Due to a “Reduction in Force” my position of Web Architect for Progressive is no more.

I only found out this morning, so I’ve got to update my resume & My LinkedIn page, but hit me up if you’re looking to fill a #UI #UX #IA #Web #HTML #CSS role.

And thanks to everyone on Twitter sending support and links. I appreciate it.

This months speaker was Chris Braunsdorf and his topic was Meet your users: Learning from the iPad, iPhone, and Facebook & thinking about the future of user interfaces. Starting with the story of people searching for ”Facebook login’ in Google and being confused when the top result was not Facebook, but an article on Read Write Web.

Opening the conversation to the room, a lot of discussion was about the responsibility of the UX/UI professional to help fix these issues. Bolstered by points such as the increase in age of users to Facebook and the web in general, Chris mentioned a quote from an article by Gillian Andrews about web literacy and our expectation that everyone knows what a URL is.  Google’s video showing that people are not really aware of what a browser is pushed the conversation forward.

Moving to the iPad and iPhone, Chris then steered the conversation towards the simplicity of devices and asked, will that solve some of the problem?  I think the initial problem (about logging in to Facebook) will remain until the iPad does away with Safari completely and becomes the browser itself.  Though it wasn’t brought up I was reminded about ‘The Social Agent‘ by Chris Messina and the direction that is taking.

All-in-all I thought it was good discussion (barring some early technical difficulties) and I’m looking forward to the next meeting.

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With the iPhone and other “smart” phones, access to the web is now easier than ever.  They have pretty much hijacked the term “mobile web” in the public perception, so it was great to hear a talk by Dan Young (of DXY Solutions) at NEOUPA in June covering some of the myriad of different mobile projects they are connected with.

“10 years ago no one thought of dropping their landlines”

Dan Young talking at NEOUPADan passed around his very own Apple Newton, which pretty much set the stage for where we are now with mobile.  He also outlined the differences they see with today’s devices.

He pointed out that laptops are portable and generally, if its a work one, people don’t mind sharing them to check email.  Phones are mobile, and very personal, even if its company owned.  People seem to have a reluctance to share PDA’s and phones.

A lot of the work Dan is involved in use mobile devices other than phones.  These are the units that you see UPS or Meter Maids use.  They have a lot of different considerations such as:

  • Environment – Sun glare, extreme cold or heat, dust or rain
  • Size – Too small could sour the experience
  • Dexterity – Can they use it one-handed? Do they wear gloves?
  • Connection – Support isn’t always at hand
  • OS – Java/J2ME, Blackberry, WinMobile, Symbian, Android etc.

Dan stepped through a little of their process. Screen flows help a lot to build the logic that a users follows (there’s no help on a cell phone). Having focus groups and watching the users handle and interact with both the device and the software, helps them make changes on-the-fly and re-test very quickly.  These sessions have also made them aware that users will “mask their fear” of the device initially, so when working with companies to provide these type of solutions they make sure employees are comfortable.  They have to also be cognizant that every touch (calls, back light use, etc.) drains the battery.

It was an interesting look into a still developing arena, from a local company heavily involved.

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Being good citizens we try and recycle as much as we can. Every Saturday, and sometimes Sunday, we make the trip down to the Recycling area to drop off our collected plastic, cardboard, and paper.

Recently some of the bins have been replaced (were they recycled?) with newer ones. So 5 shiny new metal bins arrived – four red and one grey. Red ones replacing the ones for plastics and the grey was an additional one for cardboard etc. The reason for the long set-up is this Sunday we dutifully went and I saw the grey bin overflowing with plastic.

Misused recycle bin

Now on Saturday it was virtually empty and only myself and one other put a few bits of cardboard in there (We both did a double-check).  So what made others fill it with plastic?  One idea I had is the lack of good signs.  The most dominant is the supplier of the bin.  Can you see which one tells you what to place here?  You can click through and see it larger on Flickr.  All the other new red bins have the same stickers, placed almost identically too.

Also the proximity to the other new bins.  All of them were placed together at the same time.  So people must have made the assupmtion that if all the new bins are for plastics, then this must be for plastic too, regardless of it being a vastly different color – and no one read the signs as they all look the same.

What went wrong?

Could you blame the users? Aren’t they just being lazy? Well I don’t think so.  In the 8 months or so that we’ve been recyclying here I’ve never seen bins filled with anything that shouldn’t have been there.  And as I mentioned, I had to double check too.

Could you blame the company? Could they have better signage? Sure, but they want their customers to know who supplied the bins, so they will contract them in the future.  That’s their objective.

Why am I rambling on about this and tagged the post web? Well these are the sorts of things that I think about when doing wireframes or page designs for web sites.

  • Are visitors going to find the new thing on the old page?
  • Have you made it different enough?
  • Is the visitor going to get frustrated?
  • Does the page serve all audiences?

So it’s important to not only look to see if you are labelling items on the page clearly, but that you are cognisant of what is around them on the page, especially if this is an existing page that you are adding new content to.

There’s been quite the buzz around Twitter for the past couple of weeks and apparently tomorrow (well, today as I type this very late) is going to be a “very big day“. Now that could mean anything from Oprah is now using it to they’ve sold out to Google or Facebook and its being closed down.

My hunch is going to be about funding or the unveiling of a revenue/advertising model.

One things for sure. Since the announcement the Doug Bowman was leaving Google and joining Twitter there’s been a ramp up on the look and feel of the site. Subtle changes depending on users and even where you are logging in from.

My Twitter (advertising?) 2009-04-03I first started noticing a small box giving tips and insights about Twitter and the culture of “tweeting”.  Is this a foreshadowing of where we can expect to see advertising go?

As I don’t visit the site much (I use tweetdeck) I’ve been making a point to login from time to time to see if anything else was being changed.

First the pagination at the bottom of the page was replaced by a “more” bottom which expand the list of tweets. Another little bit of Javascript goodness I noticed is the post notification that appears at the top of the screen.

All the other major tweaks have been happening in the right side bar.  Look at the differences between my page and @jules23‘s, taken seconds apart. She has a little indicator on what section she is looking at as well as a search box and trending topics.

Today I noticed that the information in the sidebar has been condensed even further. Updates, Favorites, and Following are the only three options there.

Hopefully the announcement will clear up some of the rumors and we’ll able to see where all this current iterations will take us.

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One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is when do I, as a user, expect to have a piece of information presented to me.

Take, as an example, driving along the freeway. I see signs for the different gas stations that I could use. What would be nice (my expectancy) is seeing how much they are selling their gas for on those signs. For me this is making my decision to leave the freeway now or wait until the next exit easier.

Now technically this is possible, but is it in the best interests of the gas station? No, obviously. They want you off the freeway because you are more likely to fill up, regardless of price, than get back on and try again.

It’s a balancing act that we online folks have to go through all the time when creating sites and experiences.

When paying bills online you generally receive an email reminder. Do I expect the amount to be shown in the email or when I log in? And if it is when I log in, should it be the first thing I am presented with?

For me, the expectancy is showing the amount in the email. For the company it could be after logging in. They may want to show/sell me something else or maybe they are not allowed to show that information in something as unsecure as email.

Instead of leaving it there though, I find I’m thinking about the next level of expectancy for the user – If you cannot show the amount due, are they expecting to be presented with a reason why?

Next time you’re designing something, think about your users “expectancy of information” one or two steps further along than normal.