When Sitemaps Don't Work: Two Alternatives

Interesting discussion in M. Jackson Wilkinson’s blog about the altnernatives to hierarchical sitemaps, and the use of concept maps or user flows as alternatives when hierarchy doesn’t work in your documentation.

I have to agree with one point, in that site maps don’t always serve documentation well when the notion of a strict hierarchy just doesn’t exist. But I think there’s utility in sitemaps at conveying the organization of a site or application at some level. It may be a very high level visualization that maps concept model/mental models to navigation or application menus, and provides a way for a team to visualize the connections between what the user sees and what the system represents in UI.

I don’t do sitemaps very often anymore, especially when working on application design. They get you far enough in terms of conveying a 1,000 foot view of the landscape, but the meat of the documentation seems to be in uncovering topography. And that can be the stuff of quite a few deliverable types, including user flows, use cases. A nice list of deliverables that might be suitable is in Peter Morvilles’ UX Deliverables run down.


Wireframe Icons Updated (v. 1.1): PNGs and new icons added

The Wireframe Icons have been updated. PNG versions and contact sheet has been added for all icons. New icons including User (silhouette from front), Groups, Microphone, Clock, Phone, Printer, Power, TV Widescreen, Remote controls, Volume, alternate versions of Cart and Image, and much more have been added. Additionally, some icons have been modified for stylistic consistency.

If you’ve previously purchased these icons, you can update your set by logging in and heading to your Account page where you will see a “Files” link under your user name. Clicking the Files link will display your download. If you need assistance, please contact me.


Tap is the New Click

Dan Saffer gave a fantastic NYC IXDA presentation, Tap Is the New Click, discussing the rise of touch interfaces, their place and adoption in society, and the role of the interaction designer in designing these direct manipulation interfaces. Every IA and IXD needs to watch this. A summary of the talk below:

Even though the technology has been around for decades, only now are we starting to see mass production and adoption of touchscreen and gestural devices for the public. Jeff Han’s influential 2006 TED demonstration of his multitouch system, followed by the launches of Nintendo’s Wii, Apple’s iPhone, and Microsoft Surface, have announced a new era of interaction design, one where gestures in space and touches on a screen will be as prominent as pointing and clicking.

But how do you create products for this new paradigm? While most of us know how to design desktop and web applications, what do you need to know to design for interactive gestures?

This introduction to designing gestural interfaces will cover the basics: usability and ergonomics; a brief history of the technology; some elemental patterns of use; prototyping and documenting; and how to communicate that a gestural interface is present to users.


OmniGraffle Sketch Style Screencast

I’ve been wanting for the past year or so to do sketch style wireframes in OmniGraffle. My first requests for sketchy line styles were made to OmniGroup in the Spring of 08 along with a few other users, and I posted this comment to the OG List about this feature. I knew how to do this in Visio, and had read that CAD users have something called a “Jitter” line style, so I quietly campaigned for this feature.

Balsamiq launched, and I love it, and would use it in the right circumstances. But I still use OG for documents, so I felt in between places, and unsure how to bring that unrefined look into my UI prototypes. Then David at Design Commission told me about a method he uses to make sketchy wireframes in OG by exporting into Illustrator and importing back into OmniGraffle. David was definitely onto something there.

Today I figured I would play a little bit with the drawing tools in OG. Just because no one knew how to tell me how to do sketch style in OG, didn’t mean you can’t do it. So I looked at my tools. The pen tool is a tool (keyboard shortcut “e”) I use to make irregularly shaped objects. I’m sure very few people use it. I knew that I could make curves and shapes with oddly placed anchor points with it. I also knew that you could add anchor points to regular shapes like elipses, circles, rectangles by making them editable, and then command double clicking on their lines.

Today I had my Eureka moment as I was walking down to Dumbo. I thought, “What the hell, why don’t I just add points to squares and move them around?” I don’t know how I could have missed that as a possible method. So I quickly put together the screencast above. Sorry about the poor audio quality. I was in a huge room with lots of people around talking while I recorded.

I really think OmniGroup could do a better job at explaining their software. If I worked there, I’d be doing screencasts like this all the time. I do a pretty regular job answering readers’ and friends’ questions about OmniGraffle.

Some of you may already know this, but I’ve been planning on writing and ebook for a long time now–one that helps you get the most of OmniGraffle. I think it’s often dismissed as being too light or whatever, but believe me, there is a lot this thing can do. Sadly, some of these things aren’t well documented, and probably many of the uses and applications we’ve come up with were not predicted by OmniGroup. So I feel like it’s up to me start showing others publicly what I’ve been playing at rather than doing it on a one to one basis.

I’m going on vacation in a week and am taking my netbook with me to get ideas organized. Over the past year or so, I’d been outlining all of the advanced features I use in the event that I could find time to publish them in a useful manner. I feel like that time has come, so while I’m away, I’m going to start the work of looking at what I’ve got so far, and preparing to write. Stay tuned.


JazzMutant multi-touch controllers

JazzMutant creates the Lemur and Dexter, multi-touch hardware controllers for audio production, live music and media performance.

What I like about this is that it shows how much closer multi-touch brings devices to the experience of using analogous hardware controls like knobs, buttons, and sliders without any physical limitations. I once blog bitched about the fact that the Traktor DJ software I played for a few years limited the fun, and the ability to mix with two hands because at the time you could only use one input device, the mouse, to control the mixer. That was before other midi controllers that worked with Trakktor existed. It was nothing like simultaneously controlling sliders and knobs with two hands on a mixer. I jumped that ship and went to M Audio’s Exponent, which filed the 2 hand gap better.

Devices like JazzMutant’s Dexter prove how versatile a single touch screen can be. They show the tablet being used as a mixer, light controller, and even for controlling parts of cool production tools I can handle, like Ableton Live. Check out the video below showing the 2 hand control of Live (intro in Italiano). Jump to :20 for the demo.

Sweet. All the multi-touch table demos for consumers and everything is cute. But the super cool stuff to me is where multi-touch is being used in pro apps like this.