Konigi DIY Wireframe Magnets

The Konigi DIY Wireframe Magnet Kit is based on the wireframe stencils and includes 3 sheets of elements that might be useful in whiteboard prototyping. Simply download and print the PDFs onto magnet sheets. They were designed and tested for use with Avery 3270 Printable Magnet Sheets for Inkjet Printers. Lamination is also recommended so they’re usable with dry-erase markers. Enjoy!


Mozilla Labs Design Challenge: Reinventing Tabs in the Browser

Mozilla Labs together with IxDA and Johnny Holland presented the Summer 09 Design Challenge as part of their Concept Series. The challenge theme is “Reinventing Tabs in the Browser - How can we create, navigate and manage multiple web sites within the same browser instance?” Voting on concept submissions ends on July 5. Will take a while to make it through the over 120 concepts!


User Testing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Jeff Sexton got Patrick Sullivan, Jr. to list the top things not to do when conducting a usability test. The top 6 list should serve as a good reminder for the UX Designer who does the occasional user test.

1) Never ask, “What do you think about this?”
2) Don’t feed the tester with your question.
3) Don’t let users be the designers.
4) Don’t let the statistics fool you.
5) Don’t get discouraged.
6) Don’t try to test too much at once.

I tend to actually ask #1, but using the first impression test, i.e. showing a page on the screen for 5 seconds, taking the screen away, and then asking something along the lines of tell me what you think the site is about, what do you think you could do on that site? I also liked the suggestion in the comments of giving the user an easy dummy task to start in order to warm them up. Head over to the article to see what the list of 6 "don'ts" refers to.


Open Source Designers: A community of practice for design & user experience people in Open Source

Leisa Reichelt has started a Ning community for designers contributing to open source projects.

If you’re doing design & user experience work in an open source community, then chances are we have a lot in common – no matter what community we’re working in. We have some big challenges every day, but we also know that if we can overcome those challenges we can make a really big contribution to the sustainability and increased popularity of open source software.

The purpose of this site is to create a space where we can come together to share our experiences, to ask each other questions, to compare notes and to promote the projects we’re working on and help get some extra eyes on our work – and to act as a support network.

I like the initial discussion Leisa started about how to contribute to Open Source design.


Playing with DIY UI Magnets

konigi diy gui magnets

I’m experimenting with making magnets of some of the elements of the Wireframe Stencil to use for prototyping. Was an interesting experiment printing and cutting these. Next time I think I’ll have to laminate the sheet first, and then cut. The lamination might make it possible to write on them with dry erase marker. If you write directly on the magnet sheets the ink will stay permanently I’d think. The surface seems kind of porous and a little textured.

When I get a version that seems to work, I’ll post PDFs to the Tools section that you can download for free, or as donationware. You can then print on Avery 3270 Magnet Sheets.


The Feast Conference

I’ve registered to join the Feast Conference in New York City on Oct. 1.

The Feast Conference gathers the world’s greatest innovators from across industries and society to empower, inspire and engage each other in creating world-shaking change. A creative look at the world’s toughest problems, The Feast Conference presents the most innovative solutions, insights, and best practices as a catalyst toward action.

More than a conference, The Feast represents a bottom-up movement, so we’re curating an audience as cross-disciplinary and diverse as our talks. But we’re doing something a little different – we ask those who can afford to pay higher prices to micro-sponsor The Feast, which allows us to offer $99 invitations to awe-inspiring vanguards whose brains get them where their wallets can’t.

Bottom-up innovation, unparalleled connections and real exchange – that’s something we can sink our teeth into. Join us and get full on good.

Some of my friends and colleagues know that over the years I’ve talked about and have been looking for productive ways to fuse my interests in creativity and education/learning with my interests in activism, and the need to live with compassion and empathy. Increasingly, I also want to bring my knowledge and skillset as a web designer into this amorphous mass of desire and need to contribute more positively to society and improve the human condition. I haven’t been to an event that fuses the creativity and activism before, so I’m hoping to get inspired and make connections there.

I’ve alluded to my interest in doing something like this in whatever small way I can via Konigi, but that plan hasn’t manifested yet. I’m hoping to meet some like-minded people at this event, and elsewhere in whatever way I can. If you’re like-minded in this sense, and feel a similar pull, I’m always willing to chat over coffee in the NYC area. I can be reached here.


A Dialogue on Design With Intent

I enjoyed reading two excellent articles in a dialogue about design with intent—the practice of strategically designing to influencing user behavior—and how user centered design process fits or is at oods with the designer’s desire to influence. The first is Robert Fabricant’s article on “Design with Intent: how designers can influence behavior”, and the follow up is Dan Lockton’s “frog design on Design with Intent”.

User centered design focuses primarily on user needs and research and decision making must support these needs. Because of this, the argument being made by Frog Design’s Robert Fabricant is that UCD puts designers a step removed from playing an active role in influencing behavior in ways reflective of their own values and judgement, and the desire to engage more directly has led designers to push outside of the boundaries of the purist’s definition of UCD practice.

In a typical UCD designed product, the designer tends to disappear and the user’s engagement with the designed product or experience is judged by the essence of understanding and predictability of need intrinsic in the product design—to me the essence is the ability to allow frictionless or enjoyable use, made possible by the design and designer. Fabricant wrote that designers want to have more of an active and immediate role in behavior change through social engagement, and are doing so in more apparent ways. This is taking shape through direct engagement with users through practices intended to influence their behavior positively. The three mentioned themes in play are Persuasion Design, Catalyst Design, and Performance Design. Catalyst and Performance Design are new terms to me, but the concepts and some of the examples of participatory design, more direct involvement with users, or providing open architectures for user involvement with design on web products are familiar.

Dan Lockton, author of the Design With Intent site, writes that the notion of “direct behavior design” is something often perceived along the lines of architectural determinism or behaviorism, and warns that awareness that someone is trying to determine and influence your behavior often leads to an emotional reactance—the very idea that one’s freedom is being restricted or one’s behavior being persuasively pushed in some direction causes irritation. He also says that while Fabricant believes design with intent may be opposed to the principles of the user centered design philosophy, it needn’t be viewed this way. To quote:

I would argue that in cases where design with intent, or design for behaviour change, is aligned with what the user wants to achieve, it’s very much still user-centred design, whether enabling, motivating or constraining. It’s the best form of user-centred design, supporting a user’s goals while transforming his or her behaviour. Some of the most insightful current work on influencing user behaviour … starts with achieving a deeper understanding of user behaviour with existing products and systems, to identify better how to improve the design.

I think the argument could be made that somewhere in the process of injecting the designer into the users’ experience, especially in the more apparent and active examples of Catalyst Design and Performance Design, that the approach to engaging with users is entirely more active and immersed in users’ awareness than what I’ve ever understood User Centered Design to encompass. It doesn’t really matter to me in the end, whether this expanding role of the designer from designing for use, to influencing behavior is contrary to any given process. What matters to me is where you see the lines of responsibility, and how easily you can cross them for the users’ benefit while doing no harm. A more engaged designer needn’t be on the “genius designer” end of the spectrum to have to believe that they might provide a needed role by influencing new or different behavior that helps achieve user goals, for instance, rather than perpetuating existing models.


Why browser zoom shouldn't kill flexible layouts

Zoe Mickley Gillenwater posted an interesting article which makes the argument that browser zoom doesn’t obviate the utility of flexible (liquid and elastic) layouts. The argument is apparently being made that because of browser zoom, flexible layouts aren’t necessary. But in fact, web designers that have fixed layouts know that the default zoom behavior on fixed layouts causes horizontal scrollbars. The fix is to use “Zoom text only” options, e.g. in Firefox and Safari 4.

Gillenwater makes the argument that in either use of browser zoom—normal zoom or text only zoom—flexible layouts not only give users control, but they also tend not to break and show horiztonal scrollbars. I move between both worlds. On this site, I use fixed widths with flexible em-based type that works well with Zoom Text Only. It’s a decision I make knowing that it affects the smaller population that want to use a narrow viewport. But on the enterprise web software I’ve done front end development on, I use flexible layouts because of the audience and use. In those cases, designing for smaller laptop and netbooks, as well as mobile devices is a necessity.

It’s an interesting discussion, and brings up issues to be aware of. In many scenarios, I imagine a large majority of users won’t use browser zoom, and those that do will be the most likely to be aware of the difference of zooming the entire page versus zooming only text. Knowing your audience and choosing a strategy that’s appropriate is the expected advice, but also knowing how to make the most of the capabilities of zoom while attempting to prevent breakage is what this is about to me. I don’t intend to make this incarnation of Konigi, for instance, liquid or elastic, but I try to make type work when zoom is modified. Whereas other scenarios I could imagine for this site, e.g. a web app perhaps, might demand flexible layouts.