Notebook

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.

I saw Dave Gray demonstrate his visual alphabet at SXSWi last year. If you haven't seen him demonstrate this, you might want to watch this video now. In the video he illustrates for us how sketching is just combining forms and lines, and all you really need to be able to come up with pictures is to see and use these basic shapes.

See also Dave's Basic Rules for Napkin Sketching after you've seen the above.

I remember drawing as a kid, feeling frustrated sometimes because I couldn't make things look the way they do in real life. I didn't really understand representational drawing until I started painting. In examining volumes, I was able to find a more basic understanding of the 2 dimensional shapes, and began drawing with ease. But it all came together when I took a Manga drawing class and started drawing characters that I really saw everything in this world of 2d and 3d shapes and polygons.

Drawing representationally shouldn't be the goal in sketching. It should be capturing an idea with rough, basic shapes. I think wanting to draw representational renderings is what held me back so much when I was younger, but embracing the basic shapes is what propels me now. After a while, you learn the alphabet and the pictures come easily if you continue to use the langauge.

I have a feeling these videos will come in handy very soon as tablets flood the market. Brushes and SketchBook Pro for the iPad will certainly provide another way for us to sketch.

The OmniGroup now has video up of the OmniGraffle for iPad showing what looks to be an awesome product. I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Jon Phillips writes about how the user experience of restaurant flow can be redesigned by illustrating the flow in a cafeteria-style space from entry, order and pickup to seating and exit. In his great diagrams he shows how the orginal flow frustrated diners (users) and could be easily re-designed to consider a flow that was immediately understandable--the design he experienced made him feel stupid. Sound familiar?

I think about interior spaces like lines at Whole Foods, where sometimes it makes absolutely no sense (I'm looking at you Columbus Circle) and where other lines seem to have considered this (Union Square sometimes feels efficient). Whole Foods has the problem of not having enough real estate to manage their volume unfortunately.

I remember experiences from my childhood, however, in places like Disney World, where the wait didn't always seem so incredibly grueling because lines are split off to feel shorter, and because distractions make the line feel like part of the experience. Ugh, I take that back. That now makes me think about creative "Loading..." dialogs in Flash. Actually, come to think of it, there are some pretty cool loading experiences in games that give you something fun to do. I also experienced the same with the credits when we recently finished Super Mario Wii.

Jon's article is a must read, if only to think about the problem solving we do and how it is applicable in physical contexts. There's so much opportunity, but I think how unfortunate it is that we don't have UX designers in important places. I think of all the time following the "hanging chad" Florida elections and how poorly designed the polling place in my district in Brooklyn remains, for instance. There's no shortage of UX design need out there.