Archives For design

Today let’s talk about cognitive models. That’s really a fancy term for how someone thinks about something. It’s taking an action or goal and creating a model in your brain about how you would perform that action. For example, if someone said to “make dinner” then that would mean different things to different people. Some are going to throw something in a microwave, others craft something from what’s in the pantry, others go to a restaurant, and others pull out their cookbooks to pick something appetizing. The cognitive models for different people can differ for the same activity.

Introspección > Música. (CenTerO / JaguariTech)

Introspección > Música. via CenTerO / JaguariTech (Flickr)

As UX professionals, we need to know the cognitive models of our users. If we’re designing within that model then their experience becomes much more enjoyable and seamless than designing something that they have to explore and discover to build a new model. Sometimes that can be a good thing but we still need to know cognitive models in order to be intentional about when we break that rule. Let’s look at some questions to ask when designing and accounting for cognitive models.

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Have you ever had a project that is too big or outside your comfort zone and you have no idea where to start? I have no idea where you start either, but start somewhere. The point is that it doesn’t matter. Here’s some tips for when you have something in front of you but you don’t know where to go with it.

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What’s Your “Single”?

February 4, 2011 — 3 Comments

Single of a Michael Jackson song on a vinyl recordIn the music industry, singles are very important. They are less important for established bands and groups, but are enormously important to brand new and debuting artists. Singles are windows into the artist and if the audience doesn’t like it upon first listen then they likely will not come back. The same process is followed for designers.

If you are not established people will likely take a look at your stuff and decide within the first 5 seconds whether or not they like your work. Whether it’s your website, portfolio, business card or something else, your “single” will decide if people will hire you, recommend you, or ignore you. Sometimes if a first single doesn’t work there’s a chance for a follow-up that does, but that’s rare.

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The NFL playoffs start this weekend and I’m very excited. My Atlanta Falcons are the #1 seed in the NFC and I just got NFL Network this week so I’m excited about the awesome coverage they do. Today let’s take a look at how we can take the basic playoffs structure and apply it to design.

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3D Movies were a huge trend in 2010. A few movies got it right, but most screwed up royally. A lot of them did it post-production just to have 3D and it served no purpose other than to say it was 3D. It added no value to the movie and, in some cases, even ate into the quality of the movie.

3D Glasses

The lesson learned here is don’t follow a trend just because it’s a trend.

In UX Design the same problem can arise. We can’t use HTML5 just to use it. We need to use it in a way such that it adds value to the product. Big typography looks great for certain uses in which it fits, but it can’t be haphazardly thrown in a design where it does not fit. Think about your design elements like this: Every single element and attribute of that element should have a purpose. If it’s not serving some sort of purpose then remove it, it’s just bloating your design unnecessarily.

Usability Testing, Why?

December 6, 2010 — 1 Comment

Testing? Ew, gross. That sounds like something I loathed during my school years. No, no, this is something else. Usability testing is putting designs up against real users to see how they perform. Let’s take a simple example as an illustration.

A/B Testing

A/B Test

This is a simple A/B test. Even testing as simple as this can yield some pretty impressive results. We’ll save the different kinds of testing for a different article but we’ll look at why testing should not be skipped in any design process.

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Design Like An Egyptian

November 19, 2010 — Leave a comment

This is a response article to Alexander Dawson’s hierarchy of website users’ needs in his Six Revisions article Human Behavior Theories That Can be Applied to Web Design. His is an adaptation of Maslow’s hierarchy. Shown below is Dawson’s hierarchy:

Dawson's Hierarchy of website users' needs

Dawson's Hierarchy of website users' needs

This is interesting from a number of standpoints so we’ll discuss those points as well as explain why I don’t think he got it 100% correct.
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I recently took some time to travel in a couple non-English speaking countries. Many places had English subtexts, some had text that was slightly decipherable, and others had completely indecipherable text. This got me thinking about UX Design and it’s similarities to foreign language.

  1. It’s only readable by those with specific knowledge.
  2. It is rendered completely useless by those without that knowledge.
  3. There are ways to aid those without that knowledge in their understanding.

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Parallax. It may be an unfamiliar term to many. It’s defined as the apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer. For example, a driver may look at a speedometer and it reads 65, but when the passenger looks on it appears to read a different speed due to the difference in angle they are viewing the speedometer from. There’s nothing different with the speedometer itself, but just the angle it is viewed from makes it appear different.

We need to view our designs from the parallax as well. Well, to clarify, we need to view them both head on and from the parallax as well. Doing this doesn’t change the content but gives us a different viewing angle of that content from which we base our designs. This can mean many different things. We can adapt this to mean designing a web app to fit a mobile experience or we can adapt it to mean moving a local machine experience to a network-based experience. Or maybe it’s just a simple (or not so simple) redesign. It’s really just about taking the same basic problem and adapting that problem for some difference in an environmental variable, but the purpose is to use these different angles to feed various POVs into our designs to improve the user experience.

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I’m putting together some designs for a Chrome Extension that would basically serve as a home page every time you open a new tab. I’ve seen some out there, but frankly they are terrible. I want one that is beautiful and provides lots of functionality that a user would want instantly at their fingertips. This would be fairly customizable and tailored to each user.

Some features I’m already considering:

  • Bookmarks
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS Feed
  • Notes
  • Gmail Notifier
  • Sports Scores

What are the features you would like to see in a home page?