Do you need to know Javascript to work with React?

Short answer: No.
Long answer: No, but…

React is a library written with javascript. You could be blindly following React tutorials without knowing lick of javascript and end up using javascript anyway without even knowing it.

Due to popularity of React, many beginning front-end developers delve right into React without knowing any other language. That’s okay. Many get by using React doing just that. However, just as any programming practice (or anything in life for that matter), merely following what you’re told has its limits. Only way to gain mastery is to understand why you’re doing what you do.

Some students prefer following sample React projects from beginning to end. Many classes take this approach mainly because it’s an easier way to lead a class. This approach has some advantages as it typically covers wider spectrum of the library. But bear in mind, most of these projects are conjured up assuming the most ideal scenario. In reality, you rarely get a chance to build a brand new React application from scratch. More so if you’re a noob.

Knowing the syntax and how things work is only a sliver of what makes a great programmer. These are things that have objective answers and are readily available upon search. The real skills of programming are how you solve problems during not-so ideal situations. In the real world, the not so-ideal is the norm.

If you’re only trained to follow the instructions you’ll not be able to respond effectively when the real-world problems strike. This is where knowing the “why” comes in handy. Understanding React is far easier for someone with a javascript background. Because React is javascript, essentially. They just need to wrap their head around the concept of JSX a bit. Even that becomes second nature quickly. You’ll see why things are written in certain way and why things work the way they do.

React has served as a gateway for many beginners into javascript. Although, that exact order isn’t what I’d recommend, it’s an agreeable path given the recent trend. As long as one has javascript knowledge along with React, they’re sure to complement each other. And that goes a long, long way when you’re faced with problems in a not-so ideal world and situations.

Do you really look good in those shoes?

You may have seen those floor mirrors at shoe stores that’s just big enough to show the shoes and few inches above it.  In the past, I thought these were pretty silly and  argued that people shouldn’t be making purchase decisions based on what they see in this type of mirror.
Think about it. It doesn’t matter who is standing in front of the mirror. You don’t see who is wearing those shoes. You don’t even get to see the rest of your outfit.

But I was wrong. This type of floor mirror is actually a very clever sales tool. (Whether by intent or by happy accident, I’m not sure.)

These mirrors just as well may have evolved out of budget or space concerns and nothing else. However, there is a very complex and mysterious force working behind these things.  Modern brain sciences and psychology can help explain what those are.

See, if you’re the one who’s standing in front of the mirror, your brain processes the image one way. If it’s anyone else, the brain will process it some other way. Even if that someone else was wearing the same outfit  and the same pair of shoes and the image reflected in the mirror is practically identical.

Yes, the same pair of shoes will look and feel different depending on who’s standing there. Even when you can’t see who is standing there.

So, what is really happening here? It turns out, what your brain sees is not always the same as what you see with your eyes. What we believe as “seeing” is actually an image conjured up by the brain triggered by the input (from our eyes). And what occurs majority of the time is, even when you’re not seeing the complete picture, your brain is completing it for you.
The brain automatically draws the image of you, your clothes, makeup, or jewelry even when they don’t appear in the mirror. Therefore, your mind is able to determine whether that pair is a good match for you or a no-go.
The brain adjusts the picture accordingly once it’s aware that someone else is standing in front of the mirror. All this happens without our conscious control. The brain is very good at estimating the obvious and the logical based on your past patterns, experiences, and knowledge.

There is something else going on here with the floor mirror.
See, the merchant has no control over what you’ll be wearing that day or how you’re going to have your hair, or what kind of jewelry will be hanging from your body. All of which can impact how the footwear shows.
The floor mirror avoids distractions or style clash by isolating the shoes visually from the factors not in their control. Yet, it still maintains a strong connection with the wearer due to how our brain functions.
I’m sure some merchants go with the floor mirrors based on budget and space not caring for any of this. But the floor mirrors work just as well or maybe even better than the full body mirror in some cases.

Many aspects of our lives are dependent on imaginations conjured up by the brain without our control. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to function. Most of the time, these imaginations are  good enough to carry on our days, including things like buying shoes. Obviously, there are times when you should exercise explicit control of your thoughts. Luckily, we do have control over when to switch the brain into the conscious and explicit thinking mode.

In recent years, science has uncovered lot of the mysteries of the human brain and the intricacies of its inner-workings. Most of the time, scientific discoveries are applied to enrich our lives. Regrettably, however, they can also be abused. Advertisers and marketers are usually the first to take advantage of this.

As UX professionals, our goal is to create experiences that favor the user.
A good user experience should guide the brain so that it can complete the picture in favor of the goal.  We don’t want the brain to imagine the wrong picture.
When we design, we need to look further than what simply appears on the surface. There is a science behind how elements affect the brain beyond just the aesthetics.

You can learn more about fascinating things that your brain does for you in David Eagleman’s ‘Incognito’.

Communication is only as good as what is being communicated

We celebrate the power of communication. We hail the capabilities that we have created as the most ingenious human creation.
Ever since the Gutenberg press humans have accelerated the spread of knowledge, right or wrong notwithstanding. Network technology made this even faster.

Communication is good. But, it is only as good as what is being communicated.
What has started as ‘information superhighway’ has become information wasteland. It’s been said that only a tiny fraction of information available in the world is actually useful information. And I don’t disagree. There are no shortage of instances where superfluous information has brought results that are no better than having had no information.

We no longer can tame or control the living beast that is the information network. It has life of its own. It no longer exists to serve the human race. It’s fueled by its mere existence and promotes self replication. The path it takes and its destiny is no longer dictated by us humans. All we can now do is, figure out a way to extract the bits that benefit our lives. We need to learn how to filter information. We need to be able to extract the signal from the noise. This will require strenuous training and self-discipline. Otherwise, we will drown in the wastelands.

The Signal and the Noise – by Nate Silver is an intriguing read that is all about filtering information.

What Users Say vs. What They Mean

Constant and ferocious change of technology, platform, delivery, and expectations continue to pose different set of challenges for designers, developers, and UX experts. However, what we take away from usability testing remains constant; as a UX professional, we need to know how to filter, translate, and interpret test results. Continue reading “What Users Say vs. What They Mean”

What Makes User Experience Pleasant?

There are many ways to achieve pleasant user experience as there are ways to make it unpleasant. We can achieve the former by minimizing the latter. In another words, by eliminating the unpleasant experience, we can automatically gain pleasant without even trying. Continue reading “What Makes User Experience Pleasant?”

Thoughts on Google Material Design

First off, I am a fan of Google’s Material Design.
I have extensively studied their guidelines and have been following its evolution since Google made guidelines public.
Lot of my preachings over the years are, in fact, inspired by Material’s principles. Continue reading “Thoughts on Google Material Design”

Are you still “clicking here?”

Back when the rotary telephone was the bleeding edge technology, say in 1890’s or so, it probably wasn’t unusual to say things like “put your finger in that hole, rotate to the right all the way, and repeat…”
Then it probably evolved to something like “Dial these numbers.” Now we just say “Call me.” Continue reading “Are you still “clicking here?””

Be Battery Free – AC powered Apple Trackpad

My Apple trackpad never leaves my desk. It always stays within few inches in front of my iMac. Therefore, its silly to have it battery powered. I also like to practice what I preach. Continue reading “Be Battery Free – AC powered Apple Trackpad”

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”

Law of the Conservation of Complexity

Larry Tesler’s Law of the Conservation of Complexity states that every application has set amount of inherent complexity that cannot be reduced or increased. Complexity is constant. The only question is who will handle the complexity? End users or developer/designers? Continue reading “Law of the Conservation of Complexity”

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”

Designing from the past

It’s been said that there is “nothing new under the sun.” It’s a somewhat depressing statement. It’s essentially saying that anything and everything happening or being created now has happened or have been created before. It basically means “You’re not special. It’s all been done before.” Assuming the bleak statement is true, what’s a creative person to do? Continue reading “Designing from the past”

Writing for Web Application

Almost all UX experts agree brevity is the key when writing for web application. Short and brief language is essential for quick organizational comprehension as well as improved captivation. Brevity is especially important when the language in question is used for navigational or actionable purposes. Continue reading “Writing for Web Application”

You suck at design. Deal with it.

A designer by definition is one who is responsible for, well.., designing. It is the designer who comes up with solutions to a design problem. A designer tackles design problems with artistic intuition, creative process and career specific knowledge that other members of the organization may lack. Continue reading “You suck at design. Deal with it.”

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”

Be a Sustainable Superhero – 3 Easy things you can do

Green technology, sustainable technology, or sustainable designs are some of the buzzwords of our time. What does it exactly mean? At the core of it, it’s an attempt to eliminate negative environmental impact and waste prevention through design. It all sounds grand. To many of us it sounds like something that only scientists, government or people who are smarter than us should be concerned with. But sustainability isn’t rocket science. I can think of three dead simple things you can do right at home right now that satisfies all of the sustainable design principles.
Even if you are someone who don’t give a damn about sustainability, green, earth, or whatever, the following info will make your life a bit simpler, less annoying and even save you some money. Continue reading “Be a Sustainable Superhero – 3 Easy things you can do”

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”

What Users Say vs. What They Really Mean

In the course of my career I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended numerous usability test sessions. I had chances to observe  many varieties from the most entertaining to the gawdawful boring, a fifty-something man operating a mouse with both of his hands to a tech-savvy who checks the view source. Continue reading “What Users Say vs. What They Really Mean”

In search for a Super Consumer

What was once called the “Information Superhighway” has become “Information Wasteland”. We’re now experiencing severe information overload to a point where the information itself ceases to be beneficial and becomes the source of confusion for many people. Anything about everything is supported or opposed mostly without clear authoritative source and is accessible to everybody who are once again left to their own devices to decide what to accept or reject. So in effect, we’re no better now than 30 or 40 years ago when we didn’t have easy access to a wealth of information about anything. Continue reading “In search for a Super Consumer”

WordPress Twentythirteen

It’s been a long time, been a long time,
been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.
Yes it has.

Been too busy with work. Haven’t had energy left to touch my own stuff.
But I’m finally updating the site with WP Twentythirteen. It has responsive structure built right into the theme. And it’s pretty good. Much improved from Twentytwelve theme. Although the theme has responsiveness built in, it does not have the responsive grid. You’d need to integrate third party grid plugins or make your own which is very simple to do.

Anyhow, as of today, my site is still work in progress. It’s using a heavily modified child theme based off Twentythirteen.

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…

Why are camera lenses so expensive?

Have you wondered why camera lenses are so expensive? Aren’t they just pieces of glass?
Pros and amateurs alike are often baffled by the prohibitive cost of high performance lenses which can easily cost several times more than the camera itself.
Here’s a video that briefly takes you through the lens manufacturing process at Canon. The video itself isn’t terribly exciting to watch. But it does give you an insight to the complexity of the lens manufacturing process.

By the way, the Canon EF 500mm lens featured on the video sells for about $9500.00 USD.

Staples Home Robbery TV Ad

Like everything else TV ads have their share of hits and misses. There are commercials we love because they are entertaining to watch. And there are ones that are just annoying or utterly tasteless.
One of the worst examples this years is Staple’s “Home Robbery” TV commercial. It boggles the mind how something so obviously lacking in intellect have made it through the approval process. I can only assume that something like this has been hastily approved over the phone in the middle of a golf shot.

(This video has vanished from YouTube and elsewhere on the web. You can’t find a trace of this ad anywhere. Staples probably felt the need to hunt it down since it was so stupid beyond logic.)

Here’s how the ad goes:
A young couple and a kid come home and discover that their house has been robbed. While everything of value seem to be stolen, the couple finds a computer – which looks like it’s from the 90s – sitting in one of the rooms untouched. And the couple’s response to this is, “Maybe it’s time for a new computer”. Fast forward toward the end, couple buys a spanking new computer at Staples. They both seem very happy then utters “Now, this is something they would steal”.

First all, you have to be vary cautious when playing off a negative life experience, especially something to which people can immediately relate. Even more so when it’s a commercial where you’re trying to persuade people to buy your products.

“Maybe it’s time for a new computer”? “Now, this is something they would steal”? Really?
If the thief didn’t steal your old computer, it’s a good thing. Especially if you had all the photos, videos and other important files in it. You wouldn’t immediately replace it with something they would steal.

The entire ad is massively missing the mark and fails to provoke positive emotions. At it’s core, this ad is basically saying; buy a new computer at Staples and make sure the thief steals it next time.