Notes on interaction design & development. Get the Feed.
By Christoph Ono, builder at GBKS, and tweetable at @GBKS.

2014 in review


Year three of consulting as a user experience designer and front-end developer has been really great, and also very busy. Here's a quick list of projects I was part of: * A conceptual iPad app for ordering food and drinks in restaurants * An iPad app used in schools by both teachers and students * A quoting tool for insurance agents * A conference website for an insurance company * An in-store touchscreen display for browsing beauty products * A social media display for the website of a fashion brand * Redesign of a utility ticketing system * Redesign of an online photo printing service * An iOS app for Cornify * Two real-time social media displays for events

I can only mention a few of the clients I've worked with, such as Pearson, ASOS, Nestle and NARS, but I can mention all the great agencies and friends I've worked with. I've now been working with Chad and Chris at Dive Creative for 3 years, and we've found a really good rhythm. Through them, I've had the chance to support Fino Consulting in New York with user experience design work. Also in New York, it's been great to reconnect and collaborate with the Made for Humans crew, old friends from agency times at Fi. There are several people I've talked to about projects that didn't pan out, but I'm hoping we can correct that in 2015.

Much of my time this year was eaten up by client work, so my own initiatives unfortunately suffered a little. The biggest things I got done were a redesign of Wookmark, updates to Capcam, the Cornify app and a redesign of GBKS. There's more in the works for each project.

The biggest challenge through the year has been to not just create functional interfaces, but to create interfaces that simply make sense to people and feel natural. Organizing information and figuring out how people should interact with it is at the core of user experience design. It is also an abstract task and will therefore remain difficult to perform at a high level. A lot of companies are realizing they have to become good at software, and they will need all the help they can. So both user experience design and front-end development are in high demand (which is amazing). A lot of great work is already being done, and with things like the Apple Watch and connected cars and homes on the horizon, I'm very excited about what will happen in 2015.

Miyamoto on 'amiibo,' 'Zelda' and 'Mario' movie


Since we first created Mario, people have compared him to Mickey Mouse. I've always said Mickey Mouse evolved with each evolution in animation. You saw Mickey Mouse each step of the way. From early on, I wanted Mario to be that character in the digital world, so that with each digital evolution, he was there to usher in the next era.

Just enough research


I like Erika Hall's approach to practical research. She wrote a book on it called "Just enough research", and below is her presentation on the topic. For me, it started to get interesting 23 minutes into the video.

Kern and Burn


We invite design entrepreneurs—those who pursue self-initiated projects, think for themselves, and channel personal passions into self-made careers—to share their perspectives. They are designers who dream big and burn the midnight oil to forge their own paths.

This looks interesting. I hope the interviews dig deep and stay away from the motivation top-level stuff you see at times. Fingers crossed.

A Rare Look at Design Genius Jony Ive: The Man Behind the Apple Watch


As you watch Ive walk off, politely thanking people, you recall that he closed up his private presentation by asking you to listen closely to a watchband as it is pulled off and then reconnected. “You just press this button and it slides off, and that is just gorgeous,” he was saying. He encouraged you to pause. “But listen as it closes,” he said. “It makes this fantastic k-chit.” He was nearly whispering. And when he said the word fantastic, he said it softly and slowly—“fan-tas-tic!”—as if he never wanted it to end. This is perhaps Ive’s greatest achievement: not that we can get our email more readily, but that we can stop to notice a small, quiet connection.

The Cargo Cult of Game Mechanics


See, the way these shady free-to-play games work... if we're honest, it kinda matches how Kickstarter plays out. Dramatic concept art. A beloved NPC in need. An XP bar to fill. Stretch goals to level up. Massive online multiplayer with social media tie ins, rally your friends.

I remember, a few years ago, when the big theme was that everything will be gamified. This was when Foursquare was all about getting badges for being mayor of your local coffee shop. Turns out that things got gamified in more surprising ways, such as this quote about Kickstarter.

Instapaper 6.0 Review


I realized that Instapaper works for me because its design and features accomplish an obvious but arduous task: they make words by others feel like something I want to read rather than an obligation or an unread badge that needs to be taken care of.

Making the mundane feel special. Creating an experience out of a few paragraphs of text. That's good design.



Recently I sign up for a few design & tech related newsletters. I really enjoy the format of a weekly, summarized update. It lets you be confident that you get a nice, concise summary of interesting news in your Inbox. Now, these are newsletters by individuals who are experts in their fields, not newsletters by companies or magazines.

Frame Clashes, or: Why the Facebook Emotion Experiment Stirs Such Emotion


Do we, as a public, want companies like Facebook to be able to do large scale human subject research outside the regulatory and normative framework that academia has developed? What kind of norms and regulations do we want for new practices like A/B testing and the power it entails? How can we safeguard that large-scale, fine-grained human subject research – both by corporate entities and individuals – does not harm the individual and public good?

Lots of discussion right now about the Facebook newsfeed experiment. The human subject research part is certainly a big issue. Others claim that the A/B testing Buzzfeed, Amazon, et al constantly do is the same thing, which is incorrect.

Facebook claims to be a utility to keep up with friends. There is an expectation that you should see the most important posts, whether they are good or bad, sad or happy. That's what it means to stay in touch with friends. Messing with what is shown means you are manipulating people's relationships, which should not be done lightly. How I feel about the posts I see should not matter. When my friends post something important, I should know.

The relationship between Amazon, Buzzfeed, etc and their users is different. They are not communication tools or social networks. On Facebook, friends post content, Facebook organizes that information, and then I see it. On Amazon, Buzzfeed, etc there are only two parties involved, and it's really just about me as the user. They post things I can decide to read or not, that's it.

So the newsfeed experiment, to me, is another big step in eroding trust and accountability between Facebook and it's user. You just really can't be sure anymore if Facebook is really helping you stay in touch with friends, or whether it's just trying to squeeze another click out of you by showing you whatever emotional post of moment.