Notebook

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.

This is a nice diagram of the user centered design process and an overview of the methods and techniques which might be used. The HCI toolkit is managed by Bas Leurs for Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Smashing Magazine expound upon what makes a well designed 404 page in their latest design gallery which features 50 examples.

Inspired by the gallery, I made a more useful 404 for Konigi as well.

Fubiz has done a beautiful redesign. The gorgeous video below showcases the redesign, giving you a taste of what to expect as you begin to use it. I'm really digging the Mosaic view and the Popular carousel in the sidebar.

Peter Morville and Jeffrey Callender have been compiling a list of UX deliverables and have summarized 20 of them succintly on the Semantic Studios site.

This list describes twenty user experience deliverables with links to relevant resources and examples. Clearly, these artifacts of the process are not the whole story. We must also think about the relationship between goals, methods, and documents. And yet, for many of us, deliverables are the coin of the realm and merit special attention.

I've taken the 20 deliverables and put them into a single, full-sized poster-like image in PNG or PDF format if you want to view them that way. There's also a cute image that shows the deliverables as a Treasure Map. Go read the article for the full 9.

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.

The Printed Blog is an interesting project that aims at publishing a newspaper of weblogs and user generated content. I like the idea of using this as a PDF rather than as a printed newspaper, since I no longer read printed newspapers. I also like the newspaper format, and have been using Tabbloid to peruse my must read daily feeds rather than using my RSS reader lately.

I wonder, however, about taking online media and making analog versions of it. I can see this being most useful on mobile devices and ebook readers for someone like me, but I don't know that I want an actual newspaper. Would help if I commuted every day I suppose. For PDF and any electronic format, I think you'd want a single column layout rather than multi-column, however, because it's a pain to scroll up and down on smaller monitors. Would be nice if they eventually offer this as a service for ebook/pdf reader software or via their own mobile apps. Then they'd have me.

Nice short article in UIE by Luke Wroblewski illustrating the issues to think of when designing previous/next buttons in forms.

I posted on Twitter about how frustrating it can be to have to use email. With every day that I use Twitter via Twhirl I become less and less interested in using email. So I moaned to my Twitter peeps about the pain I feel. Some people wanted to know what I wanted, so I responded with the ideal flow, using Mac OS X's Growl alerting app as the starting point:

Growl alert. Click and a Quicksilver-like diaogue appears. Click. Reply. Done. Gmail archives. Optionally tag the thread.

Coincidentally, I've been designing a feature on the product I'm working on that does something like this. We have a plugin for our app, a CMS, that turns a project into a Twitter-like micromessaging application. It's only in release 0.1, but I've designed a few iterations ahead, which we plan to review.

The gist for me is this. At work we use Jabber to get alerts for new activity on our internal CMS. We use our Live Blog micromessaging project to do status updates, and other discussion in real time. We want something as easy as IM, as easy as Twitter.

So I've been doing all this stuff that makes the stream of messaging easy to respond to when I see something urgent that needs attention. And I begin to notice email differently, and think that it's a big speed bumps in the day when I have to look at it. There are some messages that come in that I wish I could just quickly reply to because they're urgent. But I hate having to load Gmail or Mail.app to stop what I'm doing.

Now, I know with added intrusions into your day, this could add to your already full, multi-tasking life. But I simply feel like I want and need it. I want email on my terms until it goes away. So I took some of the ideas I was working on in a project I'm doing and saw how those behaviors might apply to email. The wireframe you see above is part of that.

I've posted the files below so you can look at this single page storyboard if you're curious. If you're interested in taking a peek at how I wireframe, download the OmniGraffle document too and play with it.

Download the files

A lot of people won't agree that email should work this way. If you don't agree, feel free to tell me why email is fine just the way it is, or tell me that this is a good idea. If you know of an app that has all of these features and functionality, please tell me, because I need it. If you want to develop it, go ahead. I'd be happy to be involved because I want this.

UPDATE: Chris Messina reminded me about MailPlane, which I tried preview releases of last year. Turns out that when you click Mailplane Growl alerts, MailPlane will open a window with the message, and you can click reply to enter your reply, click send, and close the window. This comes close enough without being quite as subtle and effortless as what I've wireframed above, so this is the solution I'm going with for now.

Swedish agency Akestam Holst has created a contextual banner ad for retailer Playground Stores that selects an appropriate jacket for you depending on the weather where in your location. The demo seems hard coded, but is kind of neat. Would be really weird if they could figure out my gender and favorite colors.

Via Creativity