design thoughts by rohan sandeep



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Apple 2?

Category : Blog Jul 21st, 2013

Steve jobs is undoubtedly a disrupter. He has more than once proved his mettle with one of the biggest comebacks in the corporate history. I sometimes do question that impact of Steve on everything.

Here is my take on what impact Steve jobs had on the world in his return to the tech-industry.

Rise of smaller form factors

Sometime back technology was limited to bigger dimensions. For sending a simple email and attaching an image to it you had to use a computer or a laptop. If you wanted to listen to your favourite music collection while you were mobile you had to carry a bag containing your favourite CDs. The most expensive mobile in the market wouldn’t afford a decent browser to read your favourite news article.

Why was this not happening? Was it a technology constraint, a case of not enough great ideas put to the task? From the innovators of  Walkmans to mobile phone market leaders to hardware manufacturers to the most successful operating system on the planet. Everybody was getting it wrong somewhere. It probably was a case of ‘Dont fix it, if its not broken’, If you have great sales on yesterdays products, obviously you can make more time for corporate takeovers and politics.

Steve started with the smallest, The ipod. Combining technology with problem solving skills. He re-invented music (for listeners). Some would debate there were other MP3 players on the market. But did they create a music ecosystem, the ability to legally buy music. Did they come up with an approach or layout that created an impact or desirability, did any of the big companies bet big on it. Did they push technology to its limit before they relaxed.

Steve had a simpler solution for your problems. If you wanted to carry all the music you will ever need – iPod. On the go you want to check emails, news articles, play games… blah blah  - your iPhone. If you cant do something on a iPhone due to screen size – you do have the iPad, and this can be shared by the entire family, take it where you want to.

The smaller form factors are now talking. I can see my fellow passengers on my way to work carry all types of smart phones, tablets and music devices. Companies are busy working on a responsive designed websites, eCommerce applications,  a version for their enterprise product or just distributing free tablets or phones to their employee so they can be more productive.

Importance of design (User Experience)

I remember early in my career, I had to convince people really hard to make some thing aesthetically pleasing. Changing something so that it could be usable or have more user satisfaction, was simply not important. The technology stack and the servers were more important. Better User experience was a luxury.  With the success of the smaller screens and rapid adoption by customers. The headhonchos are confused. What’s the winning combination, someone told them its better User experience. Now everybody is on the UX bandwagon. They want to user research everything, find out the pulse of the market, they want a game changing design every time, some are really getting their hands dirty.

 

Companies impacted by Apple 2

How many companies really got impacted as a result of Apple 2. I mean Steve’s jobs make a dent in the universe initiative.

Google
I really have respect for this company (although they wont hire me), they have a lion share of the search market, but they refuse to stop innovation. I suspect (They might have patents to prove otherwise, you never know) Andriod OS was a result of iOS, maybe Google Play has something to do with iTunes. Android is the OS of choice, in many places trouncing iOS.  They did a better job than iPhone in design in most places, making it extensive and cheap.

Microsoft
In earlier days when Apple claimed Microsoft copied. Microsoft would just smile. With the challenge of the iOS, Microsoft came up with an amazing OS for phones (*I use a windows phone). It might not have the largest number of applications or contributing developer base like Android or the iOS, but its really worth a look. The metro Style is probably a result of this design exercise, with lots of people taking single colour simpler icons more seriously for their applications.  They tried doing everything different, in lots of places it worked.

Unfortunately iPad and other tablets. Did pose a challenge to the desktop and laptop market. Microsoft tried hard with the Windows 8, pushing touch for the desktops and the laptops. The winning interaction design for mobile, somehow dint work on the desktop. Yesterday I heard Microsoft lost some 24 billion of market value in a single day. Microsoft did bet early on tablets, they also innovated on the palm devices, somehow they dint succeed.

Nokia
Nokia has been fighting very hard to regain at least some of it lost space. The impact of iPhone challenge saw Nokia partnering with Microsoft and paying more attention to software over hardware. I think they are gaining ground. The most basic of Nokia phones today pose features that were unheard of in the most advanced Nokia phones a few years back.

Samsung
Amidst lawsuits with Apple, Samsung has been able to capture a lot of admiration and market share. The current challenger to iPhone, Samsung continues to innovate with new features every second day. I really don’t remember if Samsung had any smartphones five years back. Samsung is extending the innovation to other products – cameras, televisions, refrigerators …

Some gained, some lost. Falling PC sales doesn’t mean stop making applications for the desktop. It just means the home user is shifting to something simpler, mobile for their use. There is no point creating apps that don’t do justice to the form factor or the application itself. Its great to know which direction the market is moving or likes, what’s the latest fad. Moving in a direction that requires innovation or impacts the future is probably a better bet. Steve must be smiling somewhere up there, putting together something we wont see for another century.

Resources: Designing for Windows 8

Category : Blog, UX Resources Sep 27th, 2012

 

Table Guidelines

Category : Blog, Interaction Design Sep 21st, 2012

Most applications depend heavily on displaying data using tables. The table component designed effectively can give your user so much of needed functionality to reduce their burden. I was doing a self imposed project of learning whats available on the internet that guide us better.

 

Principles while designing table columns,

  • Organize the most important columns to the left.
  • Experiment with frozen/fixed columns, so if the person does need to horizontally scroll, they can keep context.
  • Only show a set number of columns in the default view (so there is no horizontal scrolling in the default view) and offer a Customize option so the person can choose to hide or show more columns. ExtJs has this built into the column dropdown; I usually add a customize button to the table toolbar with Hide/Show column functionality.
  • Offer resizing of columns.
  • Offer rearranging of columns.
  • If you have a table with some columns editable and other read-only, group editable with editable, read-only with read only.
  • Don’t abbreviate column titles, reduce spacing or padding, or drop to a smaller font to fit your table on the screen. That won’t help anyone use your app.
  • Implement tab navigation when you create a table with inline editing.
  • Consider how to handle errors, such as highlighting rows or cells with errors in a way that is easy for a person to correct the issues. Don’t break the person’s data entry flow by locking them in a cell with an error, simply highlight the cell with the problem and provide a way for them to return to it later to fix it.
  • Offer undo and redo functionality.

 

Links that could help you,

 

Information Visualization

Category : Blog, Interaction Design Aug 24th, 2012

Information visualization is an interesting science helping simplify complex layouts into visual representation. There is a saying somewhere humans connect to visuals faster than raw data. What interests me further is bringing in direct manipulation to help change the visuals. To cite an example lets say you were looking at your organization compensation data and it somehow looked skewed. To correct it you might have to go to individual records and update it.

Providing a uniform update without context can be dangerous hence through the normal means it might be difficult to update the records. Lets now look at a different approach- using visualization techniques you make the data far easier to read, you now know where it is skewed and where to fix the issue and how much to fix the issue. You also have a pattern in mind that you want to fix. Fixing it directly using direct manipulation will  make your job even easier.

Can i represent what i say in images. hmm… thats lot of work. I will do that in coming posts.

Gamification!

Category : Interaction Design Mar 13th, 2012

How do you make a mundane task interesting to users of complex systems. The answer is not easy. For one you could improve the usability attributes, you could make it more aesthetic. OR go a little further and try making it engaging with Game Mechanics. I have often wondered on how to make tasks more interesting that are mundane by nature. For example filling in your timesheets. Isn’t it the most boring of tasks. I remember having donned the role of a resource manager in one of my previous companies. How crazy it is to run behind people to ensure they complete their timesheets in time. Could this be a game. Could it reward people based on being accurate and timely.

Am trying to design a process that can be utilized to develop gamify interfaces. Going beyond the usual badges and points. Really thinking it out. Some of the books that i have been reading include,

  • Gamification by design
  • Game On: Energize Your Business with Social Media Games
  • Design for how people learn

I will update this post further as i collect and digest more information.

Solving a design problem – Interview

Category : Blog, Career Tips Jan 3rd, 2012

A lot of organizations these days interview user experience candidates asking them to provide a possible solution to a problem in form of a test. I was fortunate enough to take a few tests and made my share of mistakes. The learning has helped me advance better in my profession giving me a methodology of sorts to solve design solutions quickly.

The criteria

  • The solution should be arrived at within a few days time,
  • Should exhibit your knowledge of UX methodologies,
  • Should provide a set of assumptions that you have used to arrive at the solution,
  • Provide good design documentation.

Design Solution
So here is my take on how a design solution documentation should be structured,

  1. The challenge: A clear brief of what you are supposed to do. Can be in form of notes you have taken or any written tasks you have got.
  2. The methodology: Describe the steps you would take to design the solution.
  3. Assumption & Issues: The brief must leave open a few gray areas requiring you to make assumptions. This is a good place to describe your assumptions.
  4. The BUS Model: The Business, User and the System model – what are the challenges and needs in each of these.
  5. Scenario: Identify story like scenarios where the user performs a few tasks.
  6. Personas: Build life like personas with motivation, goals and a typical day.
  7. Task Analysis: List down tasks or activities the user would perform.
  8. Information architecture – Create a information architecture schematic detailing how the user can complete tasks.
  9. Wireframes – Start with basic wireframes. Keep them as low on color as possible.
  10. Design Rationale – Include your notes on the design rationale for the wireframes. Why you choose one layout over another. What are the primary tasks you hope your design will solve.
  11. Visual Design – Create a high fidelity version of your wireframe displaying your aesthetic skills.
  12. Usability Engineering – Describe what type of Usability Engineering activities could enhance your tasks.

My Notes on Dashboard Design

Category : Blog, UX Resources Dec 25th, 2011

From Good to great

Category : Blog, Books Oct 18th, 2011

Am enjoying my time reading this book. The book seems to stand apart in its insights about what makes organizations great in their results. Most books i had read about before spoke about how great corporate heroes changed the destiny of the organizations. This book balks down on the hero culture of corporate head honchos.

Jim Collins conducted thorough research in non-IT industries studying what helped companies achieve great result over a period of time. Some of the insights include – the type of leaders that would make companies sucessfull, the type of people to be part of, what type of people to keep and what type to let go and more.

Long Live

Category : Blog Oct 6th, 2011

The dent survives

Visualize me – Review

Category : Blog, Product Reviews Sep 18th, 2011

Information visualization helps display information with an interesting angle. Information that might seem mundane in the normal text format starts appearing interesting. A similar approach was adopted by ‘Visualize.me’ to display professional resumes using smart information visualization.  To do this ‘visualize.me’ connects to linkedin and pickups the data from there to display. How successful was their approach let’s give it a second look at ‘all above the hood’.

The Visual display is broken down in the ‘information display’ area and the ‘configurable’ area. The information display area includes – Experience, Education, Interests, Awards and Honors, Recommendations and links.  Most of these appear to be rather simple display of charts on timeline or quantity.

What’s Good?
The application seems to be simple but error free. The configurable options are elegant and a lot of thought seems to have gone through them.

What’s missing?
This application is supposedly designed to challenge the traditional resumes. Although the resume are mundane as you read. These do contain a lot of information that helps you decide whether a profile is suitable for a position or not. In that manner this application merely scratches the surface. It could do more.

What more could be achieved
How was one position different from others? What are the projects linked to an experience? What was the job title for a position? There are some interesting aspects that seem to be missing. Information visualization is often rich by the insight these offer.  Visualize needs to improve on this.  My suggestion is to provide the ability to add more detail to the information that is already displayed. Provide hover links and the ability to drill deeper would be some great functionality.