Act now! They’re going fast.

I just learned today that there are only 12 tickets left for my full day workshop at Midwest UX 2014. I believe that means I currently have 18 folks registered. This is promising to be a fun and exciting day. It excites me, because I expect many participants will be able to immediately put what they learn into practice, saving themselves hours of work and improving their satisfaction with their delivered products. Here’s what one attendee told me a few months after my workshop:

As far as the workshop, yes, I definitely have applied concepts to a few of our products.

Specifically, OOCSS is the biggest thing. I’ve made a conscious effort to use OOCSS when I’m laying something out. We aren’t to the point yet where we have reusable styles that cross product lines, but that is the goal. It is sad, in a way, as a few of our products use UI frameworks, namely jQuery UI. The frameworks use OOCSS all over the place. We couldn’t see the forest for the trees. It was right in front of our eyes this entire time, and we were still styling things by ID in a non-reusable manner. Now we are moving in a better direction, albeit slowly, and we may have reduced the amount of CSS that we write.

If you want to get in on this, here’s the information about the workshop, and here’s where you can register.

See you in Indianapolis!

I’m not dead yet.

Way back before Twitter was a thing, there was a neat little mailing list for the IxDG. No, that’s not a typo. It was the Interaction Design Group before it became the official association we know and love. The mailing list had to have been one of the most successful discussion groups of its day. Its participants were very active. Against all odds, discussions were relevant, intelligent, and while some were heated, trolling was almost nonexistent. True friendships and professional partnerships were birthed from it. Then the organization got serious.

The IxDA decided to launch a new platform, replacing the aging forum with a robust discussion board befitting members of our profession. There were grand ideas and a lot of heart, but the result fell short. There were a lot of technical issues. The platform switch, the rise of blogging, Twitter, and other channels, and a huge influx of new members all created a situation that saw participation in the IxDA discussions drop off significantly. Where I was once getting around 100 posts a day sent to my inbox, the torrent reduced to a trickle. For years now, the forum has been a pale ghost of its former vibrancy.

But it doesn’t want to go on the cart! This week, a brand new discussion board has launched, and it looks promising. The visual design is appealing, it’s mobile friendly, and it has the bells and whistles one would expect of a contemporary web application. A few of us have already started some new discussions. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of trying to follow threads through tweets—some by those I follow and some by those I don’t—and worse, trying to express my own view in so few characters. I pine for the rich, deep, debates we used to have about design theory, craft, and yes, even defining the damn thing. Won’t you join us?

By the way, the IxDA discussion archives, dating all the way back to October of 2003 are still available. This is an excellent resource—over a decade of instigative design thinking.

I feel happy!

Back to Basics: Field Formatting

I was filling out a form on AT&T’s website over the weekend, and it required me to enter my daughter’s phone number. So, I typed it in, separating the segments of the number with hyphens. When I tabbed to the next field, the phone number field turned red as shown below. It didn’t tell me what was wrong, nor did it tell me what format it required. So, I tried putting the area code in parentheses. That didn’t work either. Finally, I decided to remove the parens, space, and dash.

Any form expecting a phone number should be smart enough to strip out non-essential characters and simply validate on the number of provided digits. Even should a form require a specific format, it should inform the user of that format (that help icon did not provide formatting information, by the way). Furthermore, when a value is entered incorrectly, the error message should indicate the problem. Telling me to enter an area code and phone number does not help when I have already done so.

In the Details: in

I took a brief look at Health after updating to iOS 8. I’m afraid I’m unimpressed with what I saw. Apple seems to have foregone their typical level of care and intuitiveness. For example, after choosing to enter my height, I was presented with this screen:


Notice how it simply says Add Data, rather than reminding me what exactly I’m here to enter. The label for the field in which I’m to enter my height is cryptically labeled “in”. I saw it and thought, “in what?” Worse yet, I have to calculate my height, converting from a combination of feet and inches to just inches, in my head.

I also had to enter my birth date, even though I know that piece of information is available elsewhere. This just doesn’t feel like an Apple experience.

Rewarding in Other Ways

I just received my first royalty check from my publisher. It covers the first month of sales, which I assume includes all pre-orders. The check is for $237.86. Per my contract, I make 12% of every sale, so I figure they have made $1,982.16. The book sells on Amazon for $36.07, so I estimate they sold about 55 copies.

That doesn’t sound like particularly good sales to me, but I don’t have a point of comparison. Certainly, i’ve found the book to be rewarding in many ways, but it doesn’t look as though money will be one of them.

Curriculum – Part 3

So, what is a college to do? There is too much to fit into a 4-year undergraduate program, let alone a 2-year masters degree. There are too many skills, too many approaches and processes, and way too many tools. Where should the focus be?

Do you go for breadth to make sure students understand the landscape and where they can play in it? I believe that to be very important, but it must be done briefly to allow focussed instruction as well.  I try to canvass the design landscape in a single semester for my students, because I want them to break out of the graphic design silo that I find them in. It doesn’t necessarily give them enough depth in any one discipline to qualify them as a professional, but at least it gives them the opportunity and direction to pursue something that particularly interests them.

Do you focus on process, assuming that if students graduate with a strong, yet flexible design process, they will be able to adapt it to every situation, every job, every domain they find themselves working in?

Should education be heavily weighted toward skills and tools, making graduates immediately employable in production, knowing that they will grow and develop strategy muscles through mentorship and on-the-job training? Or should specialized skills and tools be ignored, knowing that they may be outdated within a year or two after graduation?

Is it better to build a program around up-and-coming disciplines, planting flags and defining roles, even though they may not be hiring in large numbers for several years? Or would students be better off focussing on areas of practice that may not be pushing the boundaries but are hiring like mad?

And are there different answers depending on whether its an undergraduate or graduate degree program?

To be continued…

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