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links for 15 June 2007

links for 14 June 2007

Come to dConstruct!

dConstruct Around this time last year I was holidaying in Thailand, which was blissful. The downside, however, is that I was offline when the dConstruct tickets went on sale and just hours later – they were all gone :(

I’ve never been to a dConstruct conference before, but I’d heard such great things, I was already doing everything I could to get tickets this year – and then they announced that the theme was ‘Designing the User Experience’. Well. dConstruct just became unmissable.

I’ll be there this year (in a much more active way than I’d originally anticipated!), and you should be too – but you’ll need to get in fast!

One great way to secure yourself a ticket to dConstruct is to sign up for a workshop or two, but be quick because tickets to the workshops have just been released.

Andy Budd, one of the conference organisers, has written a great overview of the sessions so I’m going to borrow vast swathes from his blog and repost it here for you:

Just a quick heads-up to let everybody know that dConstruct workshop tickets are now on sale. We’ve got some great sessions planned, all with a user experience or information architecture theme. And the best news is, if you book a seat at any one of these workshops, you’ll automatically get free entrance to the dConstruct conference. As this event usually sells out in a couple of days, this is the very best way to be guaranteed a place.

On Wednesday we have Leisa Reichelt doing a workshop on, er workshops. More specifically, Leisa will be looking at various hands on techniques IA and UX professionals can use to capture ideas and communicate with clients. I had a lot of fun during Leisa’s “Design Consequences” session at BarCamp London, so expect lots of scribbling on sticky notes, sketching interfaces and generally getting your hands dirty.

For the more developer minded, we have a full day workshop with Mr Microformats himself, Tantek Celik. Along with his trusty sidekick, Jeremy Keith, this dynamic due will be taking you on a whirlwind tour of the most exciting thing to happen with semantic mark-up since death of the tag. So get your text editors at the ready, and be prepared for a day of geeky fun.

Thursday sees Thomas Vander Wal, tagmeister extraordinaire, run a session on how to build the social web through tagging. The man who put the “folk” in folksonomy will look at the social and managerial issues behind tagging, and help you design your own tagging strategy. This session will be perfect for anybody dealing with large collections of data, like museums, galleries or even online pet stores. Just don’t mention dogging.

Lastly, we have Peter Merholz, one of the “big guns” from Adaptive Path, running a workshop on experience design. Peter will be drawing from his years of experience as a consultant to explain how to analyse problems and develop solutions. This is already looking like a very popular workshop and one we recommend doing in conjunction with Leisa’s workshop.

Place on these workshops is limited, and already selling out fast. So if you want to learn from some of the best people in the industry, I recommend you go check them out.

I second Andy’s recommendation. dConstruct is, by all accounts, a fantastic British conference and should be loads of fun this year. I hope to see you there!

The Halo Effect – Why Apple gets away with rubbish interaction design

As have many others in the past year or so, I recently swapped from PC to a new MacBook.

It certainly has been an experience, and it’s nice to actually have something to take out of my bag at conferences that looks so cute, that doesn’t make that embarrassing Window’s startup sound, that has a half decent battery life and that doesn’t take half a century to boot up. (My old laptop was generally out of battery by the time it finally booted, making it all but useless in conference environments anyway).

It has to be said though, that when it comes to interaction design, there are quite a few examples where the Mac falls short of my old PC.

This is not a post about the things that Apple does badly though (although, seriously – can we get past the one button mouse already? and I do think that dialog box is pretty shocking, and those little triangles that so often hide much of the information I’m looking for in Mac applications…. please!). This is a post about what Apple does well, and how this helps them get away with doing some things not so well.

As a general rule, Apple does a brilliant job with design. Highlights include the iPod, their in-store experience, the ‘out of the box’ experience, and the product design for most of their computers.

Enter, the Halo Effect. The Halo Effect is a Cognitive Bias (something our brains do that kind of tricks us or is a bit lazy, but also makes us more efficient than, say, computers). This particular cognitive bias means that the impressions we already have of someone or something colour how we perceive their current and future actions. Or, in Wikipedia speak ‘the perception of a particular trait is influenced by the perception of the former traits in a sequence of interpretations.’

So, all of Apple’s good design work of the past influence our perception of other design work we encounter. It also influences our reaction to things like, say, their customer service once you’ve bought their product. In some instances, some of these traits are not so desirable, but because of the great positive association we have between Apple and design, we are almost blinded to the fact that they’re not really delivering to the standard we’ve come to expect.

This accounts for the effect that new Mac users would be familiar with whenever they dare complain about something that Apple has designed – the almost-killer-attack of long term Mac users who seem to be almost blind to the idea that there may be something imperfect about a Mac!

OK, so that’s an exaggeration. But I bet you know what I mean :)

The Halo Effect and attractiveness are also closely linked, meaning that we are more likely to imbue attractive things with positive traits than we are less attractive things. Thereby, simply by virtue of the fact that my MacBook looks a whole lot more attractive than my now retired ThinkPad, I’m more likely to attribute it with traits like good interaction design… even when there may be much evidence to the contrary.

We can learn a lot from Apple and the Halo Effect though. If our company or our product becomes associated with good design over time, and if we design attractive products, then our customers will not be waiting to savage us when, in the future, we slip up a little accidentally. Quite the opposite – investing in good design now is almost like investing in a margin for error in the future. And couldn’t we all do with one of those now and then.

Meanwhile, next time you are attacked by rampant long-term Mac users, play nicely.

They may get a little over enthusiastic at times, but that’s just their cognitive bias talking ;)