UX Designer, Melbourne

Baffle them with bullshit or keep it stupidly simple

There’s a saying in advertising that campaigns can take one of two approaches:

  1. Baffle the audience with bullshit, or
  2. Provide one stupidly simple idea clearly.

I think it applies to user interfaces as well. I think websites often do the first one and struggle to do the second.

I’ve been to (and worked on) websites where the businesses intent seems to be to baffle potential customers with an array of bullshit (features, functionality and even content they don’t need) and make them feel like they need it. Maybe this tactic works, hell it must do given how many infomercials exist in the world, but I like to think customers are maturing.

I’m noticing that companies who take the second approach are becoming more prevalent and successful – I’m thinking Apple and 37Signals. These companies that focus on doing one thing well and not diluting their market perception are the ones flourishing while others (I’m thinking Microsoft) get weighed down by their own bloated products, features and offerings.

Long term relationships – my take on Apple’s success

Apple Love

Apple Love

There are lots of opinions on this but that’s not going to stop me adding mine. My overly simplified take on why Apple has become hugely successful of late is that they focus on building long term relationships with their users.

While others are absorbed with creating features that help win the sale or are engaging in cheap tricks that help convert customers in the short term, Apple focus on creating products that build admiration and respect for their brand over time.

This means that those who own Apple products are unlikely to return to other brands and they also evangelise Apple products to others.

As Sachin Agarwal of Posterous very accurately pointed out in his recent post – A product is not just about features. It’s about experience:

“You won’t find a matrix where Apple compares their product to a competitor by feature. They measure products by the experience.”

The other ingredient for their current success is that I believe the IT consumer market is maturing and people are actually realising that the user experience is actually more important than the number of features.

Design thinking is data thinking

There’s been some recent blog posts and discussions around Google’s apparent lack of “Design Thinking” and their focus on “Data Thinking”. I find these discussions overly simplify the role of design and designers as well and are unfair to Google and their appreciation for the finer aspects of design.

The first post on this theme was by Douglas Bowman when he wrote about his rationale for leaving Google in his post titled “Goodbye Google“. In it he describes a company focussed on data (testing everything) and lacking design vision.

The next post was by Cliff Kuang of Fast Company’s Co.Design. In his post titled “Google Instant Proves Google’s Design Process is Broken” Cliff suggests that Googles reliance on user testing inhibits true design thinking and innovation.

And most recently was a post by Faruk Ates titled “Design Thinking vs. Data Thinking” in which Faruk describes Google having no empathy in it’s design approach and that they live or die by the “sword of data” – again suggesting a lack of design thinking at Google.

These discussions and the perception of design by some in the community concern me and I’d like to give my perspective.

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UX is Bullshit? I don’t think so.

Perception of design titles & roles

I’ve been discussing the title UX Designer versus Web Designer over at Sitepoint after an inflammatory tweet by Ryan Carson where he called the title UX Professional bullshit.

To most people I’m sure debating job titles seems a waste of time and self absorbing, and it is, but for me it’s been enjoyable. It’s forced me to think further about why I use the term UX Designer as opposed to other titles and has made me more comfortable about my decision.

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Pagination, a thing of the past?

A screenshot of a traditional pagination UI element showing 1 2 3 etc and next page links

Traditional pagination

Pagination, those 1 2 3 .. Next page links at the bottom of a page of search results or content. Are they dying a slow death? I think so and when you step back and think about it, it makes perfect sense. Why do we need it? If you scroll to the bottom of a page of content surely that’s indicating you want to see more? So, website, load some more and save me the click and time!

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My interview with 3 UX designers

UX Australia Logo

UX Australia Logo

I recently conducted an interview with 3 UX Designers who will be speaking at the 2010 UX Australia conference – this year hosted in my home town of Melbourne (August 25-27).

The interview is on sitepoint.com entitled UX Design: What it is, What it Takes, and Where it’s Going.

I’m really happy with how it turned out, I thought the guys had some insightful views especially around what it takes to be a good UX Designer. Have a read and let me know what you think.

How we won FullCodePress

The winning codaroos team. Photo courtesy of FullCodePress

It’s been almost a month since myself and the rest of the Aussie team brought the FullCodePress trophy to the shores of Australia for the first time. After suffering defeat at the hands of the New Zealand team for the first 2 years it was a nice feeling to win. And what a fantastic event to be a part of. I really enjoyed what was an intense long weekend in Wellington – the friendly locals, the lovely meals, the stunning Martinis, the excellent Webstock talks and the event itself. It was certainly an experience I’ll never forget and am glad I plucked up the courage to be part of.

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Tumblr’s Payment Form

Craig, a colleague at 99designs, pointed out this new payment form on Tumblr to me the other day:

Screenshot of Tumblr Payment Form in a popup box.

Tumblr payment form

He framed it as “it’s not very often a payment form wows [him]” and it highlights to me how we designers sometimes overlook pushing the boundaries for established conventions – particularly when it’s something as serious as a payment form. Nice work Tumblr!

The future of UI? I’m not so sure.

This TED talk I expect will get most UI/UX designers excited, as it should have me, but it didn’t. Some of the applications, like the wind tunnel and shadow/reflection architectural modeling, I think are fantastic but the “minority report” style interface I don’t see becoming ubiquitous at all. As cool as I think the interface is I just can’t see myself going to work and spending 8 hours a day standing up waving my hands and moving my body. We struggle to stay standing up for 10 minutes at work when we do our team stand-ups and a mice and keyboard sometimes feel like too much effort. And those images that he scans through, give me a search field and a scrollbar any day.

John Underkoffler points to the future of UI

Opening a link in a new window makes you look insecure

Saw a tweet saying that websites that open external links in new browser windows make themselves look insecure – “please don’t leave me for someone else”. I loved the description. I’m a believer in letting users control when things open in new windows but as with anything there are exceptions and linking to PDFs is one that I can live with – but then I think that’s the fault of the PDF format and the fact it has it’s own user interface, but that’s a rant for another day.