Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Designing Interactions: Chapter 3 - From the Desk to the Palm

Bill Moggridge

Moggridge, B. (2006) Designing Interactions, MIT Press, pp 155-235.

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it!" Xerox PARC credo

Chapter 3

In this chapter the development of interaction design for mobile use is explored. In doing so human cognitive facility is explored by Alan Kay of Xerox Parc. He believes that once designers realised that users have functioning minds true interface design began.

He sees this human cognitive facility as comprising of three mentalities:

  • a doing mentality;
  • an image mentality;
  • a symbolic mentality.
Good user interface design should integrate all three mentalities.

Kay also observes that designers learn by doing.

Later in this chapter Jeff Hawkins from Palm makes an interesting observation on working digitally. He raises the point that working digitally means not trying to capture the paperness of paper.

Rob Haitani of PalmOne, believes in putting people first. In developing the user interface for Palm he used a zen approach resulting in four guidelines to design:

  • Less is more;
  • Avoid adding features;
  • Strive for fewer steps;
  • Simplicity is better than complexity.

He sums this up as: "If you look at it intuitively and ask what you do more frequently, some of these decisions just naturally bubble up to the top. It all depends on understanding your customers, but not on a very complex level."

Hawkins finishes the chapter off with an observation that reflects Kay's own observation on human cognitive facilities. "Brains like familiarity, but they get bored. They are genetically programmed to want to discover new patterns. You don't want it too new because that seems dangerous. You want it somewhat familiar and somewhat new. (…) You want newness combined with cleverness."

Monday, 26 May 2008

Designing Interactions: Chapter 2 - My Pc

Bill Moggridge

Moggridge, B. (2006) Designing Interactions, MIT Press, pp 75-151.

"Making things more humane for people" Bill Atkinson

"You iterate like that, testing, and then being willing to set aside and build from scratch again." Bill Atkinson

"It is the responsibility of the designer to help people understand what is happening!" Bill Verplank

"As interaction designers, we need to remember that it is not about the interface, it's about what people want to do!"
Cordell Ratzlaff

Chapter 2
The sections by Bill Verplank (Ivrea and Stanford) and were most informative for me. They revealed a richness and depth to designing I had not previously considered.

This diagram, based upon Verplank's, has been incredibly useful in summarizing interaction:

This diagram has been beneficial to me in the dissemination of the design process involved in designing for interaction. The cycle of know/do/feel compliments a previous conceptual diagram describing a framework on how experiencing an interaction works I have used in my teaching since about 2003. (de los Reyes, 2002):

In this diagram there is a trigger to set off the interaction that leads to a resolution to the interaction. The user must first know what the trigger is to set the interaction off and how to set it off (do). The interaction is communicated by either/or aural, visual, tactile feedback leading to the final resolution. This resolution can be experienced emotionally, physically, sensory, cognitively and intellectually (feel).

Verplank explains this process as "The responsibility of the designer to help people understand what is happening!"

To know what exactly to do, a designer develops a map of the interactions that shows an overview of how it works. This path through the interactions shows what to do and what currently a user needs to know.

To be able to do, control needs to be given to the user to initiate the process of interaction. Users' can either be given continuous control through the handles/joysticks/input devices; or, discrete control through the use of buttons. The use of buttons delegate the control to the machine.

Finally, through feedback, the user feels an emotional response (resolution) to the interactive process through the media that is used.

Verplank goes onto to discuss a four-step paradigm for the Interactive Design Process:

  • Motivation - errors or ideas;
  • Meaning - metaphors and scenarios;
  • Modes - models and tasks;
  • Mappings - displays and controls.

This process can be summarized as:

  • Step 1 - What needs to be achieved?;
  • Step 2 - How to communicate the meaning;
  • Step 3 - What does the user need to know?;
  • Step 4 - How to make the interaction useable.

As well as the Verplank interview, the interview with Cordell Ratzlaff was also informative. Ratzlaff, designer of Mac OS X, believes that "design should be driven first by user needs and desires."

He goes on to state that an interface needs to be appropriate for the people using it and the task being performed. It's all about what people want to do!

Finally Ratzlaff discusses future interactive web technologies focusing upon agent based interfaces. People consume content is a statement he makes. But he suggests a future paradigm where there will be no transactional steps, everything will be performed by one agent. Unfortunately, all efforts so far have failed to achieve this.

de los Reyes, A. (2002) Flash Design for Mobile Devices, Hungry Minds Inc. p36