Notebook

There's no doubt about where the call to action is here. I especially like the useful copy on this page. "If for any reason you are unwilling or unable to click the giant button, please email us..."

Via @patio11

Harry Brignull did a thorough review of WhatUsersDo.com, a UK-based remote, unmoderated, qualitative usability testing service. To use the service, you pay £25-£30 per participant and you get back screen recordings with audio of them thinking aloud during the tasks. The test participants are chosen from a pool of users paid to take usability tests, similar to usertesting.com.

As Brignull notes, this is possibly valuable to companies with little experience doing usability testing on their own before, but is less likely to be of value to companies with the experience and budget for doing moderated usability research on their own, or with a usability research consultancy.

UX Storytellers is a blog that captures the stories that we share when we're talking UX with our peers at conferences and events. Jan Jursa's team are collecting these stories to publish as a free PDF, an online magazine and eventually a book.

Catriona Cornett created a great list of sketching resources for user experience designers. Includes links to articles, tools, templates, presentations, videos, and examples.

Check it out and add more to the comments. Missing for me are the links to sketch apps for the iPad.

I swear I've answered this question a dozen times, so I'm capturing to refer people in the future. The tree control in my OmnGraffle Wireframe Stencil is a godawful hack that uses tabs and arrow characters. Copying and pasting the arrows, however, screws up the formatting. OmniGraffle just doesn't make this kind of manipulation of text all that easy and I haven't found an ideal solution, but if you want to learn how I do it, read on.

To use the tree control presently, you utilize the tab stops and insert arrrows from a character viewer. Type CMD-R to show rulers and tab stops in paragraphs of text. Then Option-Tab to move between tab stops. 1 tab for first level arrow. Insert arrows from the character viewer.

The video below shows how to :

1) Enable the character viewer in OS X System Preferences > Language & Text > Input Sources.
2) Use tab stops to Option-tab your text to create hierarchy.
3) Use OS X's character viewer to insert arrows.

View it in full screen to see it.

I'm using Option-* to make the bullets. Like I said it's terribly awkward, but that's how I make do.

Since using paragraph formatting in a text element is unnecessarily difficult, what might be an easier way to manage is to use a table and copy/paste the arrow icons if you find the above technique a pain.

Marian Bantjes gives a fantastic TED talk, where she discusses her work as a graphic artist living outside the mainstream of design thinking, thinking about ethereal qualities like bringing joy, invoking wonder, and inciting curiosity. This bit excited me:

The more I deal with the work as something of my own, as something that is personal, the more successful it is as something that is compelling, interesting, and sustaining.

Bantjes' focus on placing importance on the personal interest she puts into her work strikes a chord with me as someone interested in product design, because that personal interest can even help create personality and character in interface design work and writing copy.

This kind of self-centered approach to design is not something we talk about taking as user advocates, and it's certainly not something that I would expect any of my peers to advise in their work. But as you may have seen me write several times here in the past, when it comes to product design, there is something to be said for honoring one's instincts and interests when it comes to being steadfast on feature selection and putting forth a voice or personality in your product.

I found this graph explaining HTML 5 features via @obxdesignworks. Succinctly describes the major features enabled by HTML 5 that you need to be aware of: Canvas and video elements, offline storage and geolocation. The graph below shows a snapshot of current support and intent to support in web browsers. Shows that IE is well behind the field in terms of readiness as we speak, but IE 9 intends to support.

Core77's Sarah Cox wrote a lovely article after talking with Liz Danzico about her thoughts on interaction design, life with her dog Lucy and communicating simply and humanly. Below is her summary of what dogs can teach us about interaction design.

1. It's important to know who is in charge. Just like training a pet, a designer need to establish a rapport with clients that mixes trust and expertise.

2. Pay attention to the tail. A dog's tail communicates emotions silently, but it's easy to miss this detail if you are not paying attention. Interaction designers need to be aware of customer data for clues.

3. Keep gestures simple. Complicated hand gesture confuses a dog, and complicated language confuses users. Simplicity is best.

Good advice for communicating with humans and dogs alike. Read more on Core77.

Will Evans and Daniel Szuc have created a new blog to discuss leadership in the context of the UX community.

Last week I got a surprising call from Roman Pixell, Fellow in the Innovation Journalism Fellowship Program at Stanford. The InJo program at Stanford is focused on journalism covering innovation processes and ecosystems.

I'm honored to have been nominated for the InJo Pick alongside the well respected journalists in this year's selection, and will be attending the InJo 7 conference in Palo Alto, participating in a round table on June 8. I'm certain there will be much for me to learn from the experience and the exposure to the great minds at this event.

Mike Lohrman's Wireframe Showcase is a user-contributed wireframe and UI sketch gallery. I'm hoping, since there is some space on the individual pages for content, that we'll see a little more discussion about process and design thinking here rather than mere visuals of design artifacts. It's always good to see more people showing how they explore ideas with sketches and wireframes.

Quick sketch testing out Clooly pen on iPad
This seems the ideal solution for my iPad sketching needs.

A few days ago, when I thought of hacking my Pogo Sketch, I started researching all of the options for creating my own drawing tool for the iPad's capacitive touch screen, and was researching the styli that were available. I came across the odd design of the iClooly and thought I'd try it out of curiosity.

I had low expectations, but was surprised by how well it works for iPad sketching. I did the quick character sketch above in about 5 minutes with the odd little iClooly and Sketchbook Pro. As usual, there are things I think could be designed better, but this seems the ideal solution for my iPad sketching needs. The pros and cons follow.

The iClooly is manufactured in Korea and is not the prettiest looking or most ergonomic stylus. The drawing tip is actually a brush. A cap covers the tip, and a button at the end of the metal cylinder must be depressed to push out the soft metal bristles. It actually resembles a makeup brush.

iClooly UI Sketch Test

First I'll touch on the things I dislike. Like most touch styli out there, it's barely long enough to fit in your hand--I find myself keeping my fingers higher above the screen on an iPad than I would a normal pen or Wacom stylus to avoid making marks. The cylinder is quite thin, so those with big fingers that detest thin pens be warned. The cap comes with a little key ring, and must be removed to use the brush tip. Unfortunately, it can't be attached to the back of the pen. One thing I also worry about is how the bristles will hold up. I'm imagining that they'll be splayed out with repeated use, like a well-worn toothbrush. Time will tell.

Now I'll cover the pros, starting with the form factor. I'm used to using thin pens that I get occasionally from Japanese stationery stores, so the form factor doesn't bother me, and I like the fact that it has a clip to attach it to the outside of my Apple iPad cover. The metal cylinder feels durable.

Where this stylus really shines is in how it performs as a drawing tool. At first I thought it would be weird drawing with a brush, but it is not at all. Once I let go of the idea of needing a fine point to sketch, I've been able to evaluate these things a little more practically. The broad brush is not much thicker than a pencil eraser, and if you move fluidly on the screen it's possible to let the physical size of the tip disappear and focus on getting your idea down.

The main reason this stylus beats the others, in my opinion, is because the brush tip glides across the screen effortlessly. The quick test at drawing UI shapes in Sketchbook Pro below shows how lines can be smoothly drawn, without any of the ugly jagged shapes I occasionally would get using a foam or rubber stylus tip, which tends to catch the glass and cause too much friction. That's why I had to hack my Pogo in the first place. This is why I loved Ideate at first--it makes up for the jagged line problem by smoothing your lines.

iClooly sketch test

I should add that drawing finer details like the icons is really impossible for me without using a sketch app that lets you zoom like Sketchbook Pro does.

The last observation I have is that if you view sketching as something you do loosely, and give up on any of the things that make it feel more mechanical, i.e. straight and clean lines, grid backgrounds, it's easy to start feeling capable sketching on the iPad. I think in my quick test this kind of shows. The rougher and looser I draw, the easier it is for me to get out of my own way and not fuss on aesthetics. The Kirby character drawing I started above was fun and effortless and using the brush tip to airbrush color just felt awesome, better even than doing it with my Wacom.

I highly recommend this thing to iPad-toting interface designers that want to try their hand at getting creative with some of the better drawing apps out there. Tell me what you think and please post your sketches to the flickr iPad Sketch Group.