Hullo my budding Interface Design Masters!
I hope you had a relaxing weekend and that you’re digging our kick-start so far. Now that you know (and have access to at any time through blackboard) the Brief we’ll focus on this semester I want you to do a couple of things in preparation for this week’s class;
First thing: DON’T think of any solutions just yet! It is SUPER tempting to want to jump straight in as a Designer and just come up with a solution you think is god’s gift to your brief, but that is precisely what we Designers have been doing wrong since we jumped on the almighty computer. If we attempt it with very little deep-thought, we’ll all just jump to the first and most obvious solution: a prettier list, or a simple re-arrangement of the list as thumbnails or something similar. Lame =( … What we need to do instead is take a deep breath and a couple of steps back, get the lay of the land:
- What do existing solutions for this problem look like right now?
- What do they do right and what to they do wrong? what do they have in common?
- More importantly, was this way of presenting the data the most easy-to-understand way? or was it the most easy-to-program way?
- What are users understanding/misunderstanding about this system? what are they enjoying/hating?
- Are they even using it at all? and if not (or not-so-much) then why?
- How do users go about doing something similar to this, but not in the digital world? is there an analogue-life equivalent?
We need to understand a couple of things before we attempt a solution. We need to understand what the existing marketplace has already established (what solutions already exist and which have thrived). To do that properly is more of a business-practice than a user-research method, but in that vein the competitive analysis is a useful tool for understanding what exists and how we can avoid the common pitfalls that we already know don’t work well enough or could be done better. This is an old, but useful and credible, article from usability.net. And if you’re freaking out about what a competitive analysis is, don’t =) … just do a google search and you’ll find it’s a very simple chart with no complex logic whatsoever. Your children could do it, and if you don’t have any, imagine how easy it is if even children that don’t exist can do it =)
To complement this practical-background research you should try and find some theory too. Try and find a credible article or paper about bookmarking, or data management, or storage-and-retrieval processes in computing, or even how people manage large amounts of information away from computers. Use Google scholar if you are having trouble finding credible sources, and remember that things like smashing magazine and webDesignLedger and other blogs of the like are rarely credible even when they are attributing their misunderstandings to HCI literature. And Wikipedia is one of the single greatest agglomerations of authoritative references, but not a citable reference itself. Be a good investigator and follow the leads. A good place to find REALLY substantive references is the Digital Library of the ACM, but being on the University network is a requirement to access the nuggets of HCI gold this yields.
Second thing: After you’ve got a bit of a handle on your background research, attempt writing some questions you might be able to ask users during your two interviews. You don’t have to do the interviews yet, just bring your proposed questions to class this week so we can go through them together. If you want a little guidance about how to write good questions, the NielsenNormanGroup (NN/g) have this very nice short article on the matter, and there are very few sources more credible than the kingpins Donald NORMAN, Jakob NIELSEN and Bruce TOGNAZZINI.
I hope that gets you thinking and gives you a good indication of what to work on before we again meet for class this Friday. Remember that the first submission (The background and User-research report) is not due this Thursday, but next week. If you bring a good initial competitive analysis draft and your proposed questions, I can confirm whether you’re on the right track.
One last request, join me on the very vacant wordpress we have set up at uicourse.wordpress.com and post up your “what I learnt this week” post? You’ve all been invited via your Uni addresses. It’s quite sad the community I’ve built seemingly for only myself =(
Remember the following are on blackboard;
If you weren’t in class for week one (oh yes, I know who you are… well actually I don’t because we’ve never met, but that’s not the point) I’d appreciate if you got in contact so we can sort out how you can keep up so we’re not backtracking this week. This week’s class is on Visual Perception and Design Patterns (certainly not what you might think: not repetitions of shape+colours, but repetitions of interface solutions and thought).