All entries for Thursday 17 March 2005

March 17, 2005

ETech day 4: Mind hacks for designers

  • Light comes from above
  • You have no visual buffer; if you can't see things side by side, you can't easily compare them
  • Subitizing and counting
  • Priming
Principles for interaction designers:-
  1. Know what's easy and what's hard to sense. 3D shapes are easy to sense, sudden changes are easy to sense.
  2. Follow the physics of attention – attention blindness lasts about 0.5s after an attenion event.
  3. Nothing is irrelevant
  4. Possibilities are just as visible as colour

ETech day 4: Life hacks

  • Plain text rules
  • Geeks have one or two apps that they feel comfortable with – Mail, RSS reader or whatever – and the rest of it is hand-rolled scripts.
  • Sharing everything is a useful strategy to help organisation – let other people help to tag and categorise and annotate your work

So what tools add most value?

  • Decent email search: GMail, LookOut, Tiger SpotLight
  • Social file sharing for everyone – share files with friends, family or even just yourself in different places or contexts – Flickr, Novell iFolder (open source?), Groove
  • Easy web scraping to convert important pages into RSS feeds
  • Keyboard macros – QuickSilver for OS X

Think of the simplest possible solution to the problem (paper?).

Alt-tab has no muscle memory because apps move around in the order, so it can't be done unconsciously. Apps like QuickSilver allow muscle memory to operate during context switching.

Top tip: Turn off the computer, the internet, the email, the IM.

Geeks like the web because they have short attention spans, and the web lets you not just find something relevant and important, but a ton of irrelevant, distracting, enticing things too.

Google Suggest is an early example of a new class of application which are helping to eliminate navigation.

Desktop search requires you to context switch to it, and it has no pagerank, so the cognitive effort of evaluating the results list is high.


Etech day 4: Observations

So, day 4 of ETech and my brain is starting to feel uncomfortably full. There's a couple more sessions stilll to come which look good – Danny and Merlin on Lifehacks, and Ben Trott from SixApart on making web services personal. In the meantime, a few random points culled from all the presentations I've seen so far:-

  • If there's an emerging theme over the whole conference that seems relevant to us, it's social software. The assertion has come up many times that social or collaborative software is the Next Big Thing on the interweb. We're already doing things in this space – blogs, forums, even SiteBuilder when it's used collaboratively – and coming here has given us ideas on how to extend and improve in this area.

  • The actual tagline for the conference is remixing. We started out thinking that seemed a bit gimmicky and not hugely relevant to us, but by yesterday evening we were in fact starting to throw around ideas for reusing existing applications and content at Warwick in new contexts – remixing, in a word – so it turned out to be more valuable than we first anticipated.

Some sound-bites:-

  • Small things loosely joined is a great description of the way to build web applications from one of the early sessions.

  • Promote your best users to positions of greater responsibility.

  • Don't hinder recombination

  • Applications are ongoing services, and users are growing more comfortable, even starting to expect, that a steady stream of new features will be part of the user experience.

  • Make the acqusition of metadata a side-effect of participation.

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