AlternativeTo: App comparison site may be useful for competitive research

AlternativeTo might be an interesting tool when doing competitive research. The new site describes itself as a a way to find better Windows, Mac, Linux and online applications by submitting the app you want to replace. It’s a community site that relies on user submissions, so the number of alternatives is limited in some areas. Having a look at the Basecamp alternatives, for instance, only shows MS Project and the RedMine web app when I looked. But more popular app suggestions are abundant, e.g. alternatives to MS Word.

This could be a good resource with time for collecting examples to reference when doing a competitive study for a web app. One to watch.

Should Design Be Held Back by a Tyranny of Data

The NYTimes interviewed Doug Bowman to talk about his departure from Google, which Bowman wrote about on his blog in March. Bowman came onto Google as their first Visual Designer 3 years ago, and left in March. Some quotes from the article:

Bowman on Google:

“Data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions,”

Bowman on Twitter, where he is now Creative Director:

He has also found a new way to listen to customers: reading their tweets in reaction to the new design features.

“Using data is fundamental to what we do,” Mr. Bowman said. “But we take all that with a grain of salt. Anytime you make design changes, the most vocal people are the ones who dislike what you’ve done. We don’t just throw the numbers in a spreadsheet.”

Deborah Dunn, associate professor at the Stanford Institute of Design:

Adhering too rigidly to a design philosophy guided by “Web analytics,” Ms. Dunn said, “makes it very difficult to take bold leaps.”

“It is more from engaging with users, watching what they do, understanding their pain points, that you get big leaps in design,” Ms. Dunn said.

Journal of Information Architecture

The Journal of Information Architecture is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, published by the REG-iA (Research and Education Group in Information Architecture), an IAI (Information Architecture Institute) international volunteer initiative started by Andrea Resmini. Its aim is to facilitate the systematic development of the scientific body of knowledge in the field of information architecture. The long term goal of the journal is to serve as a forum for new research and sharing of good ideas and case studies that are useful to the field’s researchers, practitioners, students, and all other interested parties.

The first issue, Spring 2009, is now available.

Pretty Sketchy Group on Flickr

Jason Santa Maria started a sketchbook group on flickr.

Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist, they’re about being a good thinker. In the spirit of awareness, I’ve set up a Flickr group for this very purpose. Post one, and only one, spread/page from your sketchbook. It’s always fun to see how everyone else’s mind works.

Read more about it in Jason’s post Pretty Sketchy.

Wireframe and Storyboard Notepads are Back: Now sold via Amazon

The Wireframe and Storyboard notepads have been reprinted and are now selling exclusively via The good news is, now that you ordered via Amazon, your order may qualify for Free Super Saver Shipping, and may be combined with other Amazon purchases in your cart. So if you spend $25 at Amazon, even by combining your purchase with other qualified products fulfilled via Amazon, your shipping will be free. Yay, you!

For more info about the note pads, see the product pages in the store.

Is Interaction Design a dead-end job?

In the Cooper Journal, Tim McCoy responds to Bill Moggridge's comment after a screening of Objectified. He paraphrases Moggridge as saying interaction design has become pervasive, that anyone and everyone can be an interaction designer, and so the role of professional interaction designer is (or is becoming) unnecessary.

McCoy asks if interaction design is really dead. He goes on to point out a few factors that have allowed developers to build better interfaces without interaction designers. The main point I took away is that the need for the expertise and craft of interaction design is not dead, but the perception that the need for the role seems to be diminished given tools and awareness.

Awareness and tools alone, however, don't breed expertise. Clearly if it did, there'd be a lot less awfully designed stuff out there. Or to take a craft like video editing as an example, we'd see an awful lot more people doing much slicker looking stuff on YouTube.

It's a relevant point to make, however, that the tools and frameworks alone have enabled a lot of work to be done, especially in the building of web sites/apps, without need of an interaction designer. A lot of basic interactions can be implemented with design patterns. But not all needs are satisfied by a pattern, and isolated solutions can be implemented that don't relate to one another, or to the goals of the user. That's not to say that you need an interaction designer to design, but you do have to think of design in terms of the ecosystem, rather than of any solitary role within it. Any user experience designer that isn't doing that isn't worth his weight in business card titles.

Jason Santa Maria: The Influence of Print Design

In SVA’s Dot Dot Dot lecture series, Jason Santa Maria talks about the role of print design in influencing design on the web, and how visual designers might bring the same level of attention to designing online content with the same rigor and attention to visual meaning.