Results tagged “Don Norman” from kwc blog

Puppy Affordances

|

IMG_2195

I wonder if there is such a thing as UI designer/doggie factors engineer? We picked up two types of dog beds from Petsmart: one that is a simple pad and another that had a fringe around it. Ninja knew the unfringed pad was a bed, but she didn't quite know how to lay on it -- sometimes she would rest her chin on it, other times she would lay across a corner. Less often she would lay in the middle of the mat. We brought out the fringed mat from her crate and she immediately curled up in a ball in the center. Perhaps it Don Norman could update Design of Everyday Things with a chapter on doggie beds.

Book: Design of Everyday Things

|

meta warned me that when I read The Design of Everyday Things, I would learn very little. This is a compliment to the book, rather than a criticism. We both worked at PARC at the time and much of what is in the book is ingrained within the PARC culture. Thus, to say that I would learn very little is to say how influential the ideas of this book are. According to the Director of User Experience at TiVo, the book is somewhat of a bible. You'll find my own attempt at being Norman in "Affordances of a Seven-Foot Egg."

Another compliment I will pay this book is, in retrospect, the ideas presented seem like commonsense. As Norman dissects bad doors and light switch arrangements, the criticisms are intuitive, yet we must wonder, if this truly was commonsense, why is it so easy to find examples of bad design in everyday things? It's not hard to find a doors with "push" or "pull" signs taped on because the wrong type of handle was used. It's not hard to remember being confronted with an array of light switches and not knowing which light went with which. Sometimes the explanation is that someone was being cheap. Or lazy. But we also see simple principles violated in expensive, intensively designed products like airplanes and cars. Bad design comes with any price tag.

The most valuable aspect of the book for me is that it provides a vocabulary for being more specific about evaluating design. Norman once said something akin to, if it has poor usability, it probably got a design award. We don't do a good job separating out aesthetics and usability when we use the term design. The iPod is cited again and again as an example of "good design," but there are many usability problems. It's mappings are poor: press the center button and the next menu scrolls in from the right; press up and the previous menu scrolls in from the left; pressing left or right changes the track that's playing; rotating the scrollwheel wheel moves a linear menu up and down. The visibility is also poor: two weeks ago I taught two long-time iPod users that you can fast-forward/rewind, rate songs, and view album art if you press the center button while a song is playing.

I look forward to reading Norman's Emotional Design. I'm sure it will provide a vocabulary for discussing the good aspects of the iPod design, and then at last I can make my $billions.

Partial/ongoing notes in the extended.

Affordances of a Seven-Foot Egg

|

egg

"What are the affordances of an egg?"

gus, coming from his HCI background, asked this question after I couldn't help bringing up the Seven-Foot Art Egg (note: this post won't make any sense unless you read my original Art Egg Post).

It's such a great way to frame the Giant Egg that I can't resist carrying out an analysis. After all, if it is going to be "subject to other thoughts/acts of violence typically inflicted on seven-foot tall egg sculptures," perhaps the psychology of industrial design can shed some light on what fate(s) await Egg II (Egg I died glass-bubbly in a warehouse fire).

A popular discussion of affordances is in Don Norman's book, The Design/Psychology of Everyday Things, which serves as a bible for companies like TiVo attempting to do consumer-oriented product design. As Don Norman defines it, affordance "refers to the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used." For example, "plates are for pushing," and "knobs are for turning."

Drawing from Palo Alto Daily News quotes, Don Norman, and my own pompous assertions, here is my list of "The Affordances of a Seven-Foot Egg":

Cracking/breaking

The most common usage of an egg is, of course, cracking it open to access the contents inside. One of the acts of vandalism the PADN noted was teenagers ramming a shopping cart into the Egg, and I personally witnessed a passerby adjust his path through the plaza so that he could deliver a swift kick.

This leads us to the next affordance:

Containing (corollary to cracking/breaking)

Whether it be eggs we eat or the plastic easter eggs with their candy surprises, eggs contain stuff we want. This is a Giant Egg, so one must assume that the affordance of a Seven-Foot Tall Egg is that it contains something really good -- it's big enough to give birth to full-sized Shaq. Symbolically the Egg is supposed to contain Silicon Valley innovation, but the crowd quotes from the PADN were more mundane.

Grace, a registered nurse in San Jose, said "It's very ornate, like a time capsule -- somthing I want to open up and see if there's anything in there. It makes people think."

Another person quoted in the PADN noted the possible technological influence of the Egg on its contents:

"I like the shape, it's pretty cool," Geo said. "I wonder if there is a baby computer inside?"

$10,000 seems like quite a lot to hatch a computer -- I'm hoping for something more grandiose that still harnesses the technological potential, something representing the role of US government and Asian investment in the Silicon Valley, something like... MechaGodzilla.

The 1993 (from Heisei series) Super MechaGodzilla was designed by a joint American- Japanese project under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Godzilla CounterMeasures Center (UNGCC) to defend the world from Godzilla.

Rocking/Tipping/Rolling/Spinning

Admittedly, the role of eggs as food means that we don't too often play with it, but rolling as an affordance of eggs is strong enough to make it into an Easter tradition: Egg Rolls. An egg's oblong shape allows for other variations on rolling, including rocking, tipping, and spinning.

The PADN provides a supporting quote from the resident teenage contingent:

"[the Egg] begs to be rolled down the street" and "rocked from its base."

Even a administrative associate at Stanford Medical Center couldn't help mixing compliments and a test of its defenses:

[The administrative associate] caught sight of the egg after getting off work from Stanford Medical Center. "It's unique. It's very well put together," he said, while trying to rock the egg.

Writing

Norman, in discussing graffiti on British Rail platforms, notes that "Flat, porous, smooth surfaces are for writing on." While the archetypal egg is porous and smooth, it doesn't provide that much flat writing surface. However, a Seven-Foot Tall Egg is a whole new species of egg, and the artist has conveniently coated all the circuit boards with a nice, smooth sealant. The Egg also provides it own cues as to this affordance: the artist has already put various handwritten multilingual phrases across its surface.

Multiple PADN quotees noted this affordance:

Tom, from Los Altos said he'd be surprised if it survives in the plaza for a long time: "It practically says, 'Spray paint me," he said.

An employee of Pizza My Heart, Emilio, thought that it didn't fit in with the environment. "It's gonna become art with all the kids' graffiti," he said.

Approachable

This isn't an affordance of the egg itself -- it's more a lack of affordance by the choice of how it was installed. Many public sculptures are mounted on pseudo-pedestals, a slightly raised bit of concrete that sets it apart from the public walking area around it. These pedestals remove the affordance of walking in the area around the artwork, creating a virtual wall of the look-don't-touch museum experience.

The Art Egg is installed with no demarcations between it and the rest of the plaza, daring you to walk directly past it or approach it. It's there to be bumped into, shoved, rocked, or otherwise used within its affordances. Visit the Egg for a brief amount of time and you'll notice multiple people touching, bumping, shoving, and even kicking it as they walk past.

Hugging

It's slightly above average human height, it's round, and you can walk right up to it. After all it's been through and all the entertainment it provided me (via the PADN), I gave it a hug.

Talk: Tivo

|

Revolutionizing Consumer Electronics: Welcome to the TiVolution´┐Ż! Paul Newby, Director of Consumer Design Margret Schmidt, Director of User Experience (UE), TiVo

I went to the TiVo talk at BayCHI/PARC. The best part of the night, perhaps, was that I have a bunch of great TiVo schwag: a TiVo doll and two new TiVo remotes -- one to replace honeyfield's remote, which has been mistaken for bunny food, and one to solve the problem we had last week of, when you lose the TiVo remote, there's no way for you to watch TV. The second best part of the night is that I learned a new TiVo feature that didn't exist on the Series 1 remote: if you press advance (the ->| button) in a list, it will jump to the end (very useful for Home Media Option).

I have detailed notes, but it's hard for me to put the effort into transcribing all of them, mainly because I've heard most of what she's said having worked at PARC for two years (big human-computer interaction focus) and having owned a TiVo for two years. As metamanda put it when I asked her if I should read Don Norman's Design of Everyday Things, she said it was good, but I've already heard everything in it multiple times. Seeing as Norman's book is somewhat of a bible for the TiVo User Experience team, I think the same applies here.

It's also hard for me to transcribe my notes because much of what was said has already been said in this interview Schmidt did for PVRBlog

There was an interesting semi-anecdote on TiVo's "overshoot correction" feature (where it jumps back a little after a fast forward). Many people think that TiVo is actually "learning" this (even across multiple users), i.e. when they fast forward and it doesn't jump to the spot that they wanted, they assume it was because they must have deviated from their normal reaction time (it's actually a hardcoded number based on the fast forward speed, derived from research).

My last thought before this switches into notes is that I wonder if TiVo is going to put an Apple-style clickwheel on the remote to replace the direction pad. The problem with navigating long lists was mentioned multiple times by them, and Margret did even mention a scrollwheel as a possibility, and it seems to me that the newest clickwheel comes the closest to carrying the TiVo direction pad concept forward.