Archive for the ‘UX Design’ Category

I’m a whiteboard elitist

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I’m a whiteboard elitist. I do not consider any surface other than porcelain-on-steel to even be a whiteboard. I will not suffer dried-out dry erase markers in the room, or even half-dry ones. I toss them in the trash, with gusto. Melamine or showerboard fall into the category of cheap tools when used for marking. Whiteboards are dynamic, never static. Everything written on a whiteboard is considered volatile and subject to change or erasure at any time. If you want to save it, take a picture of it. “Save” magnets are devilspawn. Taping things to whiteboards is the moral equivalent of neck tattoos.

I believe that the most expensive thing in the workshop is cheap tools. Whiteboards are tools for thinking, and scrimping on whiteboards is ultimately self-destructive. Thinking is the most important thing we do, and we should have the best tools for doing it.

Lessons Learned at the Startup Lessons Learned Conference

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

At a colleague’s urging, I attended Eric Ries’ Startup Lessons Learned Conference in San Francisco yesterday. I’m very glad I did. As Bob MacNeal points out in his post on the same conference, it’s all about how you frame things.

This conference wasn’t about design or agile or questing after quality or investment money. It was about how to be an entrepreneur in a very special, very unique market place that exists now, but has never existed before.

On the Web, nobody knows you’re a dog, and on the Web, nobody knows that you don’t have a freaking clue about who you are, what you are doing, or whether you are for real. Good news for us entrepreneurs!

“Lean” startup isn’t about being lean in any context other than ab initio entrepreneuring on the Web in 2010. When the entrepreneurial barriers-to-entry drop to zero, the normal rules are suspended.

As long as you don’t draw any conclusions about non-Web-startup businesses, the SLL lessons are excellent. Of course, this begs the bigger question of, How long will it be before all businesses are Web startups?

There Because It’s There

Friday, February 26th, 2010

I was poking around the internet when I stumbled upon a reference to a year-old blog posting by Jakob Nielsen. The referring person was a UX professional who asked,

“Have you seen what Jakob Nielsen suggests about masking passwords: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/passwords.html. I think he’s gone cuckoo.”

Upon reading that provocative accusation, I had to follow the link to see just how crazy old Jakob had become.

But Jakob’s brief, clear post was relevant, correct and well-reasoned. He instructed us to stop masking password entry fields. It was the UX professional who had “gone cuckoo.”

Showing bullets instead of the actual characters of your password to obscure it from onlookers is one of those interface idioms that have been around forever. Unfortunately, its age is the only possible reason for its continued existence. Its effect is the opposite of its intent to enhance security.

One of my design axioms is, “Design for the probable; provide for the possible.” It is possible that some nefarious person with both the means and motive to steal your identity is just awaiting the opportunity to peer over your shoulder and memorize your 8-character, mixed-case, partially numeric, non-mnemonic password. However, it is far, far more probable that you are alone, or where nobody can clearly see your mobile’s screen, or in a pub surrounded by friends with whom you have shared far more than just access to your Amazon account.

What’s more, because the characters are obscured, it is far, far more probable that you will hesitate halfway through typing your password and lose your confidence that you have typed correctly. This forces you into taking the extra step of erasing and retyping. In other words, the extra thought and work is frequently necessitated but rarely useful. Instead, a simple option to turn on masking, pushed the extra work onto the rare—but possible—case when one is surfing the internet in a hostile environment.

Password masking undoubtedly originated when some clever programmer put it in a program to show off. I can hear him now, bragging to his colleagues, “Somebody might need to enter his password in a hostile environment”. Whenever you hear that telltale phrase, “Somebody might…” you are about to be covered in interface slime.

“Panic” buttons on automobile remote entry keyfobs is an identical problem. I suppose it is theoretically possible to imagine a case when someone would want to intentionally set off their car alarm, but I have never heard even a whisper of a real situation. But what is far more probable is what happened to me just the other night. I was watching TV and accidentally dropped the remote. Upon bending to pick it up, something in my pants pocket pressed against my keyfob, and my car’s alarm went off. Everybody in the neighborhood heard the blasting horn while I fumbled to shut it off.

I guarantee that some automotive engineer a decade ago, working on the new remote keyless entry system, had a brainstorm about a rare possibility. “Somebody might want to set the alarm off intentionally” he said to himself, and created the Panic button. The marketing department loved the idea because it seemed they could offer a new feature at no additional cost.

Sadly, there is additional cost, one not measured in money, but in the lowered quality of experience. I would gladly pay to have that evil Panic button removed from my keyfob, yet every new car still comes with one, simply because it has always been there, and that’s a terrible rationale.

Jakob Nielsen pleads with us to “clean up the cobwebs and remove stuff that’s there only because it’s always been there.” I think it’s cuckoo not to.

Other blogposts from the #agile_retreat

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

So far I know of these excellent blog posts regarding the #agile_retreat

Michael Long

Craig Villamor

Johanna Kollmann

Jeremy Johnson