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

Just enough research

12/19/14

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

12/19/14

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

12/19/14

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

12/19/14

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

12/19/14

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.

Newsletters

12/19/14

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

12/19/14

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.

Material Design

12/19/14

The design changeover is being driven from the top. Ever since Steve Jobs has died and Larry took over as CEO, he's gotten the design religion, and his goal is for Google's design to remain fresh and drive trends forward perpetually. So as far as the company is concerned, this is a feature, not a bug. It's true that the individual designers responsible for doing the design often vary from project to project. However, there's a fair amount of continuity as well. The designer who initiated the design refresh announced today has been with the company since 2006; the designer I worked with for the visual refresh of 2010 now heads up design for all of Search. They are explicitly told by executives to make things fresh and remove previous constraints when imagining the new Google.

No wonder Android gets redesigned very year, management wants it to be "fresh". Problem is that design should be driven by function, not by a desire to be hip. I think that's why Android designs always seem shallow and poorly thought through below the surface.

Sweden’s proposed six-hour workday

12/19/14

I moved from the US (high on the list) to the Netherlands (bottom of the list) a while ago. Different jobs and sectors vary, but the theme I can confirm is that the Dutch feel more productive, generally (I work in software development). In very broad terms, the Dutch are more likely to plan and stick to those plans. Personal time and time off are valued, so you need to be efficient in your working hours. You can't really expect someone to respond to your emails after working hours. Having to work in the weekends at all is a sign of bad project management, and should be exceptional. Meetings have agendas which are sent out ahead of time. Americans are generally more optimistic, which makes for worse time management and planning, which leads to overtime and stress. Being seen at work somehow equals working, and internal guilt for not working efficiently while at work leads to more weekend work. There's a big focus how much you've 'worked' this week. Interruption is common for things which could be structured. To be honest, it's been pretty difficult to adjust, but the payoff is huge. Actual free time after work, real weekends, and longer vacations are all possible because people plan... whereas friends back home are often unable to plan vacations because they/their boss don't know how busy they'll be in 5 months.

What are common mistakes that new or inexperienced managers make?

12/19/14

The single most common mistake I see managers making is assuming that their job is to manage the people rather than the project, closely followed by trying to micro-manage the project itself. Trust and delegation are key to all of this. A good manager looks after a project not its people, concentrates on the big picture while letting others deal with the small details. A good manager achieves this by delegation.

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