design is a good idea (on ugliness, with some thoughts on the DesignGuys Craiglist ‘realignment’)

There’s been a whole lot of talk lately about ‘ugly design’ and the perception that ‘it works’. The often quoted examples are My Space, eBay, Craigs List, and Del.icio.us. As someone who spends too much time thinking about design and trying to apply user centred design principles to the projects I work on, I find this somewhat annoying.

First up, let’s define what we mean by design. There are really two different aspects to ‘design’ that people are referring to – there’s the design that I’m most interested in which is the information and interface design. Then there’s the design that is most often talked about, that’s the visual design. Both of these types of designs are important when it comes to thinking about this idea of ‘ugly design’ and why, sometimes, it appears to work.

Information/Interaction Design: no one likes bad information design. Bad information design means you can’t find the information you’re looking for because its badly placed, or doesn’t exist at all, or the ‘flags’ (or scent) you need to help you find the information are hard to find or non existent. When you come to a site like this, you leave. And you don’t come back, unless you absolutely have to. The internet is abundent with information and making information that people are looking for easy for them is an essential part of making your site somewhere they’ll visit and return to, and recommend to their social network. Good information design (which includes information architecture) is entry level to having ‘a site that works’.

Interaction design, when poorly executed, is also a source of frustration for users, and a good reason for them to seek out an alternative to your site. Interaction design is poorly executed when it doesn’t allow users to perform the tasks that they wish to perform on your site with thel least amount of effort. Taking the time to identify these tasks and to ensure that they are implemented efficiently means that your site becomes ‘easy to use’, which is compelling reason to choose your site over other alternatives.

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you’ve gotta know when to hold ’em…

Kenny Rogers

I *knew* it was just a matter of time before I was able to use Kenny Rogers on my blog.

And it’s all thanks to Joshua Porter who has written a great post comparing design with playing cards.

Each design is a new hand of cards. Not only are the cards we’re holding different every time, but so are the hands of the other players. Our hand is our own knowledge of the design project, and the hands of the others are the constraints that we must deal with.

Josh uses the card game metaphor to demonstrate how every design situation must be considered afresh and all the constraints, requirements and opportunities be evaluated anew each time. That old ‘tricks’ don’t necessarily apply in a new situtation. Or, to borrow his great closing line ‘three fives beat two aces every time.’

I’ll definitely be borrowing this analogy in the future. Go read it now, you’ll love it.

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links for 19 March 2006

argh. I can’t believe its 19 March already! Hope you all had a great weekend :)

Just one little link for you today, continuing some earlier thoughts on tag clouds and their potential for non-evilness.

Flickr? Not a flicker (of recognition)

Flickr Logo

I think I mentioned that I’ve been doing some user testing lately for a project I’m working on at the moment.

As part of that research, I included some questions to see whether services like Flickr and Del.icio.us were making any impact on the ‘general public’.

Working in web, and reading/writing blogs, it sometimes seems like *everyone* knows about Del.icio.us and Flickr and I find that perspective can influence the strategies that I am inclined to take with functionality and design for projects. It’s easy to start to think of Flickr, for example, as setting a number of 2.0 type conventions.

Except, it’s not really a convention if only a small group of people are aware of its existence.

And that, based on our research, is the case.

Not one person we interviewed (and, to put this in perspective, we interviewed about 18 people) volunteered either Flickr or Del.icio.us as services that they used online. Once prompted, they confirmed that they had never heard of either of them.

I guess its not really all that surprising. More like a reality check.

I’d be interested to hear of any other research that’s been done re: awareness of ‘2.0’ services in the world outside of the blogosphere.

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