Notebook

Will Evans writes for UX Mag about his process for creating wireframes, or more precisely how he uses wireframes for ideation and problem solving. Will breaks his design process into three phases: divergence, transformation, and convergence.

This seems similar to a common theme I come across when designers talk about their process--framing/ideating, reframing/ideating, selection/refining. Buxton also refers to this, citing Stuart Pugh's idea by illustrating the expanding/contracting nature of a designer's concept selection, which I find easy to map to sketching->wireframing as well.

Something Victor Lombardi wrote about the process of concept design seems related here. Victor discusses expert vs. novice designers in an article that focussed on the designers' tendencies to frame and reframe the problem and approach solutions differently depending on expertise. The idea was basically that the experts, those with years of experience, had the tendency to simultaneously spend time on inquiry and problem framing as well as solution generation, but then abandon deep inquiry and rigor in favor of selection.

This reminds me of the few times I've worked a desk in a reference library in the past, where people framed their problem verbally only to have us help them reframe the problem in terms of a question that could be asked of the information. Language, questions and answers are the communication artifact there. The artifacts are really beside the point, but their usefulness in coming to a solution is important to the process when the discovery requires iterations of inquiry/framing/solving.

The communication of ideas that things like wireframes facilitate is what is interesting. Replace wireframe with sketch, model, prototype, what have you. What Will Evans is showing here is that wireframes used in this way, serve as one of the communication artifacts we use for problem framing and solving. THAT is the right way to wireframe.

With the glut of anti-craft sentiment I hear and read so often, I think it fitting to post an entry about the love of one's work, drawing from a craft outside of our own.

UP THERE is a beautiful documentary about the slow, laborious, and fading craft of hand-painted advertising murals. This is the NY I love. This is the type of appreciation of craft that I admire.

I feel like the humble young man towards the end that looks at it this way. The learning comes slow, but he's in it for the long haul and knows that the learning is a process of apprenticeship. One day he hopes to be able to teach someone else and give back. There's a respect there that I admire, for his craft, and for those that help him to acquire the skills.

More about the film.

I was chatting with UX friends Matt and Mark when the topic of taste came up. Mark brought up the Ira Glass Storytelling series of videos, which are great. If you haven't seen it, there's a great discussion on taste for creators.

This is Ira Glass from This American Life talking about story telling, and how we get into creative work because we love it and we have good taste. He talks about the gap in the beginning when we're trying to make stuff, that turns out short of our expectations. With taste, we know when our execution falls short. I think I've been doing what I do long enough to know about that feeling of disappointment.

Glass offers this advice for sticking it out.

It's going to take you a while. It's normal to take a while and you just have to fight your way through that. OK? You will be fierce, you will be a warrior, and you will make things that aren't as good as you know in your heart you want them to be. And you will just make one after another.

When we make things that don't reflect our taste level, it can be frustrating, but it keeps us doing the work. Because, in the end, what we say about taste is never as good as showing our taste level by executing.

I think I have pretty good taste, although it doesn't reflect a singular style or aesthetic, and ranges from the minimalism and zen on one end (good taste) to embracing the ugly and conceptual on the other (decidely bad taste that's so bad it's good). I think my execution gets better with every project, which is why I do a lot of small projects. I know I'm not a visual designer, so I'm the harshest judge and critic of my attempts. The repeated execution really helps get me closer, in my opinion, to understanding how to deliver tasteful projects and products.

I'm going to sound like a broken record, but to piggyback on Glass' message, I think it's productive to do small and insignificant work for the sake of doing it. This is why I do repeated redesigns/reskinning of personal projects. I believe your blog doesn't count in the don't redesign/realign argument unless doing so affects your livelihood. If you ever followed my personal blog, you know that's how I learned to do better CSS. Even if you're only sketching ideas that will never see the light of day, or making collages of unicorns and rainbows, it counts.

Because of @fred_beecher I setup this iPad Sketch Group on Flickr so we can share our UI sketches. I'm going to slowly post what I work on there.

Freehand design sketching on the iPad is for UX designers. Any app that lets you do freehand user interface sketches, either using finger tips or a capacitive stylus like the Pogo Sketch is what we're sharing here. If you drop non-iPad sketches, they will be booted.

Suggested tools to start: Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Adobe Ideas, Penultimate, Brushes, OmniGraffle, Sundry Notes.

Go.

I've been telling people how much I dig Adobe's free Ideas app and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for sketching on the iPad. Craighton Berman's Fueled by Coffee sketchblog will give you an idea of what sketches can look like using these tools. Ideas is super simple and smoothens your lines so things look naturally drawn.

I'm really loving it. The adjustment is taking time, and it's not as quick as pen and paper, but it's slightly more natural using a Pogo Sketch Stylus.

Didn't get to the IA Summit this year? Or went to IAS10, but didn't get to see everything in all the tracks? Of course you didn't unless you had Hermione's Time Turner with you.

The good news is that Jeff Parks did an amazing job of capturing the sessions and producing audio podcasts, which are now available via Boxes and Arrows or by subscribing to the podcast via iTunes. Currently the keynotes and all of the sessions from Day 1 are available.

I love the idea of Design Swap, even if it reminds me of Wife Swap, key parties, the swinging '70s and that movie Ice Storm. It's better, because it's an exhibitionist, one-to-one CSS Zen Garden style swap of designs between two designer's sites. And we get to be the voyeurs. Salacious.

It's a shame that they didn't pick up on the wife swap theme like I did, and go with a '70s disco, swinging aesthetic. Those round portraits could have people with fros and big butterfly collars. Opportunity missed.

"Apple said Monday that it sold more than 300,000 iPads on the day of its launch, ushering in a new era of people buying things to find out what they are." -- Seth Meyer for Weekend Update on SNL.

I knew that it would be much more like an iPod Touch than a Mac netbook. But what I didn't know until I "found out what it really was," to quote Seth Meyer, was that it is for me better and more than I want from a netbook. I have a netbook. I use it so rarely that I ended up just tethering it to our second TV in the house. The iPad I use daily, because it is fun and it replaces my computer for a lot of things.

Yesterday I came across yet another article saying iPad wasn't serious enough and that Apple would fail, as it did the PC market. There are a lot of articles on this theme, attempting to mostly compare it to laptops and netbooks. They said the same thing about the iPhone as well. I don't think these people get it.

Last night I tweeted, "I've been reading articles dismissing iPad as a toy & not a tool, as if to say toys have no value. Guess what? Toys are fun."

Michael Surtees replied, "interesting @konigi —have you read the next big thing will start out looking like a toy at cdixon.org http://bit.ly/6MZqQR"

Chris Dixon's blog entry, "The next big thing will start out looking like a toy" nails it on the head. This is a disruptive device that people don't seem to understand and appear to be dismissing without really experiencing it long enough to know why it's interesting. These are the people that focus on the feature set only, and don't think about the bigger ripple this will make in expanding people's use with both the personal and networked experiences. The similarities in the confusion the iPad is creating among people who don't get it are similar to those initial reactions with the Wii, Twitter, iPod, and iPhone.

For one thing, the experience (the interface and interaction) is the product. You don't get it until you live with it. It was the same with those examples above. And when you get, you get it big. There's the same gratification of understanding the multi-touch gestures. Two year olds get that. I even caught my 9 year old son trying to swipe the LCD on our camera last week. Then slowly you get that it's useful in ways you didn't expect and that most importantly, it's more fun than you thought it would be. The apps help there. You like it. You like enough that you bring it everywhere and because it's bigger than your iPhone, you realize it's more usable for things like watching movies or playing Plants Vs Zombies.

Yes, there are limitations. After years of believing and playing the feature wars game with Windows Mobile and Palm, I had a hard time with the iPhone initially. But I used the iPhone more and more and never regretted that I can't use Excel or whatever else I could do with those smart phones that really were "tools" crammed into a PDA disguised as a phone. This is the longest I've stuck with one brand of phone, and you want to know why? It's because I enjoy using it.

The iPad is no different to me than the iPhone when it comes to the experience of the apps. There are tools on it that I'm going to make an effort at using. By tools, I mean those that aren't just media consumption apps. I'm making an effort to try to use OmniGraffle, Sketchbook Pro, and Pages. They won't be replacements for my Mac versions, but they will be stand-ins when I'm away from the desk. In those situations, it is good enough, and I think with time I will learn to work simply and it may turn out to provide better experiences. To speed my adoption, I'm experimenting with leaving pen and paper at home.

iPad is brutally selective on features, and comes up short compared to the world of user expectations. There is no camera, there is no 3G yet, there is no multi-tasking yet, and there is no printing. It builds off the experience of the iPhone, and it expands it to include the utility of the apps for simple productivity and creativity, while keeping the size and weight lean, and the battery life satisfying for an entire day. It even excels providing simpler experiences than those the tool-overloaded laptops and netbooks can provide. It's an everyday experience, it's a conference device, it's a commuter device.

Yes, it is a toy to me, but I don't say that to put it down. Toys make me happy. I can't remember the last time a tool really made me as happy.

If I were an Axure user, this is what I would be using. Version 2 of Loren Baxter's of the Better Defaults library has been expanded to sixty five (or so) interactive and cleanly styled widgets. Use it in place of the standard widget set.