RSS

Tag Archives: UX

Wednesday film: Chip Kidd on design clarity and mystery

When I came across this TED talk from Chip Kidd today, I thought about how it relates to my recent post about ebooks.  You see, much of Kidd’s talk is about designing book covers. He discusses how he came up with the concept for the cover of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami, a book that I have waiting on my Kindle, and I was struck by two things: how much of his design intent I miss by experiencing the cover in that medium, and how important it is that covers are now made to be meaningful at icon size as well. That’s been true as long as online bookstores have existed, but now they are navigational elements on our reading devices as well as tiny ads.

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Side Topics, Video

 

Tags: , , , ,

Considering policy issues around social media and accessibility

Model View Culture has a new article about three online dialogues organized by the National Council on Disability and the US Department of Labor’s Office on Disability Employment Policy. The three topics were:

  1. Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media: The User Experience
  2. Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media: The Tech Perspective
  3. Encouraging People with Disabilities to Pursue Careers in STEM

Frankly, the answers voted as best in each category are pretty simple things: a prompt to add descriptive alt text to social media images, an indication of whether closed captioning was generated (and likely of poor quality) or done with human oversight, and job shadowing/internship programs. It’s been a decade since I left my job at Gigantic Internet Corporation, but at the time, our projects all had accessibility and internationalization requirements. Now that so much content is produced by individuals or small companies, it seems those factors are often ignored, perhaps because of lack of knowledge as much as lack of empathy. I should know better myself, but I’m sloppy about the alt text on images I share.

The author makes this point:

Accessibility needs to be ‘baked in,’ integrated into every department of a social media company (e.g., software engineering, product management, communication and marketing, usability, user experience, interaction design) rather than ‘layered on,’ added as an afterthought or in the middle of a product’s development

Yes. That’s another reason why the company I talked about in this post made my hackles rise. In choosing to only provide voice chat and not text on a public social platform, they explained that other people could make text chat add-ons, or hey — soon 3D cameras will allow people to use sign language and be understood!  That response still makes me growl in anger. First of all, it’s not only profoundly deaf (and ASL fluent) people who prefer text chat. Others quickly jumped into the forum thread to talk about partial hearing loss, speech impediments, accents, easier intelligibility of a second language in text, and lack of private working spaces.

It saddens me that in 2015, people with disabilities are still fighting for access so many of us take for granted. Another article in the previous month’s Model View Culture, Taking the Social Model of Disability Online addresses that same issue.  It’s an informative piece about accessibility and UX for things like social media, apps, online stores, and games.

I also like an article that she links to: Reframing Accessibility for the Web. That essay begins:

We need to change the way we talk about accessibility. Most people are taught that “web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web”—the official definition from the W3C. This is wrong. Web accessibility means that people can use the web.

Designing for accessibility can be a hard sell to small companies and tiny app studios. I’m thinking of a friend’s company, which has only a couple developers and produces a business service product. I’m sure that if I asked about the accessibility of his software, he’d snort in laughter. Taking the time to learn about, code, and test accessibility on the tiny chance that one of their clients might have an employee with those needs is difficult to justify. (In this particular case, the company has free human phone assistance for someone who couldn’t use the web-based system, though that wasn’t provided with accessibility in mind.)  But, it makes me think of when I needed  to use a cane and a helpful theater staff member directed me away from a short flight of stairs and to the elevator: down a long hallway, around some turns, through a storage area, another hundred yards or so, and there! An elevator. Workarounds are often time consuming and painful, but I suppose they’re better than nothing.

I’ll pay more attention to my alt text from now on.  It’s not much, but it’s easy to do and should be the default rather than the exception. Maybe a little bit of awareness can start to make a difference for others, too.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Health - Mental & Physical

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Recently discovered: medical robobear, UX reading, fast ethnography, useful websites

telescope

♦ WIRED has a story about this fuzzy bear robot developed at the MIT Media Lab for use with children in medical settings. They’re running a pilot study now. The video won’t embed, but you can watch it here. If it seems the bear is surprisingly aware and interactive, that’s because he’s more of a puppet, controlled Wizard of Oz style by a person at a laptop hidden nearby.

♦ This UX Reading List is a great resource for people interested in, as the author puts it, the disciplines of “User Research, Usability, Information Architecture, User-Interface Design, Interaction Design, Content Strategy or Experience Strategy”.

♦ When learning to be anthropologists, especially doing ethnographic research, we’re taught the value of time. Hanging out is a valid research technique, in the context of apparently doing little but observing, building relationships, or simply letting others get used to having you there.  A year of field work is a nice start. So, it’s really a change to think of writing ethnography quickly, to contribute an anthropological point of view as events unfold in a digital age. This essay by Yarimar Bonilla on Savage Minds would have sparked a big debate in some of my university classrooms, especially with my most traditional professor who would chide us with repeated lines like, “Anthropologists do not guess or predict! They describe, clarify, and contextualize!” (I break her rules all the time, as do most anthropologists I’ve known.)

♦ Lifehacker has a list of single-purpose websites that do exactly what they claim to do. I’ve used a couple of them and I’d add Can I Stream It? (canistream.it), too.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Digital device round-up: Disney MagicBand, Amazon Echo, Apple Watch

Feeling mousy

Disney MagicBand

This is about user experience, not just about Disney. You can sneer about Disney if you like, but they are awfully good at designing and managing the experience in their American parks and hotels. The first time I saw “cast members” in Florida vacuuming up puddles after a brief rainfall, I must have been around 12 years old, but the implications stuck with me. The Disney experience is controlled, planned, and created to make a specific illusion, nature be damned. And, I’ll be frank: if you splurge to indulge in the full experience, booking through Disney, staying in one of their resorts and using their transportation and restaurants, everything is consistent, integrated, and cheesy but fun. I wouldn’t describe myself as a Disney fan and my stepson is in his 20s, so I don’t have to deal with the corporation on a regular basis, but I enjoy their parks.

So, this Wired article on the Disney MagicBand is fascinating. A design team was given the specific directive to eliminate friction points in Disney World experience. They came up with a wearable wristband… but the design story and the implications are so much more.  Really, read the article.  It’s about the design process, trading privacy for convenience, and invisible technology. I found it inspiring because I’m a huge fan of user-focused design.

Amazon Echo 

I’ve had Alexa (the trigger name for the Echo) for a few months now and I still find her useful for basic things. I use the timer, alarm, and add to shopping/to do list functions many times each week. It’s incredibly useful to be able to say, “Alexa, set timer for 18 minutes,” while my hands are full or, “Alexa, add salsa to my shopping list” as I shake the last globs out of a jar. That’s difficult to convey in marketing. It’s like trying to convince my parents to use a DVR; it’s hard to understand how useful it is until you live with it for a while, but then it becomes part of daily life.

I suspect that they’ve updated the Echo to hear “Alexa” more easily, or perhaps to be less selective about the pronunciation, because she’s reacted to the TV more in the past couple of weeks than in months before. When I’m watching a show and a disembodied voice suddenly says, “Hmm, I didn’t understand that,” it’s an uncomfortable reminder that she’s always listening. And, she’s listening carefully. I can be halfway across the house and talk to her in a normal conversational tone. Other than what I’ve mentioned above, I use her to stream some podcasts and radio shows, tell me the weather forecast, and play the top news headlines, but I never use her for information I’d get from an Internet search.  Google Now is so far ahead in that functionality that using the Echo is frustrating.

Apple Watch

If someone is going to make a breakthrough, usable design for a smartwatch, the excellent team at Apple is probably the one to do it, but the Fusion article “Class anxiety, brought to you by Apple” nailed a lot of my thoughts. The author makes a point that while many household budgets had to stretch to afford Apple products in the past, it was possible. The fact that anyone from an Uber driver to Mark Zuckerberg could have the same phone was somewhat egalitarian. However, by setting such high prices, they’ve established the edition watches as status items. Let’s be honest, even the $349 sport edition is spendy for a peripheral. The Apple Watch is intriguing, though I think that smartwatches are another example of DVR marketing: hard to understand how/if they can be life-changing until you use one. I stopped wearing a watch decades ago because I find them uncomfortable and distracting. This won’t be the product that changes my mind, and if my husband is going to have an expensive watch, he’d prefer the Leatherman Tread:

 

A personal update 

Jakob was admitted to the hospital yesterday. He was so weakened by chemotherapy that walking a few steps left him exhausted, unable to breathe, heart pounding. He hasn’t been able to eat and the limited nutrition from meal-replacement drinks hasn’t been enough. (For new readers: Jakob — my SL partner — has stage IV stomach cancer that metastasized to his brain. He has had surgery, radiation, and his first cycle of chemo.)

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 10, 2015 in Digital Devices

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: