Sorry everyone - technical issues this week (again) meant this show didn't go live. Next week for sure. I'll be switching to QT Broadcaster streaming to Justin.tv which will let me record all video, no matter what happens.
Thanks to Lukas for taking the time out to chat to me. We'll try again soon.
Sunday 7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific Time, 23:00 UTC, 9am Monday, AEST
I just became aware of a nice eye-tracking study on website forms, using samples from Yahoo! Mail, Googlemail, Hotmail and eBay. The 10 Web form design guidelines are the result of eyetracking data captured by CXpartners, and contains subtle and practical tips. via @johnparillo via @georgesduverger
Episode 2 went completely haywire, and turned out unwatchable due to audio problems. Sorry all — Next episode I should have it all sorted.
Respected UX expert and blogger Whitney Hess has just published the latest in her Mentors and Heroes series, featuring yours truly. It's my take on a personal inspiration to me, Douglas Engelbart, Computer pioneer. I'm really happy with how it turned out — an AHA! moment — finding myself with the perspective that Doug's success, and 'failure' was won and lost by the same principle: bootstrapping.
"The realization I had was this: The people who Doug envisioned using his system wanted to do the VERY SAME THING that Doug’s team had done: Bootstrap! The users wanted to leverage what they knew already in the real world, and once inside the machine, learn as they went. The system needed to allow and encourage bootstrapping of *knowledge*."
I included a list of my own conclusions:
- Doug had used his background in RADAR, and inspired by Bush’s article As We May Think to imagine a future office worker’s challenges. He, and many talented people around him, worked hard to to bring this idea to fruition, and were DECADES ahead of anything else. Lesson: It is possible to imagine and build the future, if it’s clear in your mind.
- Doug and his team believed in Bootstrapping — leveraging what they had to build the systems they needed, then using the improved system to get to the next level. Repeat as necessary. Lesson: Leverage what you have.
- The Mother of All Demos changed the computing world forever, but ultimately Doug’s system never was implemented widely. In fact, the patent on the mouse expired before it was ever mass-produced. Lesson: Just because it’s great doesn’t mean people will ‘get it’ or want to buy it.
- In the end, most of the talent in Doug’s team was poached byXerox for PARC. Apparently, Doug had some unusual, ultimately unsuccessful ways of managing people at SRI. So they left. Lesson: A team needs to be happy to last.
- The impact of the brilliant 1968 demo echoed for decades. Lesson: Demo well.
If you've read this far, then you'll surely enjoy the full article on my hero, Doug Engelbart at Pleasure and Pain.
Pilot episode of 'The UX Hour' going live now.
UPDATE: A success! Many thanks to everyone who watched and contributed in chat particularly @formulate
On-demand video now placed here. (nothing happens in the first few minutes of video - hang in there)
Click to watch this episode on demand.
I'm still working out the livestream.com embedding, so please let me know if you have problems watching the show.
UPDATE:My rounded rectangles cognitive argument is getting a good thrashing — which is a good thing. I'm as keen as anyone to find out if the theory holds water, and if you can direct me to better research, I'd love to read it. Please share! May, 1981 According to folklore, in the early development of the Apple Macintosh, resident graphics genius Bill Atkinson performed a miracle. He found a way to overcome the Mac's 6800 chip's math limitations thus enabling the OS to draw circles and ellipses (not just rectangles) on the screen at a blistering speed. He proudly showed this new ability off to the team. But this was not enough for the leader of the Mac team, Steve Jobs. No, the father of the Macintosh asked for one more thing. That thing was rounded rectangles. Rectangles with rounded corners. Rectangles with the sharp bits beveled off. Friendly rectangles. Steve wanted the Mac to speedily draw ellipses, squared rectangles AND rounded rectangles. But Bill was certain this shape would be extremely difficult to draw at speed. And not even a necessary part of the Mac's drawing library. Jobs disagreed;
"Rectangles with rounded corners are everywhere!" — Steve Jobs
Steve took Bill on a walk, pointing out the ubiquity of rounded rectangles in the world around them. Eventually a rounded rectangular No Parking sign convinced Bill.
Visual cues, such as the arrow on a pop-up menu, help people recognize familiar elements. People learn to associate certain behaviors with specific elements based on their appearance. For example, people recognize push buttons by their rounded shape… — OSX Human Interface Guidelines
Rounded rectangles didn't stop with software. Increasingly, the rounded rectangle has become the parti of Apple hardware design. The shape made large machines approachable and small ones pocketable. But why is it so visually appealing? Sure, there is a certain synesthesia to a shape which has no 'sharp' edges to poke yourself on, even if it's just rendered out of pixels on a screen. But what of the aesthetic? Rounded rectangles simple seem 'easier on the eye' than the square-edged variety. Why?Time for an expert: I asked Professor Jürg Nänni, author of the exemplary Visual Perception, a book detailing our best-to-date scientific understanding of the processes involved in visual cognition. "Could rounded rectangles actually take less effort to see?"
Nänni confirmed my theory: "You are absolutely right. A rectangle with sharp edges takes indeed a little bit more cognitive visible effort than for example an ellipse of the same size. Our "fovea-eye" is even faster in recording a circle. Edges involve additional neuronal image tools. The process is therefore slowed down."
Professor Nänni is saying that rounded rectangles are literally easier on the eye. Put another way, compared to square-edged rectangles, rounded rectangles are more computationally efficient for the human brain. To me, this is a revelation. An idea that at the very least demands more investigation.
If I'm an interaction or experience designer, the machine I am optimizing for is the human. I want a design that takes the least CPU cycles for the same output. And from my current perspective, rounded rectangles provide an example of optimizing a design to reduce human visual system's CPU cost. There's only so much visual attention to spend.What is the visual cognitive cost of…
- …a garish color scheme VS a beautiful one?
- …instantaneous disconnected movement VS smoothly animated motion?
- …one font as compared to another, in a particular context?
[UPDATE: I've switched the order of the 'animated' bullet point to save confusion]So! The rounded rectangle is seemingly just the tip of the iceberg in linking cognition to aesthetics, but I'm not sure how to move forward. I don't expect UI and UX designers to have their skills replaced overnight by some magic formulae. I do expect that examples like the rounded rectangle will strengthen the argument to 'go the extra mile' to make interfaces which are aesthetically pleasing. Now I want to know what other examples there might be which show that certain aesthetic elements are, in fact, simply optimizations for the human visual system.
I'm sorry to say I'm having some last-minute technical difficulties with audio routing for the planned UX Hour live video call-in session. Unfortunately because of this problem, The UX Hour is postponed (probably) until the same time next week.
My apologies to anyone who was up early/late in anticipation. :-( I plan to make it up with an awesome debut next week!