error messages that speak to me

Zoinks!

I love websites that speak with a human voice, as the ClueTrain Manifesto says:

[we] communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.

I love even more error messages like this one that make it ever so clear that there are people behind this website – both through the voice and explicitly.

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define: design

and, speaking of definitions

is there another word responsible for so much confusion as ‘design’.

every time I use that word I have to spend another three sentences defining exactly what I mean by design… because there are so many different types of designing, and everyone has a different default setting.

I give you:

  • visual design (surface design, branding, etc. designers in charge of gorgeousness)
  • motion design (Visual designers specialising in things that move, animation, video etc.)
  • interface design (designing elements on a page that users interact with… e.g. forms, applications etc)
  • conceptual design (aka. strategic design, ‘the big idea’)
  • user experience design (related to but more than interface design)
  • information design (designing content, sometimes used to describe information architecture… I think, incorrectly)
  • interaction design (v. closely related to interface design, but more focus on the ‘interactive’… unsurprisingly)
  • instructional design (used largely in eLearning land, actually v. similar to conceptual design, but focussed specifically in imparting and measuring learning)

That’s just a quick list. I’m sure you have more.

I propose never to use the term ‘design’ in isolation ever again. From here on, I vow to always use it with a descriptor that ensures me meaning is entirely clear.

Well, as clear as possible.

Who’s with me?

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“I didn’t want them to think I was being smart” (user 15 mins after completing user testing session)

A friend of mine just finished being a ‘user’ for a testing company. They were doing final usability testing before launching a redesign of a well known online share trading website.

They’d asked him in because he’s been using this website every day for a few years now. It was the only reason he was interested in the internet. He struggles doing a search on Google, but he’s a power user of this site.

At the end of the user testing he emerged frustrated and a little angry.

He hated the new design, but because he’s so experienced with the tasks that he was asked to perform, he would have tested quite well.

When it came to the questionnaire, he said that he didn’t really tell them what he thought because he didn’t want them to think he was being ‘smart’.

‘I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they knew what they were doing and that they were making good decisions’.

Oh dear.