In the Details: Overlap

I’ve installed Yosemite on two of my Macs now. So far, so good. I’ve had a chance to use a couple of the updated apps that came along with it. This is a screenshot from GarageBand.

Do you see that little slider in the top left corner? No, not the big one, the little one. The big one is the master volume control. That little one controls the zoom level of the audio tracks. The farther you move it to the right, the more you zoom in. I don’t know what their UI designer was thinking. Why did he or she decide to put it in the same space occupied by the timeline? If the timeline were only a display, that would be one thing, but it isn’t—it’s interactive. I can click in it to place the playback head. Furthermore, the little arrow that specifies the end of the audio track sits up there. Can you see it? The top corner of it is peeking out above the slider. You are supposed to be able to grab that and drag it to change the length of the audio file you are creating. Of course, since it marks the end, it is always right there at the right end of the timeline, right under that slider.

That’s a rookie mistake—not what I expect from Apple.

The Birth of a Book: Part 20

The book began shipping in early August, and I received a box containing my 15 free copies about the same time they were arriving in stores. It was exciting to pull it out and flip through, but even that moment was tarnished. The first thing I noticed was that the 100% marks on the graphs—you know, the ones that I pointed out were missing in the proofs—were missing. They’re in the final PDF, but they’re missing in the printed book. One of my friends found a typo, but that’s the only other mistake I’ve seen so far.

Thus ends the story about the year-long process I went through to publish my first book. Overall, it has been a positive experience, and I’m already seeing some benefits to being a published author. The acceptance and subsequent sell-out of my workshop at Midwest UX 14 is likely going to pay me more than I’ll make on the sale of the book anytime soon. If I knew then what I know now, I would certainly still do it, but I would have been a bit more demanding during the production process. I’ll consider doing another book in the future, but if I do, I may choose to work with a different publisher. At the very least, I’ll be very frank about what I expect and won’t be shy about making my own terms.

Read previous parts.

The Slow Scroll

Here’s an issue that has existed in Photoshop for years that I find exceedingly annoying, but Adobe apparently doesn’t consider to be a problem. When you are dragging out a selection using the marquee tool, if you drag past the edge of the window, it will automatically scroll the document in that direction, allowing you to select an area larger than what you are currently viewing. This capability has always been useful, but is now even more-so, due to the change in the crosshairs cursor. I now have to zoom way in to make sure I’m selecting the right pixels, so I often have to scroll the screen to complete my selection.

The problem is that the speed of the scroll varies depending on how far past the edge of the window you move your cursor. If your cursor remains right at the edge, the application assumes you aren’t going very far, and it scrolls very slowly, giving you plenty of control. Move the cursor far outside the window border and the image will fly across the screen. Of course, I use Photoshop with my window maximized, filling my display. All of my palettes are on another monitor. This means it is impossible for me to move the cursor more than the width of the window border, resulting in tediously long scroll times. So, I can either zoom out so that I can see the entire area I want to select, but can’t tell what pixels I’m selecting, or I can zoom in to see what I’m selecting and grow old while scrolling across the document.

Sold Out!

I’m pleased to say that my Midwest UX 2014 workshop has sold out. That means there are 30 people that I’ll be teaching how to architect their front end for reusability, maintainability, and efficiency. Many of them will hopefully start down the path that leads to full participation in implementation, resulting in a product that actually resembles the specified design in every detail, not to mention increased job satisfaction. The rest will at least be able to apply their knowledge to prototyping. We’ll be getting our hands dirty in HTML, CSS, and even a little JavaScript. There will be no sticky notes used in this workshop!

It’s going to be good times. Of course, if you missed the boat, you can always buy the book.

Small Screen, Big UI

I like the physical size of the iPhone 5. I can use it one-handed. It fits comfortably in the front pocket of my Levi’s. But what happens when Apple moves on to larger screens and designs the OS with them in mind?

This is TweetBot in landscape orientation while writing a tweet. I kind of like the way my avatar peers over the toolbar like Kilroy, but it makes it difficult to edit what you have typed. I’ve taken to editing in portrait mode. Maybe I’ll embrace a larger screen when my contract is up after all.

Interest Curve: iPhone

Continuing my rumination from yesterday, what is the interest curve of using an iPhone?

To answer that question, we first have to decide what scope we are plotting. Do we start with the announcement of the first iPhone? Talk about a hook! Or, do we scope down to somebody purchasing their first iPhone today? Even then, do we start with the ordering process or the unboxing? All of these experiences can be plotted as individual interest curves or as points within a larger interest curve. Such is the fractal nature of experiences.

For purposes of this post, I’ll select a much smaller scope—one that I can easily reference as I write this. What is the interest curve of turning on and unlocking an iPhone, as I do many times a day?

Let’s see if the process maps to the typical interest curve as depicted in Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design. At point A, I remove the phone from my pocket. The initial interest level is determined by my reason for doing so. If it’s due to a phone call, text message, or other notification that has asked for my attention, the initial interest level may be relatively high. The aural or tactile notification itself provides the hook. But let’s say I’m pulling out my phone simply because I’m standing around waiting for something with nothing to do. In that case, my interest level starts relatively low.

Now I press the button to turn it on. The screen lights up, and I’m immediately presented with visual notifications of everything I’ve missed since I last unlocked my phone. There may be email from a friend, a text from a family member, or a message from Instagram telling me that somebody liked my photo. Any one of these things may peek my interest, acting as the hook at B.

So, I decide to check out that email message. Since this is such a short interaction, points C, D, E, and F are all going to get rolled into the unlocking process. This is what is referred to as the rising action. I swipe the message to the left, and I’m presented with buttons for marking the message as read and deleting it. Oops, that’s not what I meant to do. Maybe that puts as at point C. Then I swipe to the right and am presented with the pin code keypad—not so interesting (D). But, I still appreciate the convenience of Touch ID. I press my finger to the button and voilà, I’m staring at the email message at point G, the climax of the interaction. Of course, if we were analyzing a larger scope, seeing the email might only be point C.

It seems there is some value to using the interest curve as a tool for evaluating interaction.

Interest Curve

Last week, in my game design course, we were learning about interest curves. This is an example of the general interest curve you will find in most good stories—in fact, most good experiences of any kind—as depicted in Jesse Schell’s book The Art of Game Design.

There is typically a hook at the very beginning that grabs your attention (B), followed by a longer progression of events that build to a climax (G) before the story resolves (H). And, it is a fractal pattern. If you zoom into to a finer level of detail, you’ll see the same pattern repeated in smaller scale between letters D and E, for example.

I’m wondering if this can also apply to experiences we have with products and software. Does the experience I have with my iPhone have a similar interest curve? What about my experience signing up for Twitter or checking the balance of my savings account? Does the fractal pattern hold up from the microinteractions through to the lifespan of a product or the length of my subscription to a service?

I’m betting that for some of these experiences, there will be a similar curve, while for others there will decidedly not be. I’m curious as to whether designing for the curve will help, and would be appropriate for, the experiences that don’t currently map.