Magic Ink


The ubiquity of frustrating, unhelpful software interfaces has motivated decades of research into “Human-Computer Interaction.” In this paper, I suggest that the long-standing focus on “interaction” may be misguided. For a majority subset of software, called “information software,” I argue that interactivity is actually a curse for users and a crutch for designers, and users’ goals can be better satisfied through other means.

#Information software design can be seen as the design of context-sensitive information graphics. I demonstrate the crucial role of information graphic design, and present three approaches to context-sensitivity, of which interactivity is the last resort. After discussing the cultural changes necessary for these design ideas to take root, I address their implementation. I outline a tool which may allow designers to create data-dependent graphics with no engineering assistance, and also outline a platform which may allow an unprecedented level of implicit context-sharing between independent programs. I conclude by asserting that the principles of information software design will become critical as technology improves.

#Although this paper presents a number of concrete design and engineering ideas, the larger intent is to introduce a “unified theory” of information software design, and provide inspiration and direction for progressive designers who suspect that the world of software isn’t as flat as they’ve been told.

Lots of good stuff here.


Prompting Errors, Warnings etc.

Some good points on System Feedback to user. Found it here. Btw…

Question: Do we follow any such standards for visual representations (icons) for prompts of such nature on devices?


Recently there has been some controversy related to IE8, Critical Windows Updates, and multi-step wizard style interfaces vs. leveraging default settings. But most of these debates have centered on things like text size and interactive flows. I personally believe there is also a visual design component to this issue as well.

Standard Dialog Box Icons

The Windows User Experience Guidelines for Standard Dialog Icon Use

This quote is from Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines > Guidelines > Aesthetics > Standard Icons

Message type vs. severity

Choose standard icons based the message type, not the severity of the underlying issue. The message types are:

* Error. An error or problem that has occurred.
* Warning. A condition that might cause a problem in the future.
* Information. Useful information.

Different operating systems have slightly different guidelines for using the standard dialog box icons, for instance sometimes the error icon is used to indicate an error that is the system’s fault, while the warning icon is used to indicate a significant problem that is (or will be) the user’s fault. Also Vista tends to only use the blue question icon as an entry point to help, with guidelines stating: “Don’t use the question mark icon to ask questions. Again, use the question mark icon only for Help entry points. There is no need to ask questions using the question mark icon anyway—it’s sufficient to present a main instruction as a question.” Contrary to the Windows-specific guidelines, Firefox in some situations uses a question mark for direct questions that have a significant consequence, but do not involve any form of error.

These standard dialog icons also metaphorically associate with physical objects in the real world. For instance an equilateral triangle form is commonly used to represent traffic warnings.


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Recession or Perception?

This story is about a man who once upon a time was selling Hotdogs by the roadside. He was illiterate, so he never read newspapers. He was hard of hearing, so he never listened to the radio. His eyes were weak, so he never watched television. But enthusiastically, he sold lots of hotdogs.

He was smart enough to offer some attractive schemes to increase his sales. His sales and profit went up. He ordered more a more raw material and buns and sold more. He recruited more supporting staff to serve more customers. He started offering home deliveries. Eventually he got himself a bigger and better stove. As his business was growing, the son, who had recently graduated from college, joined his father.
Then something strange happened.

The son asked, "Dad, aren’t you aware of the great recession that is coming our way?" The father replied, "No, but tell me about it." The son said, "The international situation is terrible. The domestic situation is even worse. We should be prepared for the coming bad times."

The man thought that since his son had been to college, read the papers, listened to the radio and watched TV. He ought to know and his advice should not be taken lightly. So the next day onwards, the father cut down the his raw material order and buns, took down the colorful signboard, removed all the special schemes he was offering to the customers and was no longer as enthusiastic. He reduced his staff strength by giving layoffs. Very soon, fewer and fewer people bothered to stop at his Hotdog stand. And his sales started coming down rapidly and so did the profit. The father said to his son, "Son, you were right". "We are in the middle of a recession and crisis. I am glad you warned me ahead of time."

Moral of the Story: It’s all in your MIND! And we actually FUEL this recession much more than we think.

WinMobile 6.5’s honeycomb UI


Why Windows Mobile 6.5’s honeycomb menu is not just a “glorified grid”, rather, simple ingenuity

Several weeks ago, some pundits were quick to dismiss Windows Mobile 6.5’s honeycomb menu as a “glorified grid”, an Engadget editorial put it – “a sign that Microsoft has gone out of its way to avoid a grid”, but that’s what happens when misinformed “journalists” try to appear smart. The truth is, the honeycomb from a usability perspective is superior than traditional square grids for a touch interface. Here’s why.

Contrary to popular belief, the tip of human fingers is not squared, but in fact circle-shaped when depressed against a hard surface like a touchscreen. When you’re space-constrained as you are in something like the applications menu – where there’s a fine balance between how many icons can be displayed at one time and how easy it is to hit the icons, large circular hitareas makes it easier for users to touch the desired icons and avoid accidentally hitting nearby icons.

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How to kill Innovation

userfly – web usability testing made easy

Run instant usability studies for your website using your real users. You can get it up & running in seconds with one line of javascript, and immediately watch movies of your users’ browsing sessions to analyze their behavior. from Chris Estreich on Vimeo.

@ IDC, IIT-Bombay attending course on HCI

Right now, am at IIT-B attending the HCI course by Prof. Anirudha Joshi. 🙂

User Experience

How important is this? I am going to be blogging my experiences with Usability and User Experience here.