibly bourne out of reverence for the philosophies that lead to reduction, simplicity, and the humanizing of user interfaces. Maeda talks about Jonathan Ive in this regard, citing his ability to make something real and human by getting his hands dirty. These people, he says, are the ones who will drive creativity and innovation in what they do.

Maeda’s take on the future of design seems to be that the national emphasis on left-brain thinking alone will not be enough to drive economic development.

You can read more at Huffington Post.

Jane Austin & Chris Neale on Sketch Prototypes

The paper prototype is generally used as a design tool and even usability testing tool, but the folks at IG Index have figured out a creative way to use sketches and paper prototypes as a communication tool in place of wireframes for demonstrating interaction to development teams. Martin Belam posted video from UX London 09 of Jane Austin, Chris Neale and Frances Eida discussing this simple method of taking wireframe/storyboard sketches or paper prototypes, and creating stop-motion animation to demonstrate interface. Wonderful stuff. More at Currybet.

Larva Labs Intelligent Home Screen

Larva Labs’ Intelligent Home Screen is a home screen replacement for Google Android devices that provides an information stream or feed.

It divides the stream into 2 panels: private information on top (messages, calendar events) and public information on bottom (stock quotes, news). It provides color-coded category markers, and a draggable menubar that allows the user to selectively change the volume of information between top and bottom lists, and when pushed to a single end, provides focus on that category. A multi-click toggle on the right icon of the menu bar allows you to filter by shuffling through categories.

Nice use of direct manipulation to set volume and filter the feed. To get the full demonstration, click the video link on the product page.

Playfulness, Usability, & Context: The Three Pillars of a Delightful User Experience

Fred Beecher did an informal usability test of 2 conversion apps for the iPhone–Convert and Covertbot–and wrote up a thought provoking review regarding the relationship between playfulness and usability. Convertbot could be viewed as the more playful and whimsical of the 2 apps. He writes:

Fun isn’t always the new usable. There are situations in which usability is more important than playfulness and those in which it’s the other way around. The delight that playfulness contributes to an experience depends on the context surrounding that experience.

[W]hile playfulness is undoubtedly an important new focus in user experience design, it’s not a panacea. User experience designers need to understand when playfulness is more effective than pure usability in inspiring delight and vice versa.

Fred observed that playfulness wasn’t always favored, but that “playfulness is more effective at certain levels of interaction and when there is a clear benefit to the user to learn the mechanics of that playfulness.”

With regard to the use case of converting measurements, his small sample favored the less playful interface that required less to learn. Clearly the dimensions of frequency of use, and specificity of the use case are big factors. The quick information need when converting a measurement is nothing like exploring other kinds of information-rich environments. But the exception in his test points out that once she learned how to use the playful app, she preferred it better. What I’m wondering is, how do you determine when playful comes at too large a cost? What is the point where the burden of learning is outweighed by the benefit of use?

He’s suggesting that ultimately UX designers need to understand the balance between playfulness and usability, and the goal is to deliver appropriate experiences that achieve sustainability while making users enjoy using the product. Again, I think audience, context, and use case seem to be key factors. Read the full article for more.

We are Colorblind is a website about colorblindness created by Tom van Beveren. Van Beveren discusses good and bad examples of interfaces, charts and diagrams with respect to how they are viewed by color-blind users. He also provides patterns and suggestions for improving their accessibility.

Would be excellent to pass some of the examples through some of the simulators I recommend.

Notepod: The sketchbook for your app ideas

Notepod is an iPhone graph paper sketchbook. The specs:

Three 60 x 110mm, 100pp Notepods printed on both sides. 80gsm laser throughout with a stiff black strawboard back.

Front: 52mm by 77mm of blank space floating in darkness. Endless possibilities in a form reminiscent of a popular smart phone.

Back: A light 6mm grid, perfect for notes or jotting down the phone number of a hot geek.

I’m getting a set, even though I don’t typically do iPhone design. Get yours here.