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What goes into creating quality?

December 10, 2013

Note to self to look into creating quality anything. are there common activities that lead to quality? I picture attention to detail, taking the time, continuous iteration, Etc. have to consider the objectivity of quality, can we agree on a definition to even start the discussion? Consider other attributes that go into quality – strength, durability, reliability. Consider products and experiences. Could also lead to conversation about the connection points in an experience.

The future of digital is quite human…

May 29, 2013

Trying to further collect my thoughts on a presentation I gave about my experiences designing smart applications. The kind that use lots of math and lots of data to make recommendations to humans. The kind that learns from our behavior and adjusts those recommendations. The kind that can serve as a companion.

In my several years worth of designing big-data-driven projects I have consistently seen people treating the machines like humans. There is a dynamic between users and these systems that cannot be ignored or denied. Well, it could, but I’ve seen strong evidence that as digital experiences get smarter they become more human. This has a very large impact on the trust we place in these systems and that trust is tantamount to their adoption.

We treat machines like they are humans. Our devices are a social actors in our lives. The research performed by Clifford Nass has been influential in forming the presentation of my observations. My working hypothesis is that we treat machines as humans by default and adjust our expectations from there. Our human interactions set the bar for our expectations with digital experiences and if we think through capabilities as if they were taking place between two humans we can solve a lot of the design problems we are, and will be facing as systems get smarter.

I also always have a presentation given by Chris Fahey in the back of my mind. It was one of those “yeah, that’s what i was saying – but you said it so much more clearly!” kind of moments. I have actually implemented the approach and have lots of stories to tell and conversations to explore.

As a start I have explored seven human traits of a successful digital companion that can serve as guidance for designing these systems. If it were indeed a person, these are some traits of that person I have seen in successful systems.

  1. Observant/Smart
  2. Confident
  3. Transparent
  4. Humble
  5. Reliable
  6. Personable
  7. and a dash of awkward (a trait that truly endears me to these systems)

From a design perspective, there are many examples where having this “human” bar for the behavior of the system has helped come up with solutions. I’ve seen tactical examples, like the best way to implement a “please wait” spinner interaction. I’ve also seen strategic examples where we’ve set the bar for an entire experience on interactions and conversations between an advisor and a client.

10 ways reading a newspaper is not reading a mobile article

July 30, 2012

I am a big fan of the mobile web strategy at ESPN. I have a home page icon that takes me straight to their mobile optimized site. It’s got a lot of stuff going on, but was clearly thought out for the medium on which it is being consumed.

I’ve grown very accustomed to using the site and haven’t bought a physical newspaper in maybe 2 months. The inspiration for this post was the relative calm I felt while taking in an entire page of NY Giants training camp updates. There was a main article as well as several smaller snippets and relavent info that filled the entire rectangular page. It was the first time i actively thought about the differences in the two methods of sports content consumption.

One is not necessarily better than the other, they are just distinct experiences with the content. It was the calmness I felt that led me to recognize the unease I tend to feel while reading some… most mobile web content. The following may be some of the factors that contributed to my sense of calm.

  1. It’s completely predictable. Every action and move has the risk of being so costly on a mobile experience. My stresses range from clicking a wayward link to wondering if the screen i am looking at will scroll or flip.
  2. It’s big… like bigger-than-an-iPad big.
  3. I don’t have to move my hands to see the whole article. my eyes and brain do all the work to move around the content.
  4. There are no buttons to grok. There was also no chrome to compete with the content. This is a definite improvement the mobile web can make.
  5. There’s contextual stuff – I read a whole page with a full article and relevant snippets without scrolling or changing pages.
  6. it’s black-and-white and low fidelity as far as print goes and i hardly really thought about that fact.
  7. it’s paper… i think it was a tree once or something
  8. the fonts show up properly
  9. i can completely predict what the page when do when i hold it. There was a definite lack of jumping around that articles do on the web as their elements come into the screen. The image suddenly pushing down the article as i am reading the first line and such.
  10. nothing is blinking…
  11. bonus thingm – There was zero load time or latency

The z-layer in mobile designs

May 14, 2012

There are several key interactions design innovations that solve for the constraints of mobile experiences with elegance. The physics of swiping is one. What is the first interaction shown on any demo? The elegant “you can swipe it” motion. Another key area for innovation is certain app’s usage of the z-layer – pretending this stuff is stacked in physical space.


I was motivated to post this by the truly slick implementation within the Nat Geo app above. I was more excited than any single person should be upon discovering the transition. In this case you tap the stats icon and ‘sjoop’ your main experience dances back and ‘bloop’ the stats appear with big beautiful numbers. And here is an instance where a “done” button makes an appearance and is warranted. Until i previewed my post just now, i couldn’t remember the interaction to close the stats. That may be due to the lack of thinking i had to do to find it.

The windows OS is slick, but it focuses on the “there’s more stuff over there” metaphor. I think that is more limiting than endless ‘cards’ (also a nod to the early days of WAP programming). The “there’s stuff in front of/behind here” along with the right transitions has emerged as a great way to distinguish menus from content like on the increasingly prevalent Facebook menu interaction.

The z-layer can be effective and efficient as it is in the app above or even the Twitter for iPad app. But it can go wrong quickly. It would be hard for me to explain what a wrong implementation is, but i would most recently refer someone to the Google+ iphone app. They use it to zoom stuff in and it seems gratuitous after a few swipes.

The forgotten mobile button

May 13, 2012
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There is a space on the mobile iOS experience that is so perfect for a button, yet that pattern is very rarely seen. Content is the new button and a prime piece of content on the mobile experience is the top header. I am glad to see that using this area to provide context and functionality is becoming more prevalent.

Google+ has utilized the space in the new app. The zooming scroll feature was delightful for a moment then quickly grew tiresome and gave me the woozles. But i applaud the utilization of the middle portion of the title bar.

Tweetbot introduced the first instance of this i’ve seen in the wild. One of the ux folks at my job actually tried to push this feature through a couple of years ago and i’ve been wondering ever since when it would take off.


I am a firm believer in content being the point of interaction, but i know it cannot be taken lightly. If the interactions are not discoverable or inconsistent the experience will suffer. It also needs to be implemented in the proper context – it doesn’t make sense all the time. But when it is done well, with subtle cues and quick response, it is the only way to go.

So… What did it take?

April 4, 2012

First iPad sharing of a link was slow going. About 30 minutes to do something that takes about 45 seconds on the pc with a plugin. I am sure there are quicker ways to create that post, but I have not unearthed them yet. I do plan on only using mobile devices to manage this blog from now on. Hopefully the process gets smoother. I do wonder whether my posting style will change at all or whether I will adapt to find ways to replicate it.

I don’t do too much fancy formatting but I do like to style text and i often like to accompany a post with an image that is generally a screengrab of some kind. Another thing to note is I am trying to post this from a train with a transfer and a tunnel.

A few things stood out in trying to create the last post…

  1. typing su-hucks on this device compared to the pc. We knew that already, but the amount of thinking I had to do to type the text was much greater than pc land.
  2. positioning the cursor is a royal pain. Fixing a mistake, especially in concert with autocorrect evoked several “gah!! Doh!!” moments. This pain is ratcheted up when trying to copy and paste stuff.
  3. getting the content was tough. Just trying to coordinate the copy paste of a title and the link was tough. Getting the picture was less painful than anticipated. I am sure I could edit the photos a bit too. That may actually prove smoother than the pc flow.
  4. I still don’t really know what the post looks like
  5. getting the article from flipboard to a format that yielded the URL was a chore.
  6. one slick feature was the ability to swipe to change apps.

What it’ll take for tablets to replace pcs… For blogging

April 4, 2012

This post is partly an experiment and partly a link I think is worth reading. Equal parts. I discovered the link in flipboard and am trying to post here as I would if I found it on my laptop. I found the article at 8:18 – so i will see how long the process takes. Of course i will have to factor in this blurb.


What it’ll take for tablets to replace PCs
Posted by Yasir Hossain on Apr 2, 2012


With features like LTE connectivity, ultra-high-resolution displays, and laptop-like processing power, tablets have made their way into tens of millions of homes, and they’ve done it seemingly overnight. But despite popularity that borders on ubiquity and specs that edge them ever closer to desktops, it’s a rare house where a tablet has replaced a full-fledged computer. Why is that? Why haven’t more people scrapped their PCs for the sleeker, cheaper tablets?…