Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Linux in Media

I know for a fact that a lot of Sci Fi original movies use Linux in their computer scenes (one of them was really, really, obviously Gnome desktop, which made me extremely happy). it's free, doesn't violate any copyrights, and allows the movie makers to customise the look of it so it can look suprar scientific. I wonder how much media actually uses Linux for their "fancy tech computer" scenes...or if most of them just use a flash movie or what...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

World Usability Day

I went to World Usability Day down at IU and was really impressed, that was a fantastic conference. Very, very, very small, but gave me a lot to think about and didn't put me in a grouchy mood. No one there expect myself, Dr. Gestwicki, and Austin were programmers, which made us feel like outsiders in a sense, but we all still gained a lot by going and enjoyed ourselves quite a bit.

The highlight of the conference was definitely Rod Collier, the guy who designed the Letterman Building here at Ball State. His presentation was both informative and interesting, his PowerPoint was amazing, and he gave some fantastic examples of innovative design in his own home (which he designed himself!).

Unfortunately I didn't get a good sense of what everyone was thinking of when they were talking about design and usability...I guess it was just physical objects...but most everyone there avoided the topic of computers like the plague (even the guy who worked for Tuitive, which designs web-based apps and webpages for clients). This was unfortunate, since CS could use more good usability people.

Another refreshing aspect was the attitude; everyone there obviously knew what they were talking about, but didn't seem to be wallowing in their own sense of self-importance, which was extremely refreshing...I felt like this was due to the fact that these people are professionals, working for real clients, rather than a group of artists, which really makes an enormous difference.

It also encouraged me to get a better design sense...I still have a lot of work to do in that regard. Especially since one of my interests is web design, this will be an essential skill. Unfortunately I'll always be a struggling outsider, because I don't fool myself into believing for a minute that design is something people can just "pick up". The amount of studies done on usability, the ridiculous amount of unusable systems, and the amount of money companies will spend on design are all obvious proof that design is another "this isn't as easy at it looks" area, but on the plus side, I'm far more aware of it now than I ever was before.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to redesign my website again :)

Surface Project Success!!!

I meant to post this WAY earlier, but I've been unbelievably busy. The Surface project was a great success! It didn't crash, people seemed reasonably interested in it, and we made some very interesting observations.

Primary observations of interest:
1) People didn't seem aware of what the navagation bar was. They would mess around with the cards already on the table rather than interacting with the navigation bar.
2) They kept trying to resize the cards (totally understandable)...we'll need to build in a flexible resize function for all the UI elements if there is any continued work on this project.
3) They "accidentally" discovered the flip function. Again, there needed to be an obvious visual cue for this.
4) They kept trying to interact with their own names, which was, in retrospect, a completely obvious interaction we neglected to take advantage of due to time constraints.

We're going to start going through the data soon, which will also be extremely interesting. More to come!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Brief UI Post

I installed TweetDeck today just to check it out:

Oh. My. God. Why. This is easily the worst UI design I've seen in a while. What do all those little icons do? I have no idea until I hover over them with the mouse. Why so much noise? I can't even tell what I'm freaking looking at.

And don't get me started on the Growl integration:

Yeah, that's attractive...takes up a ton of screen real estate, makes an annoying sound, and doesn't conform to my Growl theme (quick toaster pop-up along the bottom).

I hate, hate, hate cluttered UI designs that take up more space than they deserve. If you can fit all your content into a thin column, you make the application the size of said column. If you need more of these content windows, there's this concept call tabs. Nothing that only takes 140 characters to display should EVER take up my entire desktop real estate.

To be fair, I'm a stickler for clean desktops. As should be obvious:

So I'm definitely biased. But I have trouble viewing something like that as usable. Need to do more research on this topic :)