Google Effects on Memory

This scientific research paper is a quick read. The reading, however, is interrupted in few places by the actual numeric data from the research which appear quite cryptic. But you can skip over the numeric data and still come away with a clear understanding of what the research is about and its findings. The paper eventually comes to a comprehensible conclusion written in plain English for normal folks. Continue reading “Google Effects on Memory”

What vs. Why

Let’s imagine you walked into McDonald’s and saw a post-retirement aged man working the cash register or wiping the tables. What would you think? Would you think that he has made foolish choices when he was younger and didn’t save enough? Would you conclude that he works there because he desperately needed the money? What if you saw him get off work and get into a late model Buick or Lexus that costs more than your car? That would make you think a bit more about your prior conclusions, wouldn’t it? Continue reading “What vs. Why”

Translating the Language of Software for Humans

I have finally summarized in few short words the ultimate purpose and the goal of a UX professional. It’s translating the software language into human friendly conceptual model. It may come across as somewhat philosophical but it isn’t. It literally means what it says. For my job, I am constantly converting what the software does into something that humans can easily understand. Continue reading “Translating the Language of Software for Humans”

Number of Clicks vs. Quality of Clicks

Reducing the number of clicks (I will use the word ‘click’ to represent both click and tap of touch devices) at any cost is one of the stickiest web design mantra handed down from the old school of thought. Less click is generally a good thing, but blindly reducing the number of clicks does not guarantee a positive user experience. Web clicks got a bad rap beginning from the early days of the web. Many poorly designed UI resulted in needless and wasted clicks. This is one reason the effort to reduce clicks became so prevalent. Continue reading “Number of Clicks vs. Quality of Clicks”

Web Design: What to Learn First

Over the years the all encompassing term ‘web designer’ is replaced by number of more specific-sounding names; User Interface (UI) Designer, User Experience (UX) Designer, Front-End Designer, or Interaction Designer to name a few. Depending on where you work, some of these terms may actually be tied to a specific role unique from one another. But in general, they are used interchangeably. Apart from the fact that these may be more period correct titles, they are all part of the archaic umbrella ‘web design’. Continue reading “Web Design: What to Learn First”

Design – Art with Constraints

Be creative, be different! This is the one phrase that mostly sums up everything design students are taught at schools as well as what is expected of designers in the society.
If you work in the art and entertainment industry, it’s easy to experiment with things that are shockingly different, cool, and exciting. Creativity can be made tangible and obvious. In some industries you can try things for the sake of trying, be different for sake of being different and still keep your job. Continue reading “Design – Art with Constraints”

Make Boring Interesting

“If I could work on something more exciting, I can kick some ass as a designer. Things I work on now is just too boring”. I’ve heard many designers say things along those lines many, many times. They’re the ones who think those ho-hum projects don’t deserve their best efforts. Those who think this way most likely will not succeed no matter where they work. Because the problem lies in their mentality not in the projects. Continue reading “Make Boring Interesting”

True Inspirations

The ‘Experience’ in User Experience is a cumulative outcome of many different practices working in harmony. Everything from aesthetics, technology, psychology, and economics play an important role in creating the experience. User experience isn’t a characteristic unique to web. User experience is an attribute of every man-made creation that comes in contact with a human being through any one or more of our senses. Inspirations for effective UX can come from anywhere. Continue reading “True Inspirations”

Become a confident designer

UX/UI designers are not artists who merely make things pretty. They are problem solvers of various domains. User experience designers need to have keen knowledge of visual arts, psychology, business agenda, cognitive science as well as various web technologies. User experience professionals are also mind readers. They need to anticipate what users will do next. They persuade, nudge, and guide users for a successful journey and a positive experience. And yes, they also need to make things look pretty. Continue reading “Become a confident designer”

We all are nightmare clients

The most difficult thing about being a designer is not the designing itself. It’s dealing with clients. I’m sure we all at one time or another have worked with nightmare clients. They are indecisive. They don’t know what they want. They change their mind all the time. Most designers don’t have a clue why clients act this way. They simply conclude clients are insane. Designers become frustrated and switch from creative mode to “just-get-the-shit-done” mode. It happens all the time. This isn’t cool nor healthy for either parties. Continue reading “We all are nightmare clients”

Smart consistency vs. Foolish consistency

The words ‘simple’ and consistent’ is thrown around all the time in design and web development circles. Clients, stakeholders, designers, architects and developers alike all over love to blurt these words thinking they are some sort of silver bullet to designing.  Some simply feel they need to say it because they’ve heard other people say it all the time. Some wave the simple & consistency flag as a way of saying ‘don’t-want-to-create-any-more-work-than-we-can-get-away-with’ sort of thing. Continue reading “Smart consistency vs. Foolish consistency”

Single Brain UI Design & Development

Many UI professionals – typically in smaller to mid-sized organizations – are responsible for both visual design as well as front-end development. In such set-up, a UI designer/developer works directly with back-end programmers usually with the same code base and in the same environment. The handing over of files between teams and the need for extraneous instructions is virtually eliminated. This typically results in far more nimble and accurate transition from concept to execution. Continue reading “Single Brain UI Design & Development”

Looking at average Joe’s interweb

Not that long ago, when the general public was just getting to know the internet, the imagery, text, spinning globe, and flashing colors shown through a big fat CRT monitor was collectively referred to as the internet. To an average person, the computer or the internet is what you see on the monitor. Ever seen movies where a man with a gun shoots at the monitor thinking he’s destroying the computer? Right. I bring this up to point out that to the general public, the internet has a physical size; it’s the size of the monitor or the display. Continue reading “Looking at average Joe’s interweb”

Recommended Books for UX Professionals and Designers

Like many people in my line of profession, I have overlapping duties: part UI developer, part visual designer, and part UX/usability consultant. Because front-end code, front-end design, and user experience are all tightly connected and must work in harmony. The designer in me directs me to make things cool and trendy, the UX expert in me tells me I have to make things that work, while a developer in me insists I need to make things efficient. They all keep each other in check because we don’t build things that are merely cool and pretty; we build things that must also work. Continue reading “Recommended Books for UX Professionals and Designers”

Oh my, what’s up at Apple…

I really couldn’t care less about the fact that the new iPhone that Apple introduced three months late wasn’t an iPhone5. However, as a web designer, I do seem to notice somethings more than others. Things like how they present new products on their website, design, layout, etc.

If you visited apple.com today, you’ll see that somebody was in a terrible hurry to get the iPhone site up. The iPhone images used in the slides weren’t properly cropped. Someone forgot to remove the white background on the corners and between the buttons. This became obvious because they added drop shadows behind the phones (I’m sure Apple probably have fixed this by the time anyone reads this post).

Things like this never happen on apple.com. Normally, something like this would never fly under designer’s radar at Apple or elsewhere. There’s only one explanation for such goof up. The phone images were switched at the very, very last minute. So last minute that no one at Apple had a chance to review the page.
Maybe it was images of iPhone5 that was originally meant for this animation. We’d never know…

Silly example from Apple website

Apple is usually sensible especially when it comes to their website design and usability. But I noticed something on Apple’s site that sort of insulted my intelligence. This happened when I was browsing their site for a new Macbook Pro. Once you drill down to the product detail you will see an image of the Macbook Pro on the right hand side. Below it are three links that let’s you view the three different sizes that MacBook Pro comes in; 13″, 15″, and 17″.

Continue reading “Silly example from Apple website”

The iPhone Cover-Up

The new iPhone 4, like generations before it, is a beautifully styled object. It appears cunningly simple at first but the amount of attention given to detail and design of each piece that make up the exterior is truly admirable. The texture, the curve, the sheen and the bevel of each button and pieces are styled and carved to make this one of the most strikingly elegant industrial design in recent years. Continue reading “The iPhone Cover-Up”

Understanding your clients

Hardest thing about being a designer is not the designing itself, it’s understanding clients. We all have dealt with indecisive clients who don’t seem to know what they want and change their mind all the time. There are times when approvals or design sign-offs seem to have no effect at all. Most designers don’t have a clue why certain clients act this way and conclude that clients are insane. Continue reading “Understanding your clients”

Flash – How to hide layers from movie without deleting the layer

I had quite a few people ask me how they can hide a layer in Flash without actually deleting that layer. The little “X” below the eye icon hides a layer from view while you’re working on a file but doesn’t hide that layer from a published movie. What if you don’t want certain layers to be published in a movie but yet do not want to delete them in case you want it back? Many beginners simply delete the layer, test movie, and then undo the deletion if they want the layer back. While this works, it’s not very elegant nor efficient especially when you’re dealing with multiple layers. Not to mention relying on undo is very risky in Flash.

This is where the “Guide” layer comes in. The Guide feature is originally intended to hold a path on which an object should move. Since you wouldn’t want the guide to show in a movie, Flash hides any layer designated as a guide. Since you can designate any layer as a Guide layer, this in turn works perfectly in case you want to hide a layer from a published movie temporarily. Just turn the guide on to hide and turn it back off if you want to include it back in the movie! Simple and elegant.

Get to know WordPress plus real web development

I’d like to single out yet another skill-set a web designer must be aware of. It’s WordPress. The enormous popularity of the WordPress platform along with blogging and simple content management has transformed the way we build lightweight websites. It’s unlikely that a large scale site or application would be built entirely of WordPress but we see it being used in blog sections of popular websites such as The New York Times.

WordPress has become so popular, that in some circles, a web designer is known as someone who customizes and designs for WordPress. Contrary to popular belief, however, working with WordPress does not free web designers from the need to learn and gain knowledge of other existing web technologies. WordPress is like a well prepared blank canvass that a designer or a developer must enhance upon. WordPress only frees us from reinventing the wheel, but as far as improving and spicing up the wheel, we can all get creative and sky is the limit.

It’s easy being Picasso

Seriously. Picasso created art as he saw fit. No one questions Picasso. If Picasso decides a woman’s right eye should be twice as large than the other, no one dared to argue otherwise. When Picasso sees a nostril of a goat would be a good match for a woman’s face, people go crazy throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at it.

I would guess that Picasso rarely had to deal with user experience, commercial feasibility, cultural compatibility, revisions, or approvals from fifteen different people. Those things are what lowly designers like us worry about. Because um…, we’re not Picasso.

Complainers are innovators in web development

For those of us who have been developing websites since the 1990s, it’s easy to lay back and say “it won’t get any better than this” as far as front-end development and client-side technologies go. We’ve lived through the early days of web development using primitive HTML tags, rustic browsers, and all of the growing pains of web. It’s amazing how the craft has improved over the years. Stylesheets are now well supported, browsers are much smarter and compliant, not to mention numerous javascript libraries and access to developer communities. So it’s easy to think this is the pinnacle for our tools of the trade. Continue reading “Complainers are innovators in web development”

So you wanna be a Web Designer

Many, many years ago, a web designer was someone who came up with somewhat believable Photoshop renderings of what a webpage could look like. Sometime later a web designer was expected to know some HTML along with pretty good Photoshop skills. A few years later, a web designer had to have some javascript knowledge, have good HTML skills, Photoshop knowledge along with decent discipline in aesthetics. Next, a web designer became someone who knows about CSS, DHTML, XHTML, XML, XSL, JSON and AJAX along with number of scripting frameworks.

Today, a typical web designer is most likely armed with most if not all of the skills mentioned above. Also, a web designer must possess a working knowledge of various web languages and a pretty good understanding of the programming language in general not to mention the knowledge of databases. Otherwise, it’s difficult to earn any  respect or work with other web professionals. In another words, a web designers is a serious jack-of-all-trades. Prepare to be overwhelmed.

You suck at Photoshop

If you haven’t seen You suck at Photoshop tutorials, start watching now. Not only you learn quite a bit on how to use Photoshop for your everyday casual use, the guy is hillarious. It’s not all jokes and comedy. These are genuine Photoshop tutorials. And no, the guy isn’t retarded. He just talks that way and it works. Here are few of my favorite ones. Discover them all on youtube.