Journal Summary

•December 2, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Before enrolling in Theories and Practice of Interactivity, interaction design was not a foreign concept, but it wasn’t something to which I gave a whole lot of thought or analysis. Sure, there were gadgets, software and devices that I found either extremely user-friendly, or extremely frustrating. But I’d never applied the kinds of theory and principles to these experiences that we discussed in class and read about in our texts.

For our first Journal Entry, we were to write about several different video game experiences we participated in during class. Ranging from the Wii to text-based online games, it covered the wide spectrum of gaming. While certainly a fun way to start the quarter, it also served as a good jumping point for the remainder of our lectures and class exercises. Nintendo’s Wii console was certainly the most unique and is a shining example of how far interaction design has come in the video game world. The concept is simple: when you move, the character on screen mimics your movements. Many people are so enthralled with the controls that they overlook the design process that went into the console itself. Nintendo engineer Ashida Kenichiro has this to say about the design: “If it’s too much a toy, it won’t fit into the area around the TV. If it’s too much of an AV machine, it loses its charm as a design of an entertainment machine” (Reimer). The article goes on to state how the console was designed small due to the necessity of placing it in close proximity to the television in order for the motion sensing to work properly and accurately. To me, it was surprising that the Nintendo team was hesitant to make the console small. It seems like a smaller and more compact design would be preferable to most of Nintendo’s customers.

Journal Entry #2 allowed me to really focus on a Web site and what makes it work/not work. I’ve used Expedia in the past, and applying Nielsen’s Usability Heuristics to the site design made me realize how, though easy to use, Expedia is not that user-friendly when compared to a site like Kayak. I used some of these guidelines when providing feedback on the interactive holiday card that we are developing at my job. When writing descriptive and instructional copy for each step of the interactive process, it’s important to maintain consistency throughout so the user’s experience is as smooth as possible.

Our guest speaker from the Xbox team provided the fodder for Journal Entry #3. Once again we examined video games, this time Microsoft’s successful Xbox console. The significantly simplified and streamlined designed of the 360 made me think of Maeda’s book, and how his rules apply to the console. Reduction, organization and knowledge all seem to be integral ingredients of the 360’s revamped look and feel; from the controller, to the graphical interface of the menus. It appeared that Microsoft really took into account their knowledge of product design, and combined it with user feedback to generate a truly revolutionary gaming system. After doing a little research, I found this to be true. This image illustrates the process by which all aspects of the design were intended to converge:

0406_framing

As you can see, the design team really tried to integrate their brand into the design of the console. Don Coyner, General Manager of Design and Planning at Microsoft said “It is critical that you really have a team of people on brand and industrial design who understand the holistic customer experience and that it isn’t thought of as piecemeal. This experience might start from the retail display and continue through purchasing a product, handling the packaging, opening the box and exposing the product, removing and then turning on the product for the first time, etc. This entire experience must reflect the message the brand statement is trying to make” (Kemp).

0406_xbox_venn

A true collaborative effort, the story of the Xbox 360’s design is one that can be studied in much more detail than I have room to get into in this summary.

By the time Journal Entry #4 came around, we were ready to apply Moggridge’s theories to a list of pre-selected case studies. I chose American Apparel from Method’s site. The \ photo viewer on AA’s home page was something I was familiar with even before I read Method’s case study. The design is clean, and there are no real instructions for what the user needs to do. However, by simply playing with and exploring the interface, the user will discover how easy it is to navigate between photos. This is a great example of a simple interface that performs beautifully and exactly how you expect it to. It’s fluid and provides feedback to the user when they move their mouse around.

For our fifth and final Journal Entry, we were to write about a non-electronic object that preferably did not contain any sort of screen. I chose my dishwasher rack, although I could have picked a doorknob, my exercise ball, my razor or any number of objects around my house. This final assignment let me apply some of the principles of design to the non-digital world. Even though I interact with these objects every day, I never took into account the design principles that are involved in their inception.

Overall, COM 597 was a satisfying experience and our journal entries gave us a good opportunity to express our thoughts on a weekly basis. As an employee at a marketing agency, I am surrounded by design every day even though I am not a designer by trade. However, I plan on using what I’ve learned in this class to contribute feedback on projects here, and I one day hope to move into a strictly digital work environment. There, my knowledge of interaction design will surely give me an advantage over non-designers w hen it comes to giving feedback on a project or concepting a new Web site, mobile application or user interface.

Reimer, J. (2006). How the Wii was born. Retrieved November 30, 2008, from Ars Technica. http://arstechnica.com/articles/culture/wii.ars

Kemp, D. (2006). Collaboration and the creation of the Xbox 360. Retrieved December 2, 2008, from Core 77. http://www.core77.com/reactor/04.06_xbox.asp

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Journal Entry #5

•November 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

“The Design of Everyday Things” is not only the title of our reading assignment, it’s also a concept that many people take for granted, or don’t put that much thought into at all. You’d probably be shocked if you knew the amount of time and research that went into designing something as simple as say, the racks inside a dishwasher. These moving plastic parts are an essential tool for making sure your dishes get cleaned appropriately.

dw1

Many things must be taken into account: the size of common dishes, plates, bowl and glasses including weight, circumference, diameter, etc. What are all the possible combinations of arrangements of dishes? What are the most common sizes of glasses? All of these things and more must be studied and carefully measured by the designers in charge of constructing the perfect dishwasher rack.

There are only 2 moving parts inside my dishwasher that the user need worry about, and that are immediately accessible: each of the racks themselves. The top and bottom racks botch slide out on a set of wheels to allow easy loading and unloading of the contents. These racks slide outwards, towards the user, not inwards. This should be obvious, but is also clearly mapped by the shape of the racks and the inclination of the user to pull the racks towards themselves.

dw2

Spatially, the only place the racks could logically move to is towards you. I think even a person who time-traveled here from several hundred years ago would be able to figure out how to move the racks quite easily. Even though no visual instructions exist, the orientation of the racks and the lack of space in the back and on other side give a clear signal that the racks can only move out, and then in again.

As far as feedback goes, the dishwasher rack provides it appropriately. If the top rack has been overloaded with too many heavy dishes, the rack my dip down precariously, alerting the user that perhaps some dishes or glasses should be removed. If an object in the bottom rack, such as a large pot or pan, is too big, the bottom rack will not slide back appropriately allowing closure of the door. This will alert the user to either rearrange the objects in the rack, or remove it so the door can close.

Also, as mentioned earlier, when the rack is pulled outwards, the wheels on the tracks will eventually reach a stopper, causing the rack to stop moving and alerting the user to cease pulling. When moving the rack back inside the washer, the wheels will once again stop moving, sending the message to the user that the rack is fully back into place.

There is not much room for improvement in the world of dishwasher rack design. Some things about the rack will inevitably frustrate, of course. Certain items placed in corners will often fall through the space between the plastic strips that make up the rack. Shot glasses, spatulas and mixing spoons will almost certainly find their way through the cracks unless positioned appropriately. You’ll never be able to fit all of your variably-sized dishes and glasses into the racks perfectly.

In-class assignment 10/30/08

•October 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I think it’s great that people like A-ron can take their cultural identity (or lack thereof) and turn it into a successful brand. Even though t-shirts with ironic slogans or cryptic phrases might not be my cup of tea, if people are willing to pay for them, more power to the creators. Branding a t-shirt is probably one of the easiest ways to make a fashion statement.

Today’s class on brands showed me that a brand means different things to different people, and almost anything can be a brand. Brand ubiquity is something that every company strives for, but very few attain. Apple is an example. Nike is another. A brand is more than just a logo, it’s an added value and the way a product or company is perceived by an audience.

Journal Entry #4

•October 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

American Apparel is somewhat of a cultural phenomenon.  Love it or hate it, their brand is one of the most recognizable in the clothing world.  Their advertising is sexy, youthful and minimal, and their clothes are, for the most part, plain.  Yet, due to the colors and vibrancy of the material there is almost no mistaking an American Apparel garment.  Design firm Method was faced with the task of devising a unique and interactive way to show off American Apparel’s photography while keeping the style of the presentation within the company’s well-known and already established brand.

Method

The result was a media player/photo viewer with a transparent overlay covering the page’s other content.  When you visit americanapparel.net, the main focus of the page is a series of rotating image in the center.  Each photo in the slideshow is from the same series/photo-shoot.  Mousing over the image presents a series of disc shapes, and mousing over each individual disc shows a preview image on the right-hand side of a new image gallery to replace the main slideshow in the center of the page.  Visitors have the option to pause, play and skip through the image gallery.  The images sometimes contain nudity, yet the site offers no warning of inappropriate content.  Do they consider the nudity to be so tastefully or artfully presented that it is not considered pornographic?  It’s hard to say, but Method didn’t seem to mind.  Some photo sets do not even feature clothing, just photos of city blocks, warehouses or crowds of people.

While the final product is certainly much different than Ideo’s shopping cart, the design was fundamentally the same.  A group of designers were presented with a problem, and were tasked to come up with a solution.  In this case, the deliverable was a Web interface, not a physical item such as a shopping cart.  Although Method’s site does not describe the design process in the case study, it’s clear that they spent a good amount of time analyzing American Apparel’s current image.

In chapter 10, Moggridge notes that cultural anthropology can play a part in developing and designing products. The people who shop at American Apparel are certainly part of a subculture, and the image is not one for everyone. When designing the photo viewer, Method had to take into account the types of people who might be frequenting American Apparel’s site. Chances are, a 55 year-old construction worker from Arkansas would not be shopping for colorful hooded sweatshirts online, and therefore would have little reason to visit the site. The people who do visit the site, however, would be interested in seeing the clothing on models,

Journal Entry #3

•October 23, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The Xbox 360 is Microsoft’s successor to the original Xbox, which was their first foray into the home video game console market.  From a design standpoint, the Xbox 360 certainly a lot prettier than its predecessor.  Everything seems to be improved: the controller design as well as the smooth curves of the console.  The Xbox 360 is a nice machine to look at.

Maeda’s first law of simplicity states that “the simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.” Simplification in design and appearance appeared to be what the Xbox 360 design team was going for.

From this…


to this…

Starting with the controller, the Xbox team managed to remove much of the bulk of the original design without sacrificing functionality.  The console itself, while obviously becoming more powerful, has also changed into a slimmer and more ergonomic design.  The Xbox 360 is designed to either sit horizontally or stand vertically.  The machine knows which way it’s oriented, and changes the display lights corresponding with each controller based on a vertical or horizontal position.

All of this combined with customizable features like a faceplate and the console’s internal menu screens made for a successful launch of a next-generation console.

Nintendo has long been a champion of fun gameplay over powerful processing speed and fancy graphics.  With their Wii console, simplicity comes in the form of something completely different.  The Wii console is much smaller compated to both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.  That’s because the Wii is built for one thing only: games.  Nintendo followed Maeda’s first law to a tee.  Instead of adding a million functions and trying to make the Wii some sort of home media center, Nintendo stuck to what they do best, and that is make fun games.  Now the Wii may not be the living room media center that Microsoft and Sony hope to be, but it certainly has its place.

Project Proposal: Beer Trail Mobile Application

•October 23, 2008 • 2 Comments

Beer Trail – A Project Proposal by Chris Ellis & Annie Lee

Beer Trail is a mobile application designed for the tech-savvy beer enthusiast.  As beer aficionados ourselves, we thought it would be fun, informative and relevant to design an application that would provide other like-minded connoisseurs with beer information on their mobile devices.

The goal of our project is to focus on the strategic vision of the mobile application functionality as well as the design of the mobile user interface.  Our final deliverables would include:

– Flowcharts and wireframes that provide a template view of the final end product

– Mock-up designs of the mobile application

– A report that explains the functionalities of the mobile application, which include:

•    Location and directional information of nearby bars, brew pubs, bottle shops and breweries using GPS or zip code.  This is the main function of our mobile application: finding local establishments that cater to the beer enthusiast.

•    A beer-finder function based on location.  Searchable by brewery and individual beer name.

•    User reviews of pubs, bottle shops and breweries.

•    State drinking rules and regulations based on locale.

•    User-generated “where I’ve been” beer maps and personal statistical calculator.

•    User-generated drinking games.

To assist in the design and strategic planning of Beer Trail, we will need to research the following topics:

– Government websites pertaining to individual state liquor laws

– Different software development kits to help determine which programs will be suitable for creating mobile applications (iPhone SDK, etc.)

– Google Maps, Mapquest, and Live Search—to verify how applications interact with GPS and mapping capabilities as well as business databases

– User-generated review websites and mobile apps such as Yelp and CitySearch to find out design best practices

– The history and process of beer production and distribution

Beer Trail is worthy of proposing because it will help us learn the research process for the design and development of mobile applications from a strategic position and with a focus on user interaction.

Journal Entry #2

•October 16, 2008 • Leave a Comment

With the price of plane tickets skyrocketing, booking a flight online should provide the customer with as little aggravation as possible.  With several options available, travelers can easily find a site that fits their needs for online travel booking.

Expedia.com, based locally in Bellevue, is a popular site for finding flights, hotels, car rentals and other travel needs. Kayak.com offers the same services, but manages to present itself in a clutter-free, easily navigable way.  Expedia’s home page seems busy and overwhelming, while Kayak offers a clean and eye-pleasing interface with plenty of white space.  While Expedia’s home page is divided into three columns, only one of them is for actual search.  The other two appear to be advertising driven.  Kayak’s home page contains no advertising.  Let’s compare the two sites using some of Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Heuristics.

Visibility of system status

Both sites show an animated progress indicator while searching to let you know the site is “working.”  This is a common feature amongst travel sites.  Expedia’s progress indicator is a series of blinking dots, with no indication of when it will be finished searching, while Kayak’s is an actual green bar that fills up as the search nears completion.  Kayak gives the user a better visual representation of their search status.

Match between system and the real world

Each site uses appropriate and consumer-friendly language.

User control and freedom

Kayak let’s users manipulate their flight search results on the same screen using a series of sliding bars.  Expedia requires the user to perform a new search.

Consistency and standards

Each site maintains consistency throughout.

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Each site is easy enough for a beginner to use, although Expedia’s home page throws too much information at the user.

Aesthetic and minimalist design

This is a category where Kayak clearly wins.  If I’d never seen another travel site, or was comparing Expedia to Travelocity or Orbitz, I’d most likely have few problems with the design. But when compared to Kayak’s minimal, aesthetically pleasing and clean interface, Expedia seems like a jumbled and confusing mess.  I picture an elderly couple, trying to book a flight to their granddaughter’s wedding, and being utterly baffled by the multitude of options and places to click.

Expedia does not currently offer an optimized-for-mobile site or a mobile application.  However, when I visit Kayak.com on my iPhone, I am taken to a clean “smartphone mode” page, with my flight search fields clearly laid out in front of me. Clicking on a tab switches me to the hotel search page, while another will switch me to the standard, non-mobile Kayak site.  Kayak does not offer a pop-up calendar for date selection, however, and forces users to enter in the duration of their trip manually.  This is the only inconvenience on the mobile site.  After selecting my trip dates, I am taken to a new page that lists all of my flight options from the various carriers.  Kayak is also sure to note that booking a flight from your mobile device, while possible, is not recommended.