Printed books on User Experience free to read online

UX Bookmark lists a few printed UX books that are available to read for free online, including the following.

  • Search User Interfaces- by Marti A. Hearst
  • Designing Interfaces- by Jenifer Tidwell
  • Thoughts on Interaction- by John Kolko. Contributions by Ellen Beldner, Uday Gajendar, Chris Connors and Justin Petro
  • The Psychology of Menu Selection: Designing Cognitive Control at the Human/Computer Interface- by Kent L. Norman
  • Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design- by Shawn Henry
  • Building accessible websites- by Joe Clark

View the list with links on UX Bookmark.

Realizations of Rounded Rectangles

Plasq designer, Keith Lang, recounts the story from computer folklore of how the rounded rectangle came to dominate the Mac OS, and discusses its effect on visual cognition. He gets Professor Jürg Nänni, author of Visual Perception to offer his opinion.

A rectangle with sharp edges takes indeed a little bit more cognitive visible effort than for example an ellipse of the same size. Our “fovea-eye” is even faster in recording a circle. Edges involve additional neuronal image tools. The process is therefore slowed down.”

Professor Nänni is saying that rounded rectangles are literally easier on the eye. Put another way, compared to square-edged rectangles, rounded rectangles are more computationally efficient for the human brain. To me, this is a revelation. An idea that at the very least demands more investigation.

The comment by Voideka provides a perfect visual reading of the difference between the rounded and sharp angled shapes.

”…to me the difference I perceive is a single line versus four lines. In other words, when corners are involved, the brain processes from point A to B, then B to C, and so on, until it completes a circuit. With rounded corners, the line never comes to a point, which we interpret as a stop, and so there is a single computation following the entire shape.

I think the key is in thinking of a point as a full stop (much like a period in a sentence).

The point being made is that a particular use of shape, color, position, and movement are not simply aesthetic decisions, but can impact visual cognition. Mullet Sano’s Designing Visual Interfaces is another good source for the kinds of principles that can be used in practice. I haven’t read Nänni’s book, but have read a lot of literature on visual literacy, and tend to like the argument, however subtle, about the impact of the rounded shape on effort and perception.

Read the full article.

So you're thinking about becoming a designer?

Liz Danzico sought out the advice of digital designers and designer conspirers to ask them to respond to the following statement:

So you’re thinking about becoming a designer? If I could tell you only one thing about going into the field, my advice would be ___________ .

The suggestions ranged from the philosophical to the pragmatic. Below are the ones that resounded with me.

Focus on empathy and understanding problems

Being empathetic helps designers create things that move people.
- Jennifer Bove

Don't just fall in love with a solution and go full force and making it look great, but really make sure that whatever you design is filling a need in the world and has a purpose.
- Whitney Hess

When it comes to design, I'm a big believer in empathy, as are most IA/IXD's who invest in user research. Jennifer Bove's video focusses on this. Whitney Hess also hits on a similar point.

When it comes to finding solutions for people, I'm also a fan of JM Spool's "don't do anything stupid, don't do anything clever," although it's more about finding the middle ground between clever and stupid.

Embrace the unfamiliar to innovate

Be a champion of effortful study, the act of constantly tackling problems and challenges that lie at the very edge of your ability.
- Ryan Sims

I'm also a big fan of taking on new work that is unfamiliar in order to be innovative and improve one's skills. I love what Bill Buxton and Paula Scher have to say on this topic. Ryan Sims, also states it rather succinctly and points out that there will be dues to pay if you want the experience and wisdom.

Be passionate

Have undying, unending passion for what it is you're doing. You'll run up against people who don't understand, who don't want to pay for it, who don't respect it. Ultimately none of that matters if you have the passion to make that happen.
- John Kolko

Finally, I think the thing that I agree with most, whether it has to do with design or knitting or whatever you do, is that you have to be passionate.

If you don't believe that passion is important, or that you can't get you far without talent, I suggest watching A Man Named Pearl, the documentary about a self-taught topiary artist who, prompted by a bigoted comment, proves to everyone around him that hard work and passion are what matter.

That design is money! Pentagram redesigns an ATM UI

Holger Struppek has written an article describing the design and prototyping process for the redesign of the Wells Fargo ATM user interface by Pentagram. This is a rare, in-depth look at the prototyping process for an interface that we come into contact regularly.

The agency was contracted to abandon the prior touch screen/solid state UI, and transform the software to work with touch screen interfaces only and improve flow and visual design. There’s some discussion of research considerations (environment, check scanning concerns), and excellent description of the design choices for button design, layout, and behavior, including the smart shortcut feature, which acts as a history-based shortcuts area for frequently-used features, and a deep look at the check deposit flow. I also appreciated the description of the physical factors of ATM screens and environments that affected contrast and positioning of controls.

CAPTCHAs' Effect on Conversion Rates

SEOmoz user chenry posted some i8nteresting data showing captcha’s effect on conversion rates vs. reduction in spam. Chenry was given the task of eliminating spam that was being submitted through a web form. Disliking the captcha solution, he decided run a test to compare the data after adding captcha for a period of time, with data captured after turning captcha off. He made the following observation:

From the data you can see that with CAPTCHA on, there was an 88% reduction in SPAM but there were 159 failed conversions. Those failed conversions could be SPAM, but they could also be people who couldn’t figure out the CAPTCHA and finally just gave up. With CAPTCHA’s on, SPAM and failed conversions accounted for 7.3% of all the conversions for the 3 month period. With CAPTCHA’s off, SPAM conversions accounted for 4.1% of all the conversions for the 3 month period. That possibly means when CAPTCHA’s are on, the company could lose out on 3.2% of all their conversions!

The important data point seemed to be this: “159 total failed conversions while the CAPTCHA was on”. There were no failed conversions when captcha was off, but they also got the spam. Interesting observation, and a number that’s pretty significant if we’re talking missed sales or signups I suppose.

Read the article for a look at the data and comments.

Stopping Spammers

Well, it's been a hell of a morning. As you know, Konigi allows registered users to post to the blog, showcase, tools, and wiki sections. Up to now, all user submissions have been appropriate, but last night a registered user posted spam content to the blog. This is largely because I missed one configuration option--spam checking on blog/notebook entries.

That user has been banned/blocked, but for the time being I'm adding a few measures in place to prevent this from happening again:

  1. All submitted content, whether node or comment, is being passed through both Akismet and Mollom spam modules.
  2. All submitted node content (i.e. posts rather than comments) is being moderated, and held from being published until reviewed. This means any blog, showcase, and tools entries won't go into published views immediately.
  3. Posts will no longer make it to Twitter via TwitterFeed. That was just a poor and lazy choice to begin with. I won't use the service anymore.

I apologize for the spam entries that made it into the site and onto Konigi's twitter stream, and thank you for enduring the past few hours. It was my fault for missing one of the checkboxes when configuring my Mollom module and setting user submissions to publish & promote to front page.

In the 7 or so years that I've maintained multi-user blogs, it's been increasingly challenging to keep spammers out. This time it was really user error and the software was not to blame. I'm really vigilant about this stuff, and had I been awake, would have put the above measures in place sooner.

-Michael (jibbajabba)

"Illegitimi non carborundum" - Don't let the bastards grind you down.

100 Years of Design Manifestos

Social Design Notes has collected a list of design manifestos from the past 100 years, largely drawn from Mario Piazza’s presentation at the Più Design Può conference in Florence.

Since the days of radical printer-pamphleteers, design and designers have a long history of fighting for what’s right and working to transform society. The rise of the literary form of the manifesto also parallels the rise of modernity and the spread of letterpress printing.

Via Core77.

Everyday Innovations bookmarker

Ex-IDEO engineer, Alan Regalabrings us another great office product invention. The Bookmarker is: 1) pen, 2) flag dispenser, 3) bookmark & 4) book strap to keep your book closed. It was designed for people who take notes in notebooks, textbooks, journals, reading books etc). The advantage this product provides is instant access to important note-taking tools because the product is super thin and fits and stores inside your book. The product is completely refillable with standard size sticky flag & pen refills.

iPhone Apps with Sexy Interfaces

Mac App Storm gathers together a collection of iPhone apps with noteworthy designs. They say, “Whether you’re looking for a robotic unit converter, a realistic app for reading novels, or a intuitive Twitter client – this roundup has something for you. Each application puts design first, offering a fantastic user experience.” Check it out.